MYRTLE BEACH, SC -- What a difference a race can make on your season. Mike Laughlin, Jr. realized that Saturday night when he was able to hold off Mardy Lindley and put his Valenite Tools Ford Taurus in victory lane to win the Mark Brooks ...
MYRTLE BEACH, SC -- What a difference a race can make on your season. Mike Laughlin, Jr. realized that Saturday night when he was able to hold off Mardy Lindley and put his Valenite Tools Ford Taurus in victory lane to win the Mark Brooks Memorial/Hooters 250 presented by Black’s Tire Service at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Laughlin, Jr., from Simpsonville, SC, led for 160 of the 253 laps during the race for his second career Hooters ProCup Series win. Jerry Rector followed Lindley in third while Johnny Rumley and Steve Christian completed the top five.
Laughlin, Jr. collected $10,000 with the win and moved up from 39th to 21st in the Hooters ProCup Series points standings. The win also makes Laughlin, Jr. the first driver eligible for the "Four Champions Challenge Series" bonus at the next Four Champions Challenge Series race at Montgomery Motor Speedway on June 10. Laughlin, Jr. can collect a $25,000 bonus if he wins at Montgomery when the Hooters ProCup Series makes its first-ever visit to the ½-mile track in Alabama.
"I can’t thank the guys on this crew enough for all of the hard work they did getting this car ready," said Laughlin, Jr. "We have had a frustrating start to the season and for us to be able to come here and win really says something about this great crew and team."
Until Saturday night the 2000 season for the veteran driver had been anything but memorable. At the season-opening race at USA International Speedway Laughlin, Jr. qualified for the race, however, after qualifying the team suffered motor problems and were unable to start the race. Laughlin, Jr. then suffered two consecutive DNF’s which gave him 30th and 24th place finishes respectively over the next two races.
"The Four Champions races mean so much to us as drivers not only for the chance to win the bonus, but those races are the biggest events of the year for this series," said Laughlin, Jr. "This car was a brand new Laughlin chassis and we built this car especially for those four races. The car ran so good I told the guys we might want to run it more than just those four times."
While Laughlin, Jr. led more laps than any other car and essentially remained in the top ten all night long, the second-generation driver had a scare on the last restart of the race which set up a green-white-checker finish.
"After the last red flag of the race I fired up the car and realized I had lost first and second gear," added Laughlin, Jr. "I didn’t tell the guys because I didn’t want any of the other drivers to know about it and although our car was better on long runs we held on for the win." The race was slowed 16 times by caution with two red flag periods during the race. Marty Ward was injured during the final caution on lap 238 when Stacy Puryear and Regan Smith got together in turn three and Ward made contact. Ward was released Saturday night from the hospital with bruised ribs and dehydration.
Smith was able to continue the race and collected his first career top-10 finish in the Hooters ProCup Series finishing sixth to win Miller Lite Rookie of the Race honors. Fellow rookie driver David Pletcher followed in seventh while former Myrtle Beach Speedway track champion Robert Powell finished eighth in his first Hooters ProCup Series race while veterans Andy Thurman and Charlie Ford rounded out the top-10.
The night was a tough one for current points leader Mario Gosselin was involed in two separate incidents on the track and was forced to pit under the green flag to remove a loose bumper which cost him a lap early in the race. The Lake Wales, FL driver recovered to finish 14th and retain his points lead. The night wasn’t as good for 1999 Hooters ProCup Series champion Bobby Gill.
Gill was challenging for the lead with Powell when the drivers got together on lap 203 and Gill was assessed a stop and go penalty in the pits. Gill returned after the penalty only to be forced to park his Ford on lap 212 with mechanical problems to finish 30th. The DNF moved Gill from second to sixth in the points standings.
Rookie driver Clayton Rogers won the Discount Auto Parts Pole Award and led the first 44 laps. The Mooresville, NC driver broke the track record in qualifying set last year by Gosselin. Rogers made a fast lap of 20.331 to break the old mark of 20.366. Rogers spun while leading on lap 44 after getting into oil on the track dropped when Bill Plemons, Jr. and Jeremy Bowser got together ending the night for Plemons, Jr. Powell won the State Fair Corn Dogs Hard Charger of the Race Award for improving from his 35th starting position, gained by winning a qualifying race, to eighth in the final results. Laughlin, Jr. also collected the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader bonus and his crew chief John Kellett was voted Crew Chief of the Race by media in attendance. The Hooters ProCup Series returns to action on May 20th when Peach State Speedway will host the Miller Lite 250.
Myrtle Beach News & Notes
· The race featured 58 drivers trying to make the starting field of 41 cars. The starting field was the second largest ever for a United Speed Alliance Racing Hooters ProCup Series race (41).
· A qualifying race was held to determine starting positions 34-38 with former Myrtle Beach track champion Robert Powell winning from the pole position to make the 250 lap feature race. Three-time Hooters ProCup Series winner Marty Ward followed in second while series veterans Trent Owens and Tim Clayton won the final transfer spots.
· Shane Huffman led a total of 26 laps to lead a Hooters ProCup Series race for the first time since he held the top spot at Hickory Motor Speedway last July. Huffman finished 12th on the lead lap for his best finish of the season.
· Jon Wood continues to lead the battle for the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Championship. Wood leads Brian Vickers by 36 points (548-512). David Pletcher is just two points behind Vickers as the series heads to Peach State Speedway May 20th.
· Charlie Ford recorded his second top ten finish in four races this season and the Charles City, Virginia driver is currently fifth in the Hooters ProCup Series points standings.
· Defending Myrtle Beach track champion Jason Sarvis qualified third for the Mark Brooks Memorial/Hooters 250 presented by Black’s Tire Service and finished 37th after getting caught up in a six-car incident on lap 97.
· Mardy Lindley collected his third consecutive top-10 finish to move into second place in the Hooters ProCup Series points standings 51 points behind Gosselin (619-568).
· Drivers who did not qualify for the Mark Brooks Memorial/Hooters 250 presented by Black’s Tire were: Daryl Gwynn, Jason Bowser, Joe Harrison, Jr., Karen Schulz, Ron Beauchamp, Jr., Burt Ingole, Gerry O’Neil, Mark Whitaker, John Kinder, Tim Edwards, Daniel Johnson, Jimbo Mann, Terry Cline, Jabe Jones, Ronnie Davidson, Jimmy McClain and Chuck Walls.