CONCORD, N.C. – A game of bumper cars on a late restart left Carson Ferguson frustrated with a runner-up finish during round three of the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout on Tuesday.
Ferguson led 21 of the 25 laps in the headlining 25-lap Pro division feature, but was shuffled out of the lead on a four-lap dash to the finish.
In fact, the North Carolina young gun was gone from the field by nearly a straightaway before the final caution waved for debris from Bryson Ruff’s machine that was hit into the racing groove on the back side of the Charlotte Motor Speedway frontstretch quarter-mile.
On the race-deciding restart with four to go, Ferguson had Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Bubba Wallace and Canadian Ryan Mackintosh in his rear-view mirror as he chased his second win in three starts.
Knowing he was going to have to play defense, Ferguson drove his No. 48 Ladyga Motorsports car deep into turn one on the final restart, but couldn’t get far enough away.
As the field entered turn one, Wallace shoved Ferguson through the corner in an attempt to muscle his way past the pole-sitter. After washing wide on corner exit, Ferguson retaliated in turn three, and shoved Wallace’s No. 76 in return.
As that duo played bumper cars in turn one the next time by, they got a little extra help from Mackintosh, who snuck past on the inside in a three-wide gambit to ultimately take the lead in his No. 03.
Ferguson quickly drove away from Wallace’s battered machine and ran down Mackintosh. With three laps to catch the leader, he drove into each corner deeper and deeper.
Off the final corner, Ferguson pulled alongside when Mackintosh broke loose. The duo took the checkered flag locked in a near-photo finish, with Mackintosh ahead by .049 seconds.
Ferguson chalked up the finish of the race to classic short track racing, though it didn’t come without a few post-race fireworks first.
After dominating the first 21 laps, Ferguson showed his displeasure immediately. He ran Mackintosh wide after the checkered flag waved and then brake-checked him multiple times on the cool-down lap.
The anger between the top three culminated in a shouting match in post-race tech.
“It was going to be our night tonight, but that’s short track racing, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” noted Ferguson. “You know when Bubba is behind you, it’s going to be coming. I was just holding on for the ride going into one.
“He moved me up the track,” Ferguson continued. “I got back to him in three. And (the move) going into one was just uncalled for. I had my back tires lifted off the ground by Mackintosh. I try to race everybody with respect, but after that, I guess you have to run some people the way they run you.”
Though he didn’t come away with the victory, a pole qualifying effort and runner-up finish in the feature did plenty to help erase the seven-point deficit Ferguson had to Joey Padgett coming into Tuesday’s third round of competition.
“It was a good points night,” Ferguson admitted. “I’m glad we were able to finish after getting dumped there. I think I was in Bubba’s windows with three to go. I couldn’t get back to Mackintosh.
“He overshot, mirror driving, going into three on the last lap. I just wish I could have filled that gap,” Ferguson added. “Overall it was a good night, though.”
As he made his way to victory lane for the mandatory top-five media availability, Ferguson smiled briefly before steeling his gaze and offering a strong statement to the field.
“It was our race with no cautions; we started on pole and were running away with it,” Ferguson explained. “I stretched it out … but I guess that’s the only way they could have beat us tonight. Timmy had this car on rails.
“It doesn’t matter what the finish says; they know who the best car here was.”