MILLINGTON, TN - Nineteen-year-old Gus Dean has finished in the runner up position so many times in his X-1R Pro Cup Series career he has probably lost count.
The Bluffton, SC driver, in his third year of full time competition, finally put it all together at the biggest track he's ever raced at to score his first career series win Saturday afternoon at Memphis International Raceway in Millington, TN in the KOMA Unwind Liquid Relaxation 150.
"This is what I'm talking about," Dean exclaimed after exiting his car in victory lane. "It's been a long time coming for this team, my family, and just everyone that's helped me get to where I'm standing at right now. My crew chief Petey (Hinson) gave me a good car that was good on the long runs and it was just enough to hold off Caleb (Holman).
"I would have never thought my first win would come at a track like Memphis. It's the biggest place I've ever been on so it took a little while to get use too. We had even thought about not coming here but I'm sure glad we did."
Dean's win didn't come easy as he did all could to hold off a hard charging Caleb Holman on the final turn of the final lap. Holman, the current series points leader, started on the pole after capturing first place on the starting grid during MAHLE pole qualifying. From there Holman quickly took the lead with the field in tow. Youngsters Dean and Watkinsville, GA's Brady Boswell quickly formed a side-by-side battle with Boswell eventually taking the second position.
With Holman stretched out in the lead and the field single file, the first yellow flag waved on lap 43 when Reid Wilson, who showed to have a fast racecar all weekend, slowed coming off turn two with suspension issues. The caution bunched the field up but it was Holman once again who flexed his muscle, retaining the lead position. However, two time champion Benny Gordon was on the move after a disappointing qualifying effort, cracking the top five by the competition caution on lap 75.
The halfway point redraw put Jeff Oakley and J.P. Morgan on the front row, while Holman was relegated to the third position. Dean meanwhile moved to the fourth position after taking the halfway yellow in second.
The restart proved to be one of the most intense times of the event when the rear end under Morgan's car locked up, sending him hard into the inside frontstretch wall, ending his day. Dean and rookie of the year contender Codie Rohrbaugh also received damage in the melee.
The complete restart put Holman on the front row and that was all he needed to get back to the lead. Meanwhile Dean went to work, moving to second place on lap 89. Seventeen laps later, the two leaders would battle side-by-side battle, with the duo making contact on several occasions before Dean eventually came out on top. Holman then worked to build a late race advantage.
Despite closing an almost five car length gap Holman didn't quite have enough to get to Dean, drawing to his inside quarter panel coming to the checkered flag off of turn four. Behind the leaders, an exciting side-by-side battle for third saw veteran Jeff Oakley score his first podium finish of the season after edging Boswell by a nose at the line.
Next up for the X-1R Pro Cup Series is the Heritage Truck Centers 250 at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, VA on Saturday June 7.
CARS X-1R Pro Cup Series
Memphis International Raceway - Millington, TN
KOMA Unwind Liquid Relaxation 150 (Unofficial) - April 26, 2014
1. #56 Gus Dean
2. #75 Caleb Holman
3. #6 Jeff Oakley
4. #2 Brady Boswell
5. #25 Benny Gordon
6. #05 Codie Rohrbaugh
7. #23 J.P. Morgan
8. #66 Reid Wilson