USAR: Mansfield: Race report

Back To Back for Benny Benny Gordon Wins Pepsi 250 Mansfield, OH -- Benny Gordon took the lead away from Glenn Gault on Lap 217 and charged to victory in the Pepsi 250 presented by Bullet Motorsports at Mansfield Motorsports Park on Saturday ...

Back To Back for Benny
Benny Gordon Wins Pepsi 250

Mansfield, OH -- Benny Gordon took the lead away from Glenn Gault on Lap 217 and charged to victory in the Pepsi 250 presented by Bullet Motorsports at Mansfield Motorsports Park on Saturday night.

And his feat didn't go unnoticed.

Nearly 13,000 fans packed the Ohio track to watch Gordon charge to the front late in the race en route to his second consecutive win and his third in four races.

"It's hard to believe this car just keeps getting better," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford. "We'd been fast all year, but we kept tweaking on it. Now, the car just keeps getting better and better."

At Mansfield, Benny's car was the best.

Gordon restarted ninth on Lap 141 after making a scheduled stop, but the Dubois, Pa., driver was able to knife his way back to the front by Lap 217, survived a green-white-checkered finish and beat Gault, driver of the No. 32 American Title and Trust Chevy, to the checkered flag by .481 seconds.

"Benny just out powered me," said Gault. "I thought I could hold him up, but he got under me and just pulled away."

Gordon was pulling away in the first half of the event as well.

After picking up the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, Gordon dropped to second once the green waved, but the 2003 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year retook the top spot on Lap 25, bypassing Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevy.

Gordon was pressured for the top spot briefly before the 100-lap mark by Jeff Agnew. However, Agnew's string of back luck continued when he dropped off the pace on Lap 88 after making several bids for the lead.

Without Agnew in his mirror, Gordon easily picked up the $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader, but he still needed to come to pit road.

Many of the top 10 elected to short pit. Clay Rogers, current Southern Division point leader, Jody Lavender, fellow Southern Division driver, and Gault came to pit road on Lap 95.

After the leaders cycled through the pits, Rogers took the point when Gordon came in on Lap 132.

For a while, it looked like Rogers' pit strategy may pay off.

Rogers was able to hold off Gault on numerous restarts in the middle stages of the event and built leads comfortable leads over the pack. But on Lap 193, Rogers was no longer at ease.

Mardy Lindley, who was a lap down, raced Rogers hard into the first turn and pushed the leader out of the preferred line at the exit of Turn 2, allowing Gault to slide by for the lead on Lap 195. With Gault on the bottom and Rogers on the outside, the lead duo went side-by-side for five laps before Gault cleared the Southern Division point leader on Lap 199.

Rogers hounded Gault for several laps before being caught up in an accident on Lap 207.

Rogers tangled with Brian Ross, driver of the No. 68 N-ergy Drink Ford, at the exit of Turn 2 and spun to the inside of the track. With nowhere to go, Rumley and Joel Kauffman, driver of the No. 44 Chevy, plowed into the accident. After incident, Rogers parked his machine and finished 27th.

Ross made 15 laps before retiring for the evening and finished 25th. Rumley and Kauffman received the brunt of the damage during the incident. Kauffman was able to make it to the finish, but Rumley's car developed overheating problems as a result of the crash, sending the point leader to the pits for good on Lap 238. Rumley finished 22nd and dropped to second in the point standings.

Prior to the caution for the accident, Gordon leapt from sixth to third in a five-lap span, vaulting him back into contention.

"I was a little worried when we didn't move up quick after we got our tires, but we needed laps on the tires for the car to come in," said Gordon. "Once we got some heat in the tires, we were able to run the speeds we ran in the first half of the race."

Gordon's speed was good enough to keep Gault from celebrating his first-career win, but Gault still posted his career-best finish by coming home second.

"Tim Gilbert [Crew chief] made a great call on pit strategy," said Gault. "I'm just really glad to get second."

Jody Lavender held on to finish third, matching his career-best finish and picking up his first Hard Charger Award.

"I was busting my tail out there," said Lavender, who picked up $500 for being the Hard Charger. "We had a problem in qualifying, and my crew chief, Jerry Babb, brought us in early during the race. [The pit strategy] worked out great, and car was awesome at the end."

Danny O'Quinn Jr. made a late-race pass on Gary St. Amant to take fourth at the finish.

"We really weren't that good," said O'Quinn Jr. "We were just riding along there at the end, but we were able to get by some of them at the finish. We just weren't as good as we needed to be."

St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 Bullet Racing/Jegs.com Chevy, held on to finish fifth and pick up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race.

The race was slowed 14 times for 89 laps of caution.

There were six lead changes among four drivers.

Trading Places

After starting the season with back-to-back disappointments, Benny Gordon has been clawing his way back into contention for the Northern Division title. With his win in the Pepsi 250, Gordon completed his climb and moved into first in the point standings. Gordon's second win a row puts him 32 points ahead of Johnny Rumley.

On the other hand, Rumley's worst finish of the season couldn't have come at a more inopportune time.

After taking over the point lead in the second race of the season, Rumley's 22nd-place showing dropped him to second in points and just 29 points ahead of Mardy Lindley in third.

Don't Ever Give Up!

Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford, lost two laps in the first 100 laps of the Pepsi 250. Rather than role over, Lindley pitted numerous times to fix a faulty rear end, made up both laps and finished ninth.

Spencer's Best

Jimmy Spencer Jr. had the best showing of his brief ProCup career. Spencer Jr. qualified a season-best 14th and finished a season-best 11th. Spencer's previous best was a 12th-place finish at Jennerstown Speedway in an attrition-filled event. At Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, Spencer raced in the top 10 much of the night and finished on the lead lap.

The Big Picture

The Pepsi 250 featured six drivers from the Southern Division looking to gain knowledge for when the Hooters ProCup Series returns to Mansfield Motorsports Speedway on October 9 for a Championship Series' event. Although four Southern invaders posted top-10 finishes, Benny Gordon won for the third time at a Championship Series' track.

"Our notebook should be full of good notes when the Championship Series comes around," said Gordon. "The [Championship Series] is when they pay all the money, and that's when it counts."

In addition to wins at Myrtle Beach Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway and Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, Gordon finished third at Jennerstown, the site of a Championship Series' event, giving him an average finish of 1.5 at the four Championship Series' tracks he's competed on in 2004. Gordon plans to run the Southern Division finale at USA Int'l to give him experience at all five tracks heading into the Championship Series.

Placing Blame

Sometimes it's easy to point fingers, but Jason McLellan couldn't find anyone to blame after the Pepsi 250, except for himself.

"The driver made the biggest mistake in practice and forgot to put oil in the transmission," said McLellan, driver of the No. 3 T.D. Smith Transport Chevy. "Then, the driver was late for the autograph session and had to go to the back [of the field for the start].

Obviously, the car was good, and we were able to get back towards the front," said McLellan, who qualified third. "I got turned around late in the race, but we came back to finish seventh. I had an awesome car, but everybody else had an awesome car at the end."

Almost a Done Deal

With his fifth-place finish in the Pepsi 250, Gary St. Amant all but clinched the 2004 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year in the Northern Division. St. Amant is 362 points ahead of his nearest competitor for the $10,000 prize for the top rookie at the end of the regular season. St. Amant has already added $7,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race in seven events. If St. Amant can win the overall ROTY, he could take home nearly $45,000 in ROTY bonus money.

-usar-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Jimmy Spencer , Clay Rogers , Brian Ross , Jody Lavender , Joel Kauffman , Danny O'Quinn , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew