USAR: Valdosta CS: Race report

Happy at Home Hawkins Wins Aaron's 250 in Home State Cecil, Ga. -- If you took a pole among Hooters Pro Cup competitors about who they wouldn't want to see in the their rearview mirror in the waning laps, Mike Garvey, Bobby Gill and Mark...

Happy at Home
Hawkins Wins Aaron's 250 in Home State

Cecil, Ga. -- If you took a pole among Hooters Pro Cup competitors about who they wouldn't want to see in the their rearview mirror in the waning laps, Mike Garvey, Bobby Gill and Mark McFarland would be near the top of the list.

Matt Hawkins had to battle all three in the Dan Duncan Memorial Aaron's 250, and it was the rookie that came out on top.

Hawkins, driver of the No. 2 H&H Electric Ford, slipped past Bobby Gill on a restart on Lap 197 and held off charges by Mike Garvey and Mark McFarland in the closing laps en route to victory at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Cecil, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 20.

"This is awesome," said Hawkins, who won the season opener at USA Int'l (Fla.) Speedway. "All year, if something didn't happen, we've had top-five cars. We've just had terrible luck. Finally we qualified up front. The car was just good all night. Peach State and South Georgia are both like my home tracks, so this is great."

The event looked as though it was going to have a great ending for Hawkins' teammate, Mike Garvey, as well. After Hawkins took the lead, Garvey slid past Gill and moved into second. The Georgia drivers distanced themselves from the pack and started to dice it up for the lead. But, on a restart with 11 laps to go, Garvey's bid for the win-and possibly the point lead-went awry when Hawkins was slow to come up to speed.

"I flat messed up and spun the tires," said Hawkins, who took home $13,000 for the win. "I don't know what happened after that."

When Hawkins spun the tires, Garvey, driver of the No. 17s JaniKing Ford, tried to split Hawkins and the lapped car of Chase Pistone, but there wasn't enough room. Garvey bounced off Pistone and spun to the inside of the track. Garvey finished 19th after the contact.

It was a tough ending for Garvey, especially since he had one of the best cars in the race.

After starting 18th, Garvey moved to the front of the field on Lap 90, taking the lead away from rookie James Buescher. Once out front, Garvey pulled away from the field by over a second before the halfway mark. Garvey stayed out front long enough to pick up $1,000 and five bonus points for leading the Lucas Oil Halfway Lap. Most of leaders, including Garvey, elected to pit for the final time on Lap 127. Once Garvey returned to the track, Garvey found himself trailing Gill and Hawkins. The three moved to the front of the field on Lap 146, when Gill led the trio past then-leader Mart Nesbitt.

Three quick cautions allowed Gill to fend off Hawkins and Garvey. But on the third restart, Gill's No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford didn't come up to speed.

"I don't know what happened," Gill said of the restart. "I must have missed a shift or something and the car fell down on own its nose. After Hawkins got by, I got it going again, went down into [Turn] 1 and Garvey punted me."

Gill made a nice save, but the contact dropped him back to fifth and out of contention.

"After that, we were just trying to get what we could out of [the night]," said Gill.

Gill slipped to sixth in the running order a few moments later. With Garvey running second at the time, Gill's point lead was down to 29 points over Garvey. But like all if-the-race-ended-now scenarios, the race didn't end that way. Garvey spun and Chase Pistone, running fourth, ran out of fuel, allowing Gill to finish fourth and carry an 80-point lead over Trevor Bayne into the season finale at USA Int'l (Fla.) Speedway.

"That just means we can go to Lakeland [USA Int'l Speedway] and race," said Gill.

Even without Gill and Garvey breathing down his neck, Hawkins couldn't relax on the final restart of the night, especially with Awesome Awnings pole-sitter and two-time winner Mark McFarland right behind him. McFarland chased Hawkins hard into Turn 1 after the restart, but he eventually faded .561 seconds behind in the final five laps.

"I had a good restart, but as soon as went in there to turn, the car wouldn't turn," said McFarland, who rebounded from an early altercation to finish second. "I was real tight, but Matt did a great job and never bobbled. We'll go away from here happy with second, because it's been a while since we've had a good finish."

James Buescher, driver of the No. 84s Mercedes Homes Chevrolet, posted his best finish of the season by coming home third.

Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55s Dean Motorsports Chevrolet, completed the top five. Michael Ritch, Brandon Ward, Tom Hessert, Jody Lavender and Gary St. Amant rounded out the top 10.

Bayne, who entered the race 15 points behind Gill, suffered transmission problems and finished 68 laps off the pace in 30th position.

The Aaron's 250 was slowed 11 times from 70 laps of caution and featured nine lead changes among eight drivers.

Aaron's 250 Notebook

Still Believing
There may not be a lot of hope for the contenders chasing Bobby Gill in the points, but there's still a chance for six drivers to leave USA Int'l (Fla.) with the title. Trevor Bayne, second in points, would have to win, lead halfway and the most laps and hope Gill finishes 15th or worse without scoring any bonus points.

Mike Garvey and Gary St. Amant, who are tied for third, would have to finish first, lead the most laps and halfway and have Gill finish 28th or worse without scoring any bonus points.

Brandon Ward, fifth in points, would have to win, lead halfway and the most laps and hope that Gill finishes 29th or worse without scoring any bonus points.

Mark McFarland, sixth in points, would have to win, lead halfway and the most laps, grab the Hard Charger bonus and have Gill finish last without scoring bonus points. If that happened, the two would be tied, but McFarland would have the tie-breaker advantage because of his three wins. It's a long shot, but he's still got a chance.

Unfulfilled Love
Ray Love Jr., driver of the No. 08n Love Concrete Ford, led his first laps as a Hooters Pro Cup competitor in the Aaron's 250. The former dirt driver took the lead from James Buescher on Lap 36 and paced the field for 13 laps. Unfortunately, for Love, his night ended laps later with a mechanical failure.

Trevor Bayne's run at the title seemed to be going the way he wanted during the middle stages of the event. He had Bobby Gill behind him and was en route to a top-10 finish. But his car began to smoke moments later, forcing him behind the wall.

"Up until then, the car was good," said Bayne, driver of the No. 29s Chevrolet. "We had Bobby behind us, but it went downhill real fast. We started losing gears. I thought we had a shot at a top-three finish, even with only top gear. We can't get down on ourselves because it was something we couldn't control. We're just going to Lakeland and try to win the race."

True Colors
James Buescher may be one of the most-recognized young drivers in the country. The 17-year-old driver has knocked out wins and top-five finishes in various series this year. But until the Aaron's 250, the youngster had yet to post a podium finish in the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

"This is a good step for us," said Buescher, who finished a season-best third. "We've been fast about every week, but we've had a lot of problems. It just feels good to finish where we deserve to."

Miller Lites on Ice
Brandon Ward's seventh-place finish in the Aaron's 250 wasn't good enough to clinch the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title. And with Hawkins' win, the battle will likely go down to the final laps of the season finale.

Hawkins can overtake Ward, driver of the No. 93n SupplyOne Ford, by winning the final race and having Ward finish eighth.

-credit: usar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Trevor Bayne , Tom Hessert , Jody Lavender , Mark McFarland , Mike Garvey , James Buescher