Braselton, Ga. (June 27, 2009) – The only thing hotter than the temperature and the tempers on Saturday night at Lanier National Speedway was rookie Lucas Ransone, who grabbed his first career USARacing Pro Cup victory after a torrid last lap battle with A.J. Frank in the Aaron’s 250.
“This win is huge!” an ecstatic Ransone said. “It’s (crew chief) Darren Shaw’s first win and to win like that is just incredible. He has been in the Pro Cup series for quite a long time and I can’t believe we came out of here like this. I can’t believe this. It feels so great to be at this level.”
Ransone may have a rookie stripe on his rear bumper, but he drove like a veteran when it counted. A late-race accident involving leader Caleb Holman and the second place Clay Rogers set up a green-white-checker finish. When the field lined up for the final restart, Ransone was third, directly behind leader Frank. When the green flag waved, Bobby Gill, who was fourth, jumped to the outside in an attempt to pass Frank. Ransone dove to the inside and pulled even with Frank.
Ransone and Frank then dueled door-to-door for the final lap, before Ransone edged ahead by a mere 0.150 second for the victory. The final lap was the only one Ransone led in his Ransone Racing/K-N Filters/KRG Utilities Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
“On those last laps, I was thinking back to Hickory,” Ransone said. “Last year, my crew chief(David Mercer) and his brother were (with) the (No.)10 car and we had a lot of green-white-checkers there. He [Andy Mercer] got me every time. I thought back to that and I knew the No. 65n [Frank] was going to try to play with me a little bit and jump the start. I just picked his rear bumper up. I just never let off the gas and here we are right now.”
It was the second straight week that Frank, who led once for seven laps, has had to settle for the runner-up position, and he possessed mixed feelings about the result.
“The end was exciting,” Frank said. “They told us the leader controls the restart, but apparently the second- and third-place cars control it. When your rear tires are lifted off the ground, it’s hard to get going.
“We had a good car. I really want to thank Darren Odle with Speedco, Jack [McNelly] and Machill Motorsports for putting me in the car for another week and (giving me) another shot at a win in the Pro Cup series. We have two second-place finishes now; that’s gotta help out with finding a sponsor. Hopefully, we’ll be back at (the) Motor Mile.”
The incident that led to the green-white-checker finish was one that caused tempers to flare. Holman had taken the lead on lap 150 in his Food Country USA Chevrolet Monte Carlo and held it for the next 94 laps. He appeared to have the car to beat until Rogers’ C&C Boiler Sales & Service Chevrolet Impala came charging through the field. Holman was looking for his first win this season and Rogers for his fourth consecutive victory. Neither driver would give an inch. When Rogers dove to the inside to pass Holman, the two collided and Holman sailed into the outside wall, just seven laps shy of the checkered flag.
“I just ran where I felt like I had been running all night, and he hit me, bottom line,” Holman said after his disappointing 12th-place finish. “It was the worst possible place. I would have taken second over that. I would rather have raced him hard, door-to-door and beat fenders a little bit. I have no problem with racing hard and rubbing fenders, but when it comes to that, that’s just low down, sorry racing.”
Rogers, who led 3 times for 10 laps, was sent to the end of the longest line on the restart for his involvement in the incident. The current series point leader finished sixth, the final car on the lead lap.
“First of all, Caleb and his crew did a great job on their pit strategy and to get the lead when they did,” a frustrated Rogers said. “We had tires and we had the best car, everybody knows that. He moved down the race track to pinch me behind a car we were about to lap and he turned himself around. I have rubber all the way up to the center of my right-front tire, I was clearly underneath him. I clearly had position and it was clear to everybody that he came down the race track to try to pinch me down and I never had time to react.”
The door-to-door finish and the Holman-Rogers feud weren’t the only stories in the Aaron’s 250.
Series veteran Jeff Agnew has experienced terrible luck this season, but it appeared as though things were turning around for him after he posted a track record in qualifying to win the Strutmasters.com Pole Award. Agnew posted a 14.744-second lap to earn the top spot. He led the first 36 laps in the 250-lap event, but his day ended early after mechanical failures sent him to the garage.
“We were really happy about the pole, but we just can’t seem to get any luck on our side,” Agnew commented.
Another heartbreak involved Drew Herring. After dominating the race, Herring’s Black’s Tire & Wheel Distributors/Hogslat Ford Fusion’s rear end erupted in smoke. Herring took the lead for the first time on lap 36, and led a total of 107 laps before his Ford’s failing rear end sent him to the garage.
“We just can’t get any luck right now,” said Herring, who had his crew armed with fire extinguishers in the garage. “We had a fast car, I mean, the car was unreal. I could do whatever I wanted to do with it, just burnt the rear end gear up. It sucks when you’re running that good and you have a parts failure.
“It would have been a heck of a race for second though, because I had a dominant car, no question about that. We will move on and go to (the) Motor Mile, do the same thing and hopefully, we won’t have any parts failure.”
There were seven caution flags for 50 laps in the race that consumed 1:45:00.
Ronnie Souders was awarded the Aaron’s Do the Math Hard Charger Award after picking up 10 positions from his starting spot.
The USARacing Pro Cup Series has a weekend off, before it’s back to business when the series heads to Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., on July 18. Check www.usarprocup.com for the latest news and updates.