USAR: Madison: Race report

Gordon Wins Miller Lite 250, Northern Division Title; Howard Takes Rookie Crown Madison, WI-On a night when points were at a premium, there wasn't much point's racing going on in the Miller Lite 250 presented by Wisconsin Ford Dealers at Madison...

Gordon Wins Miller Lite 250, Northern Division Title; Howard Takes Rookie Crown

Madison, WI-On a night when points were at a premium, there wasn't much point's racing going on in the Miller Lite 250 presented by Wisconsin Ford Dealers at Madison International Speedway.

Benny Gordon passed Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevy, on Lap 131 and never looked back, leading the final 119 laps and beating Jeff Agnew by 2.058 seconds en route to his fifth win of the season and the Northern Division title.

"I've figured out the best way to point's race is to be in front of all the trouble," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford. "We raced like we weren't point's racing, we raced to win."

But it took a little time for Gordon to show his winning form in the Miller Lite 250. After nabbing his first Advance Auto Parts Pole Award of the season, Gordon lost the lead in Turn 1 on the first lap. But 19 laps later, Gordon made his way around Jeff Agnew on Lap 20 to move to the point for the first time.

"For whatever reason, our car wasn't that good at the start of a run," said Gordon. "After a few laps, we could run them back down."

On the next restart at Lap 33, Gordon again lost the lead. Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, flew around the high side of Gordon in Turn 1 and led the next four laps. But Gordon quickly flexed his muscle and retook the lead on Lap 38.

"I couldn't figure out how they could jump to the outside like that on the restarts," said Gordon. "I could run them back down pretty quick, but I was still worried about the restarts."

On the third restart of the night on Lap 74, Gordon's worries proved warranted as Agnew drove around the outside heading into Turn 1 and took the lead away.

By Lap 88, Gordon had pulled himself back to the point and led until bringing most of the field to pit road on Lap 115.

Gordon's team put him out front of the cars taking four tires, but he lined up second behind Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 JEGS.com Chevy, and Johnny Rumley, who both short-pitted on Lap 68.

St. Amant led 10 laps, including the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Lap, before giving way to Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevy, on Lap 127. Rumley's time out front would be brief, however, as Gordon rumbled back to the lead for good just four laps later. While Gordon never lost the lead the remainder of the race, he felt pressure from Agnew in the waning stages. After checking out to a 2.1- second lead, Gordon's lead was chopped down to 1.1 seconds by Lap 200. "I think he was toying with us a little," said Agnew. "I don't think we had a chance to win. We had a second-place car, but I'm not going to complain at all. We've had a win and two seconds in the last three races."

Although Agnew felt he was out of the running, a late-race caution bunched the field, giving Agnew an opportunity to expose Gordon's only weakness: restarts. But it wasn't to be.

"After [Agnew and Howard] went around me on those restarts early, I found their groove," said Gordon. "I could go in [Turn 1] high and take their line away. And the longer we ran, the better our car got."

Gordon pulled away for Agnew in the final laps en route to his fifth win of the season and his second Northern Division title in as many years.

All told, Gordon's win and title nabbed him nearly $40,000.

"We had a few problems in a few races this season, but you can't win them all," said Gordon. "We've got some fast cars and a great crew. And we're going to be ready for the Championship Series."

Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, also had a great regular season.

Howard finished third in the Miller Lite 250, clinching the Northern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year and the $10,000 prize and the $1,000 payout that goes to the highest-finishing rookie from Miller Brewing Co.

"To come from the way we started the season to where we are now, it's unbelievable," said Howard. "I hate to see A.J. [Frank] have the bad luck he did at the end of the year, but I'm sure he'll be tough in the Championship Series, as well as the rest of the rookies."

A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 45 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford, saw his rookie hopes dashed by a blown engine on Lap 66.

"I felt like we had a good car all year long, but we had a few wrecks and got behind," said Frank. "I really just have to thank Troy Baird and Johnny Dangerfield for the opportunity this season. The ending regular season is not indicative of how good this team is and will become in the Championship Series."

Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford, finished the night in fourth. And although he was unable to catch Benny Gordon for the overall title, he accomplished a feat by completing every lap this season.

"[Completing all the laps] is just a tribute to the way this team prepares the cars," said Lindley, who finished second in overall points. "It's also of the motor guys. We twisted this thing to death tonight, and it held up."

Joe Gaita, driver of the No. 46 SPEEDCO Truck Lubes Ford, rounded out the top five. "We had a good car all day," said Gaita, who picked up his second top-five finish of the season. "We were fourth fastest in practice, but the car didn't qualify as well as I thought it should have and that hurt us."

The Miller Lite 250 featured 11 lead changes among five drivers and was slowed seven times for 49 laps of caution.

Miller Lite 250 Notebook

Payday
In addition to his $10,000 win and his $25,000 title, Benny Gordon nearly captured every bonus award available in the Miller Lite 250.

Gordon took home $1,000 for his first Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, $500 via the Tucson "Win from the Pole" Award, $500 from Greased Lightning for winning the "Blast the Pack Award" for leading a race-high 201 laps and $500 for his part in the "Team Hooters Challenge." Gordon finished the night with $38,600 in winnings, pushing his season total to $121,100.

First Timer
Ryan Mathews, who sits second in ASL points, made a good impression in his first start in the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

Mathews, driver of the No. 86 BCBS Chevy, qualified 12th and ran as high as eighth during the Miller Lite 250 at Madison International Speedway. Mathews was running in the top 10 until a mechanical failure dropped him to 16th at the finish.

Gamblin' Man
Not one to usually take chances, Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 JEGS.com Chevy, used a different strategy than most in the Miller Lite 250, and it ended up hurting him.

St. Amant brought his car to pit road on Lap 68 for fuel only, gambling on a caution near the 200-lap mark. The caution finally waved again on Lap 218, but St. Amant was lapped 11 circuits earlier. St. Amant finished eighth, the first car one-lap down, and dropped to fourth in the final standings, just two points behind third-place Woody Howard.

Miss Hard Charger
Gabi DiCarlo, driver of the No. 93s Great Clips Ford, made her third start in the Hooters Pro Cup Series and walked away with the $500 and the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award after moving from 26th to 18th at the conclusion of the Miller Lite 250 at Madison International Speedway.

-usar-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers A.J. Frank , Gabi DiCarlo , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew , Ryan Mathews