USAR: Shenandoah: Race report

Benny Gordon Wins Farmer's Foods 250 Shenandoah, VA-Most drivers would be proud to say they won five races ago, but Benny Gordon isn't like most drivers. He showed that on Thursday, May 4 at Shenandoah Speedway. Gordon, driver of the No. 66 ...

Benny Gordon Wins Farmer's Foods 250

Shenandoah, VA-Most drivers would be proud to say they won five races ago, but Benny Gordon isn't like most drivers. He showed that on Thursday, May 4 at Shenandoah Speedway.

Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, took the lead from Gary St. Amant on Lap 123 and held off a pesky Jeff Agnew to win the Farmer's Foods 250 presented by 98 ROCK. It was Gordon's first win since taking the victory at Myrtle Beach Speedway in the Championship Series during the 2005 season.

"One thing is, we've had a fast race car," said Gordon. "It's tough when you have a fast car, knowing you could win. I feel like we've had a car that could've won the last two races, uh, and should have won the last two races. But circumstances didn't allow us."

There wasn't much that was going to stop Gordon on Thursday night.

After a Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, slipped around Gordon, who started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, on the opening lap, the defending Northern Division champion's car sprang to life after about 40 laps.

"The first two races of the season, [our car] was just a little bit too free," said Gordon. "Tonight, we went back to some old [notes], kind of old- school. In the first 50 laps, Woody [Howard] was smoking me, and I couldn't catch him. But 30 or 40 laps in, once the tire pressures got right, the car really started to get good."

On Lap 56, Gordon swept around Howard to take command of the race, while Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, began to backslide.

"We're just fighting a problem we've been fighting for the first few races. I'm kind of getting disgusted," said Howard. "We just need to do our homework. Our car was good for about 40 laps, but we fought [loose in] the rest of the night."

As Howard faded from the top spot, Gordon started to ease away from Jack Bailey, driver of the No. 93 Ferguson Waterworks/RHR Ford. By Lap 100, Gordon was turning laps three tenths of second faster than anyone on the track, and he'd built nearly a two-second lead before bringing the field to pit road on Lap 104 under caution.

And Gordon's Predator Performance teammates showed they were just as fast as their No. 66 Ford, sending Gordon back on the track ahead of the pitting cars. However, Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Ford, and Gary St. Amant elected to pit out-of-sequence and lined up at the front of the pack.

A few laps after the green unfurled, Ritch fell out of the race with a mechanical failure, handing the lead to St. Amant, driver of the No. 72 Chevy. St. Amant would be no match for Gordon and his fresh BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials. Gordon drove around St. Amant on Lap 122 and led until the finish. But, despite leading a gaudy 178 laps, Gordon didn't cruise to his 16th Pro Cup win.

Jeff Agnew, driver No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Pontiac, made a race out it in the second half of the event.

On Lap 150, Agnew took a shot on the high side of Gordon at the exit of Turn 2, but the defending Pro Cup champ shut the door. Gordon's lead would accordion with Agnew over the next 50 laps.

"I couldn't tell who was better," said Agnew, who won the last Northern Division event. "One time, we'd get a run on him. Then, he'd run off and leave us. I don't know if he was playing with us or not."

Gordon insisted he wasn't toying with the field-just his line.

"After every restart, my car wanted to be in a different place on the racetrack," said Gordon. "It was strange, but it was kind of cool; you had to think about what you were doing. We had to work hard to find the best line time-wise. That's probably why we were jockeying around a little bit."

A late-race caution gave Agnew a six-lap window of opportunity to muster a last-ditch effort for his second consecutive win, but Gordon was too strong, pulling away by .257 seconds at the finish.

"We just didn't have the car we had at Lonesome Pine," said Agnew. "If we can keep running in the top two each week, I'll be happy."

Jack Bailey was another happy driver at the end of the Farmer's Foods 250.

Bailey ran in the top five all night and came home third.

"I can't thank Randy Humphrey [car owner] and Robert Huffman [crew chief] enough," said Bailey, who has posted a second- and third-place finish in this first three Pro Cup starts. "This is a really good series. Running on these short tracks with these big cars, you have to be up on the wheel and be a pretty good driver to handle these things. I'm having a lot of fun."

Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20 Tony Stewart's Original Bar-B-Que Sauce Pontiac, kept his top-10 streak alive with a fourth-place finish. In the last four races, Howard's worst finish is sixth.

After falling to 13th, due to a lengthy pit stop to change spring rubbers, Woody Howard rebounded to come home fifth.

A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 11 Lightnin Fast Chevy, advanced from his 18th-starting spot to finish sixth and picked up the Aaron's Hard Charger Award and a $500 bonus.

Lonnie Rush Jr., driver of the No. 71 Ray Skillman Auto Chevy, was able to make up a lap and finish seventh. Despite being involved in an incident, Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Bob Huff Chevrolet, ended the night in eighth.

Travis Miller, driver of the No. 76 Ford, picked up the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award with his ninth-place finish. Eric Corbett, driver of the No. 75 Larry & Sons Ford, rounded out the top 10.

The Farmer's Foods 250 featured five lead changes among four drivers and was slowed 14 times for 74 laps of caution.

Farmer's Foods 250 Notebook

Miller Time

Travis Miller, driver of the No. 76 Ford, has been fast all season, but he's been unable to capitalize on it. In the Farmer's Foods 250, Miller finally made it to the finish-and a good one. Miller's ninth- place finish gave him his first Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award and a $1,000 bonus.

"I think we had a better a car than that," said Miller. "We ran pretty close to the top five all night. But we finished the race with all the fenders on the car, and I'm really excited about what's to come for this team."

Don't Forget Me

David Pletcher has been around the Hooters Pro Cup Series since its inception, mostly as a driver. This year, Pletcher has moved to the role of crew chief for Chase Pistone and Gabi DiCarlo for Stringer Motorsports. But Pletcher, driving the No. 83 Great Clips Ford, dusted off his driving suit for the Farmer's Foods 250.

"Hopefully, I'll get to race some more," said Pletcher, who finished 11th. "I enjoyed getting back in the seat. I'm not in the racing shape that I need to be. If I get to come back, I will be. I'll make sure of that."

Need Some Practice

If you saw Woody Howard after the Farmer's Foods 250, you would have never guessed he'd finished fifth. After finishing last season on a tear, Howard expected his No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy to be contending for wins every week in 2006. So far, Howard's best finish is third in four races this season. Howard ran in the top three most of the first half of the race, but he fell to 13th after a lengthy pit stop.

"We need to do more pit-stop practice," said Howard. "Really, we need to do more of everything. We just had an all-around bad night. We won three races last year, so we're definitely not happy to be running like we are now."

Ohio Bound

The Northern Division of the Hooters Pro Cup Series will be back in action this Friday, May 12 at Kil-Kare (Ohio) Speedway. The unique bullring always provides excitement. Last year, Woody Howard picked up his first Pro Cup win by holding off fellow rookie A.J. Frank in a late-race duel.

Out of My Control

Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 72 Chevy, had a solid run thwarted by a mechanical failure in the Farmer's Foods 250. After starting 16th, St. Amant stayed in touch with the leaders and eventually led nine laps after pitting out-of-sequence. But that was the end of the good night for St. Amant.

"We were in a good position to have a top-10 finish," said St. Amant. "I think fresh tires at the end of the race could have paid off for us. We were good after the pit stop and definitely on our way to a good finish. Some things you can't control, like broken parts or getting collected in someone else's accident, but we've been good in areas we can control. For a new team I think we're running well, and it won't be long before the finishes prove it."

Taking Everything

Benny Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, nearly took all of the bonus money up for grabs in the Farmer's Foods 250 at Shenandoah Speedway. Gordon grabbed $1,000 for winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader, $500 for being the Greased Lightning "Super Strength" Performer and $500 for capturing the Longhorn Win from the Pole Award.

If you combine that with $2,000 via the Hooters Pro Cup Series car owner bonus plan and $2,000 from Predator Performance for using a Predator engine and chassis, Gordon pocketed $17,000 on Thursday night.


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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Tony Stewart , Shelby Howard , Robert Huffman , Jack Bailey , A.J. Frank , Gabi DiCarlo , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew , Travis Miller