COLUMBUS, Miss. — Restart after restart, Chris Ferguson was able pull ahead of Billy Moyer and enjoy an oh-so-brief moment of daylight at the front of the pack. But time and time again, Moyer powered back ahead on the outside, regained control and pulled out to a comfortable advantage. Thanks to three cautions in the first 13 laps, that’s the way the first half of Friday’s 30-lap Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 opener went.
Finally, Ferguson, of Mount Holly, N.C., got the extended green flag run he needed. Catching Moyer in traffic as the laps wound down, Ferguson stuck to the low groove and slipped ahead as they completed lap 28. Ferguson, making just his second career start at The Mag, led the rest of the way to earn a $4,000 victory.
Thirteenth-starting Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., took advantage of Moyer’s late-race woes as well as he nipped the fellow Hall of Famer at the line for second. Moyer, of Batesville, Ark., finished third after leading the first 27 laps. Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark., was fourth, right where he started, and Jason Hiett of Oxford, Ala., rallied from 23rd to finish fifth.
Ferguson finished a full second ahead of McDowell as he recorded his first victory in his four-race old Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car.
“Man, Sweet-Bloomquist … this car was awesome,” he said. “I can’t thank Cody and Scott enough for taking me to the next level in this kind of (slick) conditions. It was fun. There was no doubt I was just gonna hug that bottom on those last two laps. I wasn’t gonna get up. I know (Moyer) was kinda picked (by a lapped car).
“He chose the middle that one time and almost cleared them, but the bottom just got so much better than that middle top and I just decided once he got a little bit ahead of me there and he caught lapped traffic, I was like, let me back my corner up and see if I can gain some ground. And sure enough, when I backed my corner up I could make up a little bit on the lapped cars where he could just run with them.”
Starting from the outside of the front row, Moyer bolted ahead of Ferguson, the polesitter, on the opening lap and began to pull away. He opened up a straightaway lead by the time the first of the three cautions waved on lap four. Though the race was slowed by two more quick cautions (on lap six and lap 13), Moyer had little trouble pulling back ahead each time.
“On them restarts, he was just so good off of (turn) two, all I could do was just slide him and kinda clear him and hope that he messed up,” said Ferguson. “But, you know, guys like him don’t mess up and that’s why he would drive back by me every time. But you’ve got to pressure those guys, even though they don’t mess up, you’ve still got to show ‘em you’re there. That’s kinda what I was trying to do. I was hoping that he would eventually mess up and maybe I could just cruise by him on the bottom, but he never did.”
“I definitely kinda got content with running second there,” Ferguson added. “I knew I could roll by him on the bottom, but the problem was he was so good on that top and that top was just so hooked up. The only way I think I’d have a legitimate shot at outrunning him was having a lot of laps in a row. But we got caution after caution and I knew I was harder on tires. I was just kinda content. Then with 10 (laps) to go when he caught traffic and couldn’t get by ‘em and I was still gaining on him, I was like, well, we have a shot now.”
Moyer didn’t mess up, but he was certainly held up. Unable to maneuver from the middle down as well as he need to, when he caught lapped cars racing side by side, he was a sitting duck as Ferguson and McDowell used the low line to close in.
“The flagman was giving the layover flag, but thanks to Chris Wall and (Scott) Dedwylder there, they wouldn’t obey the flag at all, so it is what it is. To give up four grand is kinda disheartening,” said Moyer. “(The outside) was kinda giving up there at the end. It was so far out there that it was back to the slick there kinda underneath … it kinda had that one sweet spot in (turns) three and four. At least for me, I couldn’t move around down there very much. The car was too tight. We didn’t have it right, but I (thought) we were still gonna hang on and get one, but the lapped cars just cost us.
“Chris done an excellent job. We run side by side there for a little bit on those starts and kinda swapped (the lead) back and forth. He had a good car, but it is what it is. I think we was gonna hang on ’til the end.”
Moyer looked as though he’d at least hang on to the runner-up spot, but McDowell beat him to the line by a scant 6 thousandths of a second. While he couldn’t cap the rally with a win, he was still pleased with his run following a subpar qualifying effort.
“I need somebody to qualify for me,” said McDowell. “It was wide open qualifying and I just didn’t get a good qualifying lap and was fortunate to get up through there in the heat race and (the track) come back around to us. Congratulations to Chris and everybody on his crew. It was fun fighting there in lapped traffic. I seen Billy moving and Chris moving and I was hoping I could sneak in there … and I was able to get by Billy on the last lap.”
Ferguson meanwhile was simply tickled to outrun two of the sports’ biggest superstars.
“Racing them two, I never thought I’d be at a place this slick and run that good,” the winner said. “Man that was awesome. I’ve never passed Billy Moyer. I don’t think I’ve ever passed him at all, so that was pretty cool to pass him in lapped traffic. I never thought I’d pass somebody like him at this place for a win. I mean it’s pretty freakin’ awesome.”
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Jared Landers, Jack Sullivan
Row 3: Dane Dacus, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 4: Cory Hedgecock, Jon Mitchell
Row 5: Michael Page, Neil Baggett
Row 6: Brian Rickman, Scott Dedwylder
Row 7: Dale McDowell, Hunter Rasdon
Row 8: B.J. Robinson, Chris Wall
Row 9: Shanon Buckingham, Tanner English
Row 10: Cade Dillard, Rick Rickman
Row 11: Timothy Culp, Austin Rettig
Row 12: Jason Hiett, Chad Thrash
Consolation race results
First consolation (top two transfer): Cade Dillard, Austin Rettig, Morgan Bagley, Michael Arnold, David Doherty, Spencer Hughes, Austin Smith, Zach Leonhardi, Lance Johnson, Keith House, Mike Myers, Brad Couch, Jake Davis.
Second consolation (top two transfer): Rick Rickman, Jason Hiett, Brandon Overton, Ray Cook, Robbie Stuart, Craig Scott, Brandon Brzozowski, Ashton Winger, Jason Croft, Eric Hickerson, Shay Knight.
Third consolation (top two transfer): Timothy Culp, Chad Thrash, Dean Carpenter, Larry Harrod, Manny Falcon, Clay Fisher, Josh Putnam, Vic Hill, Shelby Sheedy, John Minon, Eric Cooley, Mark Bangs.
(12 laps, top two transfer)
Row 1: Cade Dillard, Austin Rettig
Row 2: Michael Arnold, Spencer Hughes
Row 3: Austin Smith, Zach Leonhardi
Row 4: Morgan Bagley, David Doherty
Row 5: Brad Couch, Jake Davis
Row 6: Keith House, Mike Myers
Row 7: Lance Johnson, Ryan Carter
Row 1: Rick Rickman, Jason Hiett
Row 2: Brandon Overton, Jason Croft
Row 3: Ray Cook, Shay Knight
Row 4: Eric Hickerson, Ashton Winger
Row 5: Mark Bangs, Craig Scott
Row 6: Brandon Brzozowski, Robbie Stuart
Row 7: Jamie Elam
Row 1: Dean Carpenter, Chad Thrash
Row 2: Josh Putnam, Timothy Culp
Row 3: Manny Falcon, Larry Harrod
Row 4: Clay Fisher, Eric Cooley
Row 5: Vic Hill, Shelby Sheedy
Row 6: John Minon, Dwight Falcon
Heat race results
First heat (top three transfer): Chris Ferguson, Cory Hedgecock, Dale McDowell, Cade Dillard, Michael Arnold, Austin Smith, Morgan Bagley, Brad Couch, Keith House. Scratched: Lance Johnson.
Second heat (top three transfer): Jared Landers, Michael Page, B.J. Robinson, Austin Rettig, Spencer Hughes, Zach Leonhardi, David Doherty, Jake Davis, Mike Myers. Scratched: Ryan Carter.
Third heat (top three transfer: Dane Dacus, Brian Rickman, Shanon Buckingham, Rick Rickman, Brandon Overton, Ray Cook, Eric Hickerson, Mark Bangs, Brandon Brzozowski.
Fourth heat (top three transfer): Billy Moyer, Jon Mitchell, Hunter Rasdon, Jason Hiett, Jason Croft, Shay Knight, Ashton Winger, Craig Scott, Robbie Stuart, Jamie Elam.
Fifth heat (top three transfer): Jack Sullivan, Neil Baggett, Chris Wall, Dean Carpenter, Josh Putnam, Manny Falcon, Clay Fisher, Vic Hill, John Minon,
Sixth heat (top three transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Scott Dedwylder, Tanner English, Chad Thrash, Timothy Culp, Larry Harrod, Eric Cooley, Shelby Sheedy. Scratched: Dwight Falcon.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps, top three transfer)
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Michael Arnold
Row 2: Cade Dillard, Cory Hedgecock
Row 3: Austin Smith, Dale McDowell
Row 4: Morgan Bagley, Brad Couch
Row 5: Lance Johnson, Keith House
Row 1: Michael Page, Spencer Hughes
Row 2: B.J. Robinson, Jared Landers
Row 3: Jake Davis, Austin Rettig
Row 4: David Doherty, Zach Leonhardi
Row 5: Mike Myers, Ryan Carter
Row 1: Dane Dacus, Shanon Buckingham
Row 2: Rick Rickman, Brian Rickman
Row 3: Eric Hickerson, Ray Cook
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Mark Bangs
Row 5: Brandon, Brzozowski
Row 1: Jon Mitchell, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Ashton Winger, Jamie Elam
Row 3: Hunter Rasdon, Jason Hiett
Row 4: Jason Croft, Shay Knight
Row 5: Craig Scott, Robbie Stuart
Row 1: Neil Baggett, Chris Wall
Row 2: Jack Sullivan, Josh Putnam
Row 3: Vic Hill, Dean Carpenter
Row 4: Manny Falcon, John Minon
Row 5: Clay Fisher
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Timothy Culp
Row 2: Tanner English, Chad Thrash
Row 3: Larry Harrod, Eric Cooley
Row 4: Scott Dedwylder, Shelby Sheedy
Row 5: Dwight Falcon
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Chris Ferguson (22F), Mount Holly, N.C., 13.440
Michael Page (18X), Douglasville, Ga., 13.687
Dane Dacus (54), Lakeland, Tenn., 13.688
Michael Arnold (4), Hattiesburg, Miss., 13.690
Spencer Hughes (10), Meridian, Miss., 13.726
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 13.730
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 13.734
B.J. Robinson (1), Bossier City, La., 13.745
Rick Rickman (86R), Columbus, Miss., 13.775
Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., 13.799
Jared Landers (777), Little Rock, Ark., 13.816
Brian Rickman (90), Columbus, Miss., 13.869
Austin Smith (84), Rome, Ga., 13.870
Jake Davis (7D), Hackett, Ark., 13.993
Eric Hickerson (98), Linden, Tenn., 13.941
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 13.944
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 13.993
Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., 14.060
Morgan Bagley (14M), Longview, Texas, 14.218
David Doherty (25), Sydney, Australia, 14.226
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 14.233
Brad Couch (5C), Bossier City, La., 14.444
Zach Leonhardi (24), Cartersville, Ga., 14.629
Mark Bangs (376), Canoe Creek, Ala., 15.113
Lance Johnson (67), Columbus, Miss., 15.282
Mike Myers (48M), Ruleville, Miss., 15.326
Brandon Brzozowski (104), San Antonio, Texas, 15.377
Keith House (22), Monroeville, Ala., 17.361
Ryan Carter (C7), Blackshear, Ga., no time
Jon Mitchell (5), Texarkana, Texas, 13.560
Neil Baggett (21xxx), Columbus, Miss., 13.751
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 13.808
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 13.848
Chris Wall (71), Holden, La., 13.903
Timothy Culp (c8), Pratville, Ark., 13.910
Ashton Winger (12), Senoia, Ga., 14.024
Jack Sullivan (18) Greenbrier, Ark., 14.119
Tanner English (22E), Benton, Ky., 14.136
Jamie Elam (80), Sanitobia, Miss., 14.197
Josh Putnam (212), Florence, Ala., 14.210
Chad Thrash (1C), Meridian, Miss., 14.213
Hunter Rasdon (5R), Jonesboro, Ark., 14.263
Vic Hill (1v), Moshiem, Tenn., 14.267
Larry Harrod (27), Plains, Ga., 14.293
Jason Hiett (1H), Oxford, Ala., 14.320
Dean Carpenter (51), Coldwater, Miss., 14.336
Eric Cooley (33), Fulton, Miss., 14.390
Jason Croft (9), Woodstock, Ga., (14.490)
Manny Falcon (995), Pine Grove, La., 14.595
Scott Dedwylder (33D), Vossburg, Miss., 14.678
Shay Knight (3), Columbus, Miss., 14.717
John Minon (74), Adams, Tenn., 14.895
Shelby Sheedy (G4), French Camp, Miss., 14.907
Craig Scott (0), Newnan, Ga., 15.156
Robbie Stuart (6R), DeRidder, La., disqualified