Gordon Takes Round No. 1 Northern Division Champion wins Charlie Campbell Memorial Sears Auto Center 250 Mansfield, Ohio -- By looking at the results of the Charlie Campbell Memorial Sears Auto Center 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park, you'll...
Gordon Takes Round No. 1
Northern Division Champion wins Charlie Campbell Memorial Sears Auto Center 250
Mansfield, Ohio -- By looking at the results of the Charlie Campbell Memorial Sears Auto Center 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park, you'll see that Benny Gordon started fifth, took the lead on Lap 97 and led to the finish for his fifth win of the season on Saturday night.
But that's just a small part of what transpired in the opening round of the Championship Series.
After qualifying fifth, Gordon's team found a problem with the engine of the No. 66n Ford. Rather than switch to a backup car, Gordon chose to patch the problem, hoping the powerplant would make it to the finish. As seconds turned into minutes, Gordon's team was still working on the car while all the other cars were on the grid awaiting the command to start engines.
"That was my call, and I was catching hell from my team about the decision," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford. "We went back and forth and back and forth about changing the engine. We made those fixes on the engine, waited to the last minute to shut the hood and fired it up. We never looked at it after that. I felt comfortable with the decision and I thought it was going to last."
Unfortunately for Gordon, the last-minute fix forced him to start last in the 36-car field. It also forced his team into a gutsy pit call.
Right before the green waved, Gordon ducked to pit road to top off with fuel. The splash-and-go gave Gordon just enough fuel to go the entire event without refueling, making the event a one-stop race while the rest of the field needed two trips to pit road to make the scheduled distance.
"If I hadn't had that problem, I wouldn't have tried [going all the way on fuel]," said Gordon, who took home $13,000 for the win. "We would have done the same thing as the leaders. But we always see a lot of cautions at this track, and I felt like we could make it if we got enough cautions. I needed every lap [of caution] tonight."
Gordon also needed some cooperation from Mark McFarland, who shadowed Gordon for the final 100 circuits.
"It was really fun racing Mark; that was awesome for the divisional champions to be getting after it and racing that hard for the win," said Gordon. "If he was in front of me, I wouldn't have been able to get around him either. He ran me clean. He had a couple of chances to move me, but he didn't. I appreciate him racing me like that. If I'm in the same position, I'll race him the same way."
Several years ago, Gordon might not have been so lucky.
"I've [hit people] before, and I always ended up paying for it later. We've still got three more races to go. Maybe if it was the last race I'd [rough him up]," joked McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet. "I could've roughed him up a couple of times, but I wasn't going to do it."
Though McFarland refused to put the fender to Gordon, he did manage to get one alongside on the final circuit.
As the lead duo barreled off into the first turn on the final lap, McFarland jumped to the outside of Gordon.
"My spotter said he rolled to the outside of me in Turn 1, but I didn't even look," said Gordon. "I just hammered down. I gave him room in case he was out there because I wasn't going to pinch him in the wall."
McFarland's momentum stalled coming off Turn 4, leaving him .276 of a second shy of his fourth win of the season.
"I was overdriving my car all night," said McFarland. "It didn't want to turn. And the harder I drove it, the less it turned. I kind of settled down and tried to put some laps in right there at the end. That's when I caught him. Then I just gave it a shot at the end. I knew I wasn't going to be able to clear him, but I at least made it exciting."
Had the lead battled erupted, Jay Fogleman was in prime position to capitalize. Fogleman, driver of the No. 4n Speedco/The Works Ford, finished a close third to the lead duo, matching his best finish of the season.
"I thought we had a third- or fourth-place car and that's where we finished," said Fogleman. "At times this year, we've had a third- or fourth-place car and finished 12th of 15th. We just did everything right tonight, and that's what it takes in the Championship Series."
Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73n Team 7 Ford, pressured Fogleman to the stripe, but he couldn't clear Fogleman and came home fourth.
Derek Kale, driver of the No. 22n Heritage Equipment Chevrolet, completed the top five.
Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet, led the first 24 laps. But after mid-race spin, Rogers had to charge from the back to finish sixth. Rogers did manage to jump to 17th in points after starting 33rd with his top-10 effort.
Kirk Leone, driver of the No. 52s Awesome Awnings Ford, finished seventh and moved seventh in the Championship Series standings.
Drew Herring, driver of the No. 22s BTS Tire & Wheel Distributor Ford, rebounded from a mid-race incident to finish eighth. Herring also pocketed $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race.
Caleb Holman, driver of the No. 75s Food Country Chevrolet, and Hunter Robbins, driver of the No. 6s Goodson Consulting Ford, rounded out the top 10.
The Sears Auto Center 250 was slowed 15 times for 96 laps of caution and featured five lead changes among five drivers.
Sears Auto Center 250 Notebook
How long did Mark McFarland stay glued to Benny Gordon's bumper?
"I know how to spell Samuel now," quipped McFarland after chasing Gordon's Samuel Metals-sponsored machine for the final 100 laps of the Sears Auto Center 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park. "He's a good racer, and it was fun to race him like that. But it did get a little frustrating."
Bulls on Parade
Former competitor Johnny Rumley once said the Championship Series is like "putting a bunch of bulls in a cage." It certainly seemed like that in the middle of the event, when a bevy of cautions slowed the event. But most of the carnage took place well behind the leaders, and Jay Fogleman believes there's a reason for that.
"When you get to the front, you're racing against guys that have been doing it for years and there's a lot of respect," said Fogleman. "The guys that are around you, you're pretty confident that you can move around a little bit without getting stuck in the fence, especially 50 laps into the race. It's a different atmosphere up front. I've been on both ends this year, but it's a lot easier to race the guys near the front. You have a comfort zone that's not there when you're mid-pack."
Mikey Kile and Hunter Robbins have already grabbed over $10,000 apiece for being crowned divisional rookies of the year. However, there's still $24,000 on the line in rookie bonuses over the final four events. Not to mention the prestigious title of Hooters Pro Cup Series Miller Lite Rookie of the Year is still up for grabs. Drew Herring led the Southern Division rookie battle for much of the season, but two DNFs dropped him to second to Robbins in the final regular-season tally.
Herring, however, threw his name back into fray for the big money with an eighth-place run in the Sears Auto Center 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park.
"It's not the finish we wanted, but we finished," said Herring. "Lady Luck wasn't on our side in the last two races, and it seemed like she was going to bite us tonight when were caught up in a spin in Turn 2. But these guys had some awesome pit stops and we were able to get back up there.
"This race is just a building block. We needed to come here and finish the race. Not only did we finish the race, but we kept the car in one piece and got a pretty good finish. I'm really looking forward to the rest of these Championship Series events now."
Benny Gordon, Mark McFarland and Jay Fogleman only took left side tires during the Sears Auto Center 250, going the entire distance on their right side BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials....Four teams practice under the existing track record during the day....Caleb Holman turned the fastest lap of the race on Lap 102, touring MMP in 16.658 seconds at 108.056 mph.