USAR: Mansfield CS: Race report

Benny Bounces Back, Wins In-n-Out Mart 250 Mansfield, OH-After cutting a tire and finishing 20th in the Championship Series opener at Jennerstown, Benny Gordon bounced back in grand fashion at Mansfield. After starting 10th, Gordon, driver of...

Benny Bounces Back, Wins In-n-Out Mart 250

Mansfield, OH-After cutting a tire and finishing 20th in the Championship Series opener at Jennerstown, Benny Gordon bounced back in grand fashion at Mansfield.

After starting 10th, Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, made his way past Bobby Gill on Lap 189 and led to the finish of the Alan Kulwicki Memorial In-n-Out Mart 250 presented by Mountain Dew at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway on Saturday night.

"I guess this is my new happy place," said Gordon, who won at Mansfield in July. "I wasn't disappointed with the way we ran at Jennerstown; I was just disappointed with outcome."

Although the outcome was bright on Saturday night, Gordon's win wasn't without some anxious moments.

On Lap 30, Gordon's team brought the Northern Division Champion to pit road to pull some tape off the grill and to pull the grill off the radiator, dropping Gordon outside the top 20 for the restart.

"Anytime you have to come in and give up that much track position in a field like this, it concerns you," said Gordon. "Then we came later on, and the front tire had lost six pounds."

And that wouldn't be the end of Gordon's worries.

After dodging two bullets, Gordon's biggest obstacle was still in front of him.

Gordon made it all the back to second on Lap 134, but he still had to make his way around Gill. And that wouldn't be an easy task.

Gordon caught Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, on Lap 144, and the two battled for the next 45 laps for the top spot.

On Lap 188, Gordon slid to the inside of the Gill at the entrance of Turn 3 and beat the 3-time champion to the start/finish line by a nose. Gordon's pass proved to be timely because caution waved on the next lap, allowing Gordon to line up in front of Gill for the restart.

"Benny ran down into [Turn 3] on the bottom of the track, slid up into me and got me a little bit loose. He had the momentum and beat me to the line," said Gill. "I've got a great motor, but Benny was pushing us down the straightaway. I know he was probably getting a little ill with me, but I made him work for it."

But for Gordon, the extra effort involved in bypassing Gill made the victory that much sweeter.

"To get to race Bobby Gill like that is just awesome," said Gordon. "We got to beat and bang and race side by side with the best there is. And to beat him just makes it that much better."

Unofficially, Gordon's sixth win of the season pulled him into second in the point standings.

Gill, who picked $1,000 from Lucas Oil Products for being the Halfway Leader, finished .408 sec. behind Gordon, but his second-place finish pushed him into a tie for the point lead with Shane Huffman.

Despite leaving Mansfield tied in the points, Huffman's night didn't go as expected.

On Lap 9, Huffman was involved in a multi-car accident that damaged the No. 84 John Morrell Dinner Bell Ford. Huffman pitted numerous times to repair the damage. Huffman's team kept him on the lead lap, and the 2003 Hooters ProCup Champion finished in sixth. While Huffman salvaged a decent finish out of bad night, Clay Rogers wasn't as fortunate.

Rogers made hard contact with inside wall on Lap 38 after trying to pass Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford, for the lead. Rogers, driver of the No. 44s Johnny's Suzuki Ford, returned to the race, but Southern Division Champion finished 29th and lost the point lead.

Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73 NGA Hooters Golf Tour Chevrolet, battled Gill all the way to the checkered, but the Floyd, Va., driver finished third. Despite picking up his second top-three finish in as many races, Agnew wasn't exactly thrilled.

"You just can't lose six or eight spots in the pits," said Agnew. "It's just a bad deal for us. I don't know if I had anything for Benny [Gordon], but I though we could have gotten Bobby [Gill]. We had one of the better cars here tonight, but we didn't get to prove it."

Although Agnew wasn't happy about his top-five finish, Jay Fogleman was all smiles after his fourth-place finish.

"I just tickled to be competitive again," said Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Lucas Oil Ford. "We had a third- or fourth-place car at Jennerstown, and we broke. We have been doing our homework, and I've just got sick and tired of running bad. We're back to being competitive, and I feel confident that we'll be competitive in the rest of the races."

Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 JEGS.com Chevrolet, rounded out the top five and picked up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race.

"When we came to the track today, I knew we had a great racecar and I was going to be disappointed if we didn't win the race," said St. Amant. "But after practice, I knew if we got out of here with a top-five finish, we were going to be doing good because this wasn't the same track that we tested at on Monday."

Mart Nesbitt, who won the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, led from Lap 81 to Lap 112, but a bad pit stop dropped him well back in the field. Nesbitt rallied to finish eighth.

D.J. Kennington and Billy Bigley Jr. rounded out the top 10.

The race was slowed 11 times for 71 laps of caution.

There were six lead changes among six drivers.

In-n-Out Mart 250 Notebook

JEG Heads
They didn't have on tie-dyed shirts, and they weren't looking for a miracle. But, thanks to JEGS.com and Bullet Racing, JEG Heads were in full force at Mansfield.

During the pre-race autograph session, a slew of fans lined up at the No. 11 JEGS.com Chevrolet for an autograph. But to the delight of many fans, St. Amant's signature wasn't the only treat fans received. JEGS.com provided skull caps, hats and T-shirts to the faithful followers, creating a sea of yellow and black in the stands.

Moving On Up
D.J. Kennington, driver of the No. 77 S.M. Freight Inc. Ford, and Randy Gentry, driver of the No. 19 HarrisonsWorkwear.com Chevrolet, continued to climb the point ladder at Mansfield.

Kennington, who started the Championship Series ranked 33rd in points, finished ninth in the In-n-Out Mart 250 and moved up to 15th in points.

Gentry, who started the Championship Series ranked 45th in points, finished 11th at Mansfield and has now moved up to 19th in points.

Rookie Race
With his fifth-place finish, Gary St. Amant is now 89 points ahead of Matt Carter, driver of the No. 22 HeavyTruckDealers.com Ford, in the battle for the $25,000 check from Miller Lite for being the overall rookie champion.

D.J. Kennington moved to third in the rookie race, while Brad Rogers dropped to fourth after his second finish outside the top 20.

Rented Rides
For the second race in a row, David Pletcher, driver of the No. 51 RaceFansDating.com Ford, borrowed a car from Randy Humphrey after losing an engine in his car during practice.

Glenn Gault suffered the same misfortune as Pletcher, but Bullet Racing allowed the fellow Ohio competitor to start Gary St. Amant's backup car.

Jody Lavender needed to use a backup car from Jay Fogleman after his car went up in smoke during practice.

Billy's Back
After averaging a starting position of seventh in the final three Southern Division events, Billy Bigley Jr. is back to himself. In the first two races of the Championship Series, Bigley, driver of the No. 25 Peerless Woodworking Ford, is averaging a 26th-starting position. However, in both races, Bigley has managed to pick up top-10 finishes, moving him into seventh in points.

-usar-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Billy Bigley , D.J. Kennington , Jody Lavender , Shane Huffman , Jeff Agnew , Alan Kulwicki