Two past champions of the CARS X-1R Pro Cup Series, Benny Gordon and J.P. Morgan, know that racing involves a lot of skill but often times a lot of good luck as well to be successful. With both cars strong at Motor Mile Speedway Saturday night, it took a late, freak suspension failure on Gordon’s machine to hand the victory to J.P. Morgan. Morgan, the 2012 Pro Cup champion, earned his first victory of 2014 as well as his first career victory at the high-banked oval in Radford, Virginia.
“Any time you finally get in victory lane at any track is awesome,” said an excited Morgan as he climbed out of his car, “but Motor Mile is such an awesome facility. I love this track; it’s one of those tracks you want to win at. We’ve worked hard here, and we’ve come so close. It’s just unbelievable.”
The story for much of the evening looked as though it would be Benny Gordon, the 2008 Pro Cup champion, who is making his return to the tour this summer after taking the last three seasons off. After Caleb Holman led the first few laps from the pole position Saturday night, Gordon went into the lead at lap 30 and looked as though he would not be seriously challenged again.
Morgan came to second late in the first half of the race, making a serious run at Gordon coming to the halfway break but never finding his way in front. Then, the halfway redraw favored Gordon. He drew the 1st pill while Morgan found himself restarting 5th. Slowly pulling away from new second place man Dalton Hopkins on the restart, Gordon was well in command with a dozen laps to go when Morgan freed himself of both Hopkins and Holman and went to work running down Gordon. While it did appear as though Morgan was going to make it a honest race for Gordon, it simply didn’t appear as though he would get there.
That changed drastically with about five laps to go, when Gordon’s car started to wobble through the corners, ultimately letting Morgan come by as they took the two to go signal. Gordon stopped in the next corner with a tie rod failure, a very rare issue to see in racing, usually the result of a bolt not being properly tightened before the race.
Gordon’s stopped car brought out a yellow, but Holman was unable to mount a serious challenge on Morgan on the green-white-checkered, giving Morgan his 14th career Pro Cup triumph.
“About fifty to go, I started to feel the car vibrate a little in the right front,” Gordon told 51 after the race as his team looked at the car on jackstands. “But it didn’t seem to affect the handling that much. The car was money, it was right on all night long. But then the next to last lap the outer tie rod worked its way out of the spindle and fell out.”
Despite being understandably dejected, Gordon says he is happy to be back with the Pro Cup circuit. He returned for their last race at Memphis, but never really contended in the race before settling for fifth. His team took notice at just how tough the Pro Cup circuit, despite struggling in the car count department, is with the quality of the teams that race week in and week out.
“There’s ten cars here that are really quality cars and it definitely isn’t a cakewalk,” commented Gordon, “We came here and we tested hard to make sure we could run well here tonight.”
Despite acknowledging the victory came down to a failure on Gordon’s car, Morgan believed his car measured up to Gordon’s all night long.
“In the first run, I just felt him [Gordon] out a little bit. And his car did the same thing [pushing bad late in a run]. I knew that if I just waited my time and waited my time, I could get him. I raced Caleb there a really long time and it was a lot of fun, but I thought we might have missed our chance. But when I got there [to second] and I saw the intervals shrinking, I knew we had a chance."
Runner-up Holman added after the race “there was nothing else I could do [on that last restart]. My only prayer was to get him in that first corner there. We kicked it into fourth gear and my car [the tires] spun a little. It's hard, but it'll feel a whole let better in the morning finishing second."
Holman wanted to win the Motor Mile race especially badly as it is the home track for his Henderson Motorsports team as well as a track they’ve never had much luck at. The runner-up finish only marks his second top-ten finish there.
The X-1R Pro Cup Series rolls to Myrtle Beach Speedway for their next race on June 28th. The series will be giving away scores of free tickets to the race which you will be able to pick up at multiple Myrtle Beach locations soon. Check out CARSProCup.com for more information this upcoming week for more information.
-- By Tim Quievryn // Speed51.com Correspondent // @thethirdturn