Proof is in the Pudding
Hooters Pro Cup's Parity Second to None

Myrtle Beach, S.C.--Car counts have long been the benchmark for a successful racing series, and that theory is still holds true today. But in order to have a great racing series, car counts and parity are both needed. In 2007, the Hooters Pro Cup Series (HPCS) set records for both.

As far as car counts, an average of 40.14 cars showed up for each event during the 2007 season, a 10% increase over the record-setting numbers of 2006. The highest car count of the season came at Peach State (Ga.) Speedway, where 49 drivers attempted to make the 32-car starting field.

"We felt like the changes made to the schedule last season would help, but we never expected the turnouts we had this season," said Gene Cox, USAR President. "Racers like to race where the competition is, and we're just happy they so many chose the Hooters Pro Cup Series to test themselves."

By the end of the regular season, 111 teams had competed in the HPCS. Sure, some were one-hit wonders, but nearly half of the teams competed on a full-time basis. A new record was also set for the number of drivers to qualify for the year-end Championship Series. Fifty-nine drivers ran at least half their regular-season races and finished inside the top 30 in points, breaking the record of 58 set in 2005.

But, as stated before, a lot of cars don't always produce a lot of competition. And that's where the HPCS differs.

During the 2007 season, the average separation between the pole winner and the last driver in on time was .485 seconds. The closest field separation was at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, where .232 seconds was all that distanced the pole-sitter from the first provisional starter.

Although HMS is the smallest track that the series competes on, the field separation at tracks three-quarters of a mile or longer was only .54 seconds.

"When you get to the track, the first thing you need to do is make the field," said rookie standout James Buescher. "Then, once you're in the race, you have to worry about beating 20 to 25 other guys."

All told, a record 48 different drivers led laps during the season and 13 different drivers went to Victory Lane during the 21-race season, including a record five first-time winners. Why the parity?

"I like the series because I know I've got the same thing to work with that everyone else has," said rookie Caleb Holman, driver of the No. 75s Food Country Chevrolet. "The [Five Star] bodies put everyone on a level playing field, regardless if you've got [Nextel] Cup backing or not, and the engine rules keep everyone pretty equal, too."

The equality wasn't just evident in qualifying, either. After throwing out the high and low, the average margin of victory was .532 seconds for the entire season.

Does the parity come with a price? Sure, there are no overnight-sensations in the HPCS. A good season is defined by winning a race--not seven. The amount of competition sends many of tomorrow's stars to the next level with only a couple of wins. But veteran Mike Garvey feels that's the way it should be.

"This series is going to make young drivers better because of the level of competition," said Garvey. "This is, by far, the most competitive short-track series going. And as a driver, you should want to beat the best. If you win one of these races, you've done something special."

By the Numbers:

Field Separation
1. USA Int. Speedway- 0.448 sec
2. So. Georgia Mtsp. Park- 0.633 sec
3. South Boston Speedway- 0.438 sec
4. Concord Mtsp. Park- 0.422 sec
5. Shenandoah Speedway- 0.549 sec
6. Madison Intl. Speedway- NT (Rain)
7. Peach State Speedway- 0.272 sec
8. Mansfield Mtsp. Speedway- 0.564 sec
9. Myrtle Beach Speedway- 0.463 sec
10. Salem Speedway- 1.483 sec (High)
11. Motor Mile Speedway- 0.356 sec
12. Southern Natl. Raceway Pk- 0.356 sec
13. Lake Erie Speedway- 0.66 sec
14. Hickory Motor Speedway- 0.232 sec (Low)
15. South Boston Speedway- 0.65 sec
16. Bristol Motor Speedway- 0.407 sec
17. Mansfield Mtsp. Speedway- 0.36 sec
18. Iowa Speedway- 0.76 sec
19. Myrtle Beach Speedway- 0.485 sec
20. So. Georgia Mtsp. Park- 0.488 sec
21. USA Int. Speedway- 0.412 sec
Average Field Separation: .485 sec

Margin of Victory
1. USA Int. Speedway- .331 sec
2. So. Georgia Mtsp. Park- .573 sec
3. South Boston Speedway- .536 sec
4. Concord Mtsp. Park- 1.120 sec
5. Shenandoah Speedway- .352 sec
6. Madison Intl. Speedway- .484 sec
7. Peach State Speedway- .267 sec
8. Mansfield Mtsp. Speedway- .291 sec
9. Myrtle Beach Speedway- .698 sec
10. Salem Speedway- .406 sec
11. Motor Mile Speedway- .271 sec
12. Southern Natl. Raceway Pk- .747 sec
13. Lake Erie Speedway- 1.668 sec (HIGH)
14. Hickory Motor Speedway- .805 sec
15. South Boston Speedway- 1.266 sec
16. Bristol Motor Speedway- .300 sec
17. Mansfield Mtsp. Speedway- .264 sec
18. Iowa Speedway- .225 sec (LOW)
19. Myrtle Beach Speedway- .543 sec
20. So. Georgia Mtsp. Park- .561 sec
21. USA Int. Speedway- .291 sec
Avg. Margin of Victory: .532 sec

Lead Changes
1. USA Int. Speedway- 6
2. So. Georgia Mtsp. Park- 8
3. South Boston Speedway- 4
4. Concord Mtsp. Park- 6
5. Shenandoah Speedway- 6
6. Madison Intl. Speedway- 3
7. Peach State Speedway- 4
8. Mansfield Mtsp. Speedway- 8
9. Myrtle Beach Speedway- 17
10. Salem Speedway- 9
11. Motor Mile Speedway- 10
12. Southern Natl. Raceway Pk- 6
13. Lake Erie Speedway- 5
14. Hickory Motor Speedway- 6
15. South Boston Speedway- 4
16. Bristol Motor Speedway- 5
17. Mansfield Mtsp. Speedway- 7
18. Iowa Speedway- 16
19. Myrtle Beach Speedway- 13
20. So. Georgia Mtsp. Park- 10
21. USA Int. Speedway- 7
Avg. Number of Lead Changes: 7.62

Winners
1. Bobby Gill-3 wins
2. Benny Gordon-3 wins
3. Trevor Bayne-2 wins (First-time winner)
4. Matt Hawkins-2 wins (First-time winner)
5. Mark McFarland-2 wins
6. Michael Ritch-2 wins
7. Clay Rogers-1 win
8. Chase Pistone-1 win (First-time winner)
9. Brandon Ward-1 win (First-time winner)
10. Matt Carter-1 win (First-time winner)
11. Jeff Agnew-1 win
12. Gary St. Amant-1 win
13. Woody Howard-1 win

Lap Leaders
1. Benny Gordon- 562
2. Bobby Gill- 544
3. Mark McFarland- 392
4. Trevor Bayne- 361
5. Michael Ritch- 311
6. Frank Deiny Jr.- 211
7. Mike Garvey- 178
8. Caleb Holman- 157
9. Matt Carter- 144
10. Brandon Ward- 137
11. Jeff Agnew- 127
12. Derek Kale- 126
13. Chase Pistone- 124
14. Clay Rogers- 123
15. Wade Day- 123
16. James Buescher- 119
17. Johnny Rumley- 114
18. Sam Fullone- 111
19. A J Frank- 107
20. Woody Howard- 94
21. Gary St. Amant- 84
22. Matt Hawkins- 81
23. Jack Bailey- 80
24. Jody Lavender- 80
25. Jay Fogleman- 46
26. Dange Hanniford- 42
27. Eric Corbett- 39
28. Andrew Rogers- 38
29. Carl Long- 27
30. Shane Wallace- 25
31. Brian Scott- 20
32. Lonnie Rush Jr.- 19
33. Ben Stancill- 19
34. Gary Helton- 18
35. Eric Humphries- 17
36. Clay Jones- 16
37. Allen Purkhiser- 15
38. Billy Bigley Jr.- 13
39. Ray Love Jr.- 13
40. John Gibson- 13
41. Mart Nesbitt- 10
42. Kirk Leone- 9
43. Shelby Howard- 7
44. Bill Plemons Jr.- 6
45. Richard Boswell- 6
46. Brett Butler- 5
47. Joey Coulter- 1
48. Dusty Williams- 1

-credit: usar