Longs, SC -- Sometimes, living up to expectations can be harder than succeeding without any. But for Clay Rogers, that was no chore. At the start of the Southern Division season, a lot of fingers pointed towards Clay Rogers to win the regular ...
Longs, SC -- Sometimes, living up to expectations can be harder than succeeding without any. But for Clay Rogers, that was no chore.
At the start of the Southern Division season, a lot of fingers pointed towards Clay Rogers to win the regular season after he took over the reins of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford driven by Benny Gordon, who finished second in overall points to Shane Huffman in 2003.
And Rogers didn't disappoint the prognosticators, leading the point standings for the entirety of the Southern Division season.
"I know there were a lot of expectations for us to run well this year," said Rogers. "But around the shop, there was no pressure. I've got two of the best owners [Troy Baird and Johnny Dangerfield], and the only pressure we had is what we put on ourselves."
Rogers opened the season with a win at USA Int'l Speedway and never looked back, posting an average finish of 3.5 in the first six events. In the seventh race of the year at Myrtle Beach Speedway, Rogers finished 11th, marking the first time that he finished outside the top 10.
"Everybody's mind was in the right place at the beginning of the year," said Rogers. "We were a little behind at the start of the season because this deal came together so late. But with Bill Boger, Brad Fritz, Troy Hartman, our owners and everybody that helps out on this team, we were able to get out to a good start."
After his 11th-place finish at MBS, Rogers rebounded at Hickory Motor Speedway with his third win of the season. In the next event, Rogers opened the door for Bobby Gill to get back into championship hunt with his 31st-place finish at Southern National Speedway. Gill closed the gap to 25 points heading into Bristol Motor Speedway, but Rogers' second-place finish, coupled with Gill's DNF gave the 24-year-old driver an 82-point lead heading into the season finale.
With the cancellation of the Jackaroo Sauces 250, Rogers traded in his 82-point lead for 25-point bonus heading into the Championship Series and a $25,000 check for being the Southern Division champion.
"I'm a little disappointed that we didn't clinch it on the track," said Rogers, who just needed to finish 15th or better to clinch the title in the last race. "The way our performance has been all season, I don't think we would have had a hard time clinching even if we ran the race."
In addition to the $25,000 for being the Southern Division champion, East Coast Motorsports will receive $1,100 per event next season via the Car Owner Bonus Plan.
"I think that's a great deal," said Rogers. "Not only to give the Divisional Winner a $25,000 bonus, but to give the car owner money next season is great. I just have to thank Hooters for stepping up to the plate."
With $97,900 already banked in 2004, Rogers and East Coast Motorsports will turn their attention to winning overall title and the lion's share of the $1.1 million point fund for being the crowned the 2004 Hooters ProCup National Champion.
"I'm not looking forward to going into the Championship Series tied with Benny Gordon or Johnny Rumley because they're both good racers," said Rogers. "The [25-point] bonus is going to help, but there a lot of good cars that are going to be in the Championship Series. We've accomplished one goal, and I think we can get our next one, which was to win the overall title."