It wasn’t a good day to be a former Florida Governor’s Cup 200 winner on Sunday afternoon. Augie Grill, Jeff Choquette and Wayne Anderson all were caught up in wrecks throughout the wild 200-lap race at central Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. The 2009 winner, Tim Russell, also crashed in practice and was forced to withdraw his entry.
But at the end of the day it was Travis Cope who survived all of the mayhem and made a last-corner pass to score his first career Governor’s Cup 200 victory.
Cope moved by Steven Wallace and into second place with 43 laps to go. He trailed Bobby Good by two seconds and slowly started to close in. With five laps to go Cope trailed Good by 0.711 second.
When the flagman signaled two laps to go, Cope was within two car lengths of Good. They went into turn three and Good washed up the race track and into the marbles. Cope stayed on the bottom and drove underneath Good to take the lead as they came to the white flag. He ran a smooth final lap to score an impressive win in his final race of 2014.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Cope when asked what he was thinking when Good washed up the track. “Bobby is a good race car driver, no pun intended, and he had me. His brakes or something must have gone away because I kept getting to him.”
That is exactly what happened, according to Good, who would end up settling for second.
“My brakes started going a bit with about 10 or 15 to go,” said Good. “They got real spongy. I was backing up the corner trying to be smooth going in so that I didn’t have to use up the brakes. I drove into three and the brakes went right to the floor and I couldn’t get the car to slow down. It shot me right up into the marbles. It didn’t have anything to do with pressure or anything like that.”
The second-place finish is the best ever in this race for Good, but the moral victory didn’t ease the disappointment of this loss.
“I can’t describe it, man,” said Good when asked what he was feeling. “I just can’t describe it.”
The big story heading into the weekend was the potential for a three-peat by Augie Grill. He was fast all weekend in practice and qualifying and ran up front most of the race before taking the lead on lap 74. That was the only lap Grill led and the last lap Grill completed.
Grill and early leader Jeff Choquette were racing hard for the lead during the beginning stages of the 200-lap race. The two-time Governor’s Cup winners began bouncing off each other just after the lap 73 restart. Grill cleared Choquette on the outside of turn four at the end of lap 74 and then was “spun out” in the very next corner.
Choquette hit the left rear of Grill’s No. 112 and turned him around into the outside wall. Bubba Pollard, Johanna Long and a number of other drivers got collected as well. Choquette was disqualified by New Smyrna Speedway track officials for aggressive driving.
“We touched a couple times, but my car got better than his and I got by,” said Grill after the crash. “I guess he didn’t like it. I guess Choquette got mad that I was faster than he was when I passed him and he just ran into the next corner and dumped me.”
Choquette didn’t deny taking Grill out. Actually, he completely admitted to it.
“I have a ton of respect for him and I thought up until today that he had a ton of respect for me,” said Choquette. “We’ve raced each other clean a bunch of times. He just used my whole left side up. It was plain as day and I’m not going to put up with it. If that’s how you’re going to race me, then I drove down in turn one and took him out. That’s the honest to God truth. I’ll race you as clean as you’re going to race me. If you’re going to race me with no respect, don’t expect any respect.”
TJ Duke led the next 29 laps after the crash before losing the lead to three-time Florida Governor’s Cup winner, Wayne Anderson.
After Anderson took the lead it appeared as though he had the strongest car remaining and nobody would be able to catch him. Unfortunately for Anderson, his strong run came to an end near lap 132. It wasn’t another car that derailed Anderson’s efforts, but the bolts on the rear end cover came loose. Anderson came down pit road, pulled behind the wall, climbed out of his no. 84, sat on a golf kart and just looked at the ground.
“Words can’t even describe how disappointed I am,” said Anderson. “We were just riding. That’s all I was doing.”
On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum sat Cope after a roller-coaster ride of a day.
He qualified tenth, but was sent to the rear with six other drivers for having a crew member near the car after qualifying. Cope started 31st and even spun out twice during the race before rallying to the front late in the going.
“Every time we came here we seemed to have bad luck and couldn’t get over it,” said Cope, who won the pole for this race in 2006, but didn’t even make a lap after crashing before the start. “Today didn’t start out any better at all having to start in the back and then spinning out. To go out there and come from the back, that’s a big deal. I still can’t believe it.”
To re-live all of the action from an exciting day of racing at New Smyrna Speedway, visit Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage presented by Liz Girl Logistics and Progressive Racing Engines by clicking here.
Speed51.com will have a highlight video including the incident between Choquette and Grill early next week.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT and NJ) -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Feature Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Tonya Kronk(powered by 51's Third Turn)
| 1||31||26||Travis Cope||200||2||running|
| 2||3||27||Bobby Good||200||64||running|
| 3||1||12||Harrison Burton||200||0||running|
| 4||10||66||Steve Wallace||200||0||running|
| 5||21||14||Chris Davidson||200||0||running|
| 6||8||36L||Alex Labbé||200||0||running|
| 7||9||11||David Rogers||200||0||running|
| 8||33||81||Brian Campbell||200||0||running|
| 9||6||28||T.J. Duke||200||28||running|
| 10||4||10M||Brad May||200||0||running|
| 11||35||99||Michael Self||199||0||running|
| 12||12||9||Rich Clouser||199||0||running|
| 13||34||10||George Gorham||198||0||running|
| 14||23||00||Anthony Cataldi||198||0||running|
| 15||11||20||Anthony Sergi||189||0||out|
| 16||26||79||Dakotah Stephens||136||0||running|
| 17||7||84||Wayne Anderson||134||31||rear end cover|
| 18||20||19||Ray Black, Jr.||134||0||accident|
| 19||14||5||Joe Boyd||134||0||accident|
| 20||15||1||Cody Coughlin||134||0||transmission|
| 21||32||18||Jordan Ives||131||0||accident|
| 22||16||12G||David Green||115||0||accident|
| 23||17||12D||Derek Griffith||88||0||out|
| 24||13||5K||Daniel Keene, Jr.||82||0||accident|
| 25||2||29||Jeff Choquette||77||74||parked|
| 26||5||112||Augie Grill||75||1||accident|
| 27||18||7||Johanna Long||75||0||accident|
| 28||36||59||Dustin Dunn||75||0||accident|
| 29||22||26P||Bubba Pollard||75||0||accident|
| 30||25||12F||Brian Finney||35||0||accident|
| 31||28||57||Michael Lira||34||0||out|
| 32||37||40D||Danny Esposito, Jr.||24||0||out|
| 33||30||51||Stephen Nasse||17||0||accident|
| 34||19||41||Brandon Johnson||12||0||accident|
| 35||27||18||Zack Jarrell||9||0||out|
| 36||29||119||Rick Maguire||3||0||out|
| 37||24||22||Dusty Cornelius||0||0||accident|