Clay Rogers Claims 4th Victory This Season; Maintains Point Lead In Championship Series
CONCORD, N.C. (September 5, 2009) -- Within 24 hours after destroying a race car in practice at Toledo [Ohio] Speedway, USARacing Pro Cup Series standings leader Clay Rogers was in victory lane, celebrating his success in Saturday's BFGoodrich Tires 250 at Concord Speedway, the inaugural race in the four-event Championship Series.
Rogers, who admitted he was sore from the vicious crash he took on Friday, led three times for 87 laps Saturday night at Concord, waited out two red flags, and then staved off a stiff challenge from runner-up Drew Herring in a green-white-checker finish to take his fourth victory this season.
No one was injured in either crash that halted the race for 14:22 and 4:12, respectively.
Rogers' third victory at the half-mile track and his first since May 2003, gave him a 45-point lead over Brandon Ward, who finished third. Herring's runner-up finish allowed him to take over third in the standings with three events remaining in the season. Herring is only five points behind Ward and trails Rogers by 50.
Also, because pole winner Caleb Holman didn't win the race, the $5,000 WIX Challenge Award rolls over to the Sept. 19 Iowa Speedway event. That means $10,000 will go to the driver who can earn the pole and win the race if he competed in 60 percent of the Pro Cup Series 10 regular season events.
Rogers noted that his team "really rallied behind me this weekend."
"I took a pretty good lick up at Toledo yesterday [Friday] in an ARCA car. I had a throttle hang wide open," said Rogers, who averaged 104.663 mph in the race that was slowed by 13 caution flags for 77 laps. "I have to be honest with you, I wasn't a 100 percent today. I've got to apologize to these guys for that. They made up for it with an excellent race car. It was just as good as the one we had here in the spring, but we were able to capitalize this time."
Rogers finished 15th in the April Concord 250 after leading 105 laps.
It was a different story Saturday night, however, as Rogers had to battle Holman, Derek Kale and Jeff Agnew in various stages of the event before taking the lead for good on lap 178. In the race's closing laps, it was Herring who looked like he might thwart Rogers' victory plans.
Rogers and Herring both received four fresh tires on lap 117 during the sixth caution period. When the race restarted on lap 122, Rogers was eighth and Herring sat ninth. By lap 146, Rogers had cracked the top-5, but Herring was mired in traffic in eighth. Two more caution flags in the next 12 laps slowed their progress, but Rogers finally moved into third on lap 169. Four laps later, Rogers slipped under Holman's Food Country USA Chevrolet Monte Carlo in turn 2 to take second.
On lap 177, Rogers closed on leader Agnew's Ford Fusion. The following lap he dove his C&C Boiler Sales & Service/Cleaver Brooks Chevrolet Impala under Agnew and into the lead in the first turn. Herring also used the 31-lap green-flag run to make his move to the front in his BTS Tire&Wheel Distributors/Hogslat Ford Fusion. With 65 laps remaining in the scheduled distance, Herring maneuvered his way under Ward in turn 3 to claim third.
The 10th yellow flag on lap 198 allowed the field to close and when the race restarted on lap 204, Rogers was in command, Agnew sat second and Herring was third. Herring dispensed with Agnew in the third turn on lap 206 and then set his sights on Rogers. With 25 laps remaining, Rogers possessed about a 2-second advantage over Herring, but then three caution periods and two red flags in the final 20 laps set up the green-white-checker shootout.
Mike Mason's vicious third-turn crash that destroyed his Ford Fusion's rear end was responsible for the first red flag. Series Director Jimmy Wilson halted the race so the outside wall could be checked for possible damage and also because of the tremendous amount of fluid coming from the A.S. Mason Inc./Winston Roofing Ford. When the race restarted, the top four, respectively, were Rogers, Herring, Ward and J.P. Morgan, who had the freshest set of tires, having received them on his Chevrolet Impala on lap 140.
With 10 laps to go, the running order remained unchanged. Then, on lap 247, Matt Lofton's Strutmasters.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo sailed into the third-turn wall after contact with Holman's Chevy as they dueled for fifth. Both drivers were moved to the rear of the field on the restart. Lofton for pitting too soon and Holman for his role in the accident. Holman eventually finished eighth and Lofton 11th.
On the lap 248 restart, Larry Wilcox's Transport Graphics & Signs Ford Fusion became entangled with several other cars and crashed on the frontstretch. That resulted in the second red flag, because of a blocked race track and set up the green-white-checker finish.
When the race returned to green for the shootout, Rogers once again got the better restart and finished 0.584 second ahead of Herring.
"I could not get a good start at all tonight. I did terrible," Herring said. "These guys gave me great pit stops all night, good adjustments. We were just a little off. This car was just a little too tight off (turn) one and that's where he was really killing us. It seemed like I could hold my own in (turn) three, but (overall) just a solid night tonight."
Rounding out the top five, respectively, were Ward, HessRacing Products Chevrolet Monte Carlo; Morgan, Phil Morgan Pottery Chevrolet Impala; and Agnew, Team 7/Mark IV Suzuki Ford. All were on the lead lap.
The series now has a week off before moving to Iowa Speedway for the second event in the Championship Series on Sept. 19.