USAR: Iowa - Championship breakdown

The Championship Breakdown Myrtle Beach, S.C.--Round No. 1 of the Championship Series is in the books. Bobby Gill made the most notable gains in the standings, pulling to within 20 points of Gary St. Amant, but several other drivers also raced...

The Championship Breakdown

Myrtle Beach, S.C.--Round No. 1 of the Championship Series is in the books. Bobby Gill made the most notable gains in the standings, pulling to within 20 points of Gary St. Amant, but several other drivers also raced their way into championship contention at Mansfield. For several drivers, their championship hopes took a big blow at Mansfield.

Now there are just four races left to decide the overall Hooters Pro Cup Champion, Miller Lite Rookie of the Year and the recipients of over $1,000,000 in purse and point funds.

Below is the top 20 in Championship Series points, a Mansfield Review and a Iowa Preview.

1. Gary St. Amant (No. 7 JEGS.com/Speedco Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 2nd
Championship Series Points: 355
Points ahead of 2nd: 20
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: 0
Season Avg. Finish: 4.1
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 2.8

Mansfield Review
St. Amant nearly made himself sick during the week leading up to the race, worrying about winning in front of his home-track fans. The fact that he was the No. 1 Seed didn't help matters, either. St. Amant didn't win, but the nauseas feeling went away after he finished second and left Ohio with the point lead.

Iowa Preview
St. Amant is known as one of the best short-track racers in the country, but Iowa Speedway isn't the typical short track. The pole for last year's race was 132.626 mph. That being said, the Soy Biodiesel 225 may not be his best shot at victory in the Championship Series. But if he can leave Iowa with the point lead, St. Amant is going to be tough over the final three races.

Best Finish at Iowa: 33rd (9/15/06)

2. Bobby Gill (No. 06s USG Sheetrock/Kimnach Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 1st
Championship Series Points: 335
Points behind 1st: 20
Points ahead of 3rd: 40
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +3
Season Avg. Finish: 11.2
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 11.0

Mansfield Review
Bobby Gill did exactly what was needed to get in the championship hunt at Mansfield. He led a lap, led the most laps, picked up five bonus points for being the Hard Charger and won the race, giving him 175 points for the event. In doing so, he trimmed 25 points off St. Amant's lead. The only bonus points Gill didn't grab were the five points given for leading a halfway. Well, nobody's perfect.

Iowa Preview
Bobby Gill makes it known that he loves the fast tracks on the Hooters Pro Cup circuit--and Iowa Speedway is the fastest. Last year, Gill led 72 laps before a late-race stop thwarted his shot at victory. Don't be surprised to see Gill pick up back-to-back wins.

Best Finish at Iowa: 20th (9/15/06)

3. Benny Gordon (No. 66n Samuel Metals/The Works Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 5th
Championship Series Points: 295
Points behind 1st: 60
Points ahead of 4th: 14
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: 0
Season Avg. Finish: 7.6
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 2.6

Mansfield Review
When Gordon got around Mark McFarland after the round of pit stops, everyone assumed that he would mow down the rest of the field. But it didn't happen. A horde of late-race cautions kept the former champ from advancing past fifth towards the end of the event. If fifth place is Gordon's worst finish of the Championship Series, he'll be fine.

Iowa Preview
Gordon led one lap last year at Iowa and finished 15th. Gordon was struggling coming into Iowa last year, however. This year, Gordon seems to be peaking at the right time. He has to be considered a legitimate threat at Iowa.

Best Finish at Iowa: 15th (9/15/06)

4. Brandon Ward (No. 93n SupplyOne Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 7th
Championship Series Points: 281
Points behind 1st: 74
Points ahead of 5th: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +1
Season Avg. Finish: 12.6
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 10.2

Mansfield Review
Ward picked up the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award for his seventh-place finish at Mansfield. It was a good opener, but not great, and that's what this team expects. Although a touch disappointed by the effort, Ward understands that a few more rookie awards and top-10 finishes will likely be good enough to take home the $25,000 bonus for being the top rookie.

Iowa Preview
Ward doesn't have any seat time at the Iowa track, but he does have plenty of seat time at tracks bigger than Iowa. During his time in the Goody's Dash Series, Ward raced at Charlotte and Kentucky. Though the Dash cars are different from Pro Cup machines, Ward shouldn't have a big problem navigating the ultra-fast Iowa layout.

Best Finish at Iowa: (Never Competed)

5. Michael Ritch (No. 28s Naturally Fresh/Jackaroo Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 30th
Championship Series Points: 280
Points behind 1st: 75
Points ahead of 6th: 14
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -4
Season Avg. Finish: 15.2
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 21.8

Mansfield Review
Ritch went from the penthouse to the outhouse on the first lap at Mansfield. After starting from the pole, Ritch never came up to speed and limped to pit road. He rejoined the field five laps later and made all his laps up, giving him some hope. The gremlins wouldn't go away, however, and Ritch finished 30th at the end of the night.

Iowa Preview
Ritch's DNF at Mansfield didn't take him out of championship contention, but a DNF at Iowa will. Ritch doesn't need to win to stay in the hunt. A top-five finish and a few bonus points will keep him in the thick of the championship chase.

Best Finish at Iowa: 29th (9/15/06)

6. Mark McFarland (No. 81s Knight's Companies/Greased Lightning Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 6th
Championship Series Points: 266
Points behind 1st: 89
Points ahead of 8th: 3
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +7
Season Avg. Finish: 12.2
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 18.0

Mansfield Review
McFarland broke his string of DNFs by coming home sixth at Mansfield. He, like Gordon, appeared to have one of the fastest cars in the field, but the bevy of cautions derailed his march to the front after his pit stop. All in all, McFarland's sixth-place finish was a decent way to kick off the Championship Series.

Iowa Preview
McFarland will be making his first start at Iowa Speedway, but he did make laps there earlier this season during a BFGoodrich Tires test session. In addition, McFarland made five Busch Series starts and one Craftsman Truck start at Richmond, which many say reminds them of Iowa. Barring any more mechanical snafus, McFarland should be around the front at Iowa.

Best Finish at Iowa: Never Competed

6. Shane Wallace (No. 38n Sears Auto Center Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 4th
Championship Series Points: 266
Points behind 1st: 89
Points ahead of 8th: 3
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +15
Season Avg. Finish: 14.5
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 14.8

Mansfield Review
Shane Wallace kicked off the Championship Series at Mansfield with his second top-five of the season. Wallace also led laps and jumped 15 spots in the standings. It's taken all year, but Wallace is now a threat for the title.

Iowa Preview
Wallace has yet to win a Pro Cup race in his career. There have been plenty of almost-wins in his career. Iowa Speedway may be the site of his most-devastating loss, however. In last year's race at Iowa, Wallace took the lead on Lap 220 and appeared to be en route to a breakout win. But with two to go, Wallace bounced off the Turn 4 wall after cutting down a tire. He came back to finish 11th, but Iowa owes Wallace one.

Best Finish at Iowa: 11th (9/15/06)

8. A.J. Frank (No. 56s Camping World/The Works Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 9th
Championship Series Points: 263
Points behind 1st: 92
Points ahead of 9th: 15
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +1
Season Avg. Finish: 10.0
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 7.8

Mansfield Review
Frank overcame a few run-ins at Mansfield to pick up a top-10 finish, but overall his night was a bit of a stalemate. He started 12th, finished ninth and moved up one position in points. Not bad, not great.

Iowa Preview
Frank had a decent showing at Iowa last year before losing a couple of laps late in the race with mechanical problems. Frank should be a contender for a top-five finish at Iowa, but he shouldn't be overlooked for the win, either. If so, Frank stands a chance to become the fifth, first-time winner of the season.

Best Finish at Iowa: 23rd (9/15/06)

9. Jody Lavender (No. 4n Greased Lightning Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 16th
Championship Series Points: 248
Points behind 1st: 107
Points ahead of 10th: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -2
Season Avg. Finish: 11.2
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 9.6

Mansfield Review
Lavender and Shane Wallace tangled during the Mansfield event. Lavender was able to keep his spinning machine off the wall and continue on, but a 16th-place finish wasn't what he wanted to start the Championship Series. It could have been worse, though. When Lavender tangled with Chase Pistone, Pistone's car ended up nosed into the Turn 4 wall, while Lavender spun safely to the inside of the track. He dodged two bullets and finished on the lead lap.

Iowa Preview
Lavender struggled at Iowa last year, but that shouldn't be any indication of how he will fare this time around. He's run better overall this season and should be a top-10 finisher this time.

Best Finish at Iowa: 25th (9/15/06)

10. Matt Carter (No. 26n Travis Carter Motorsports Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 11th
Championship Series Points: 247
Points behind 1st: 108
Points ahead of 11th: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +3
Season Avg. Finish: 12.9
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 13.4

Mansfield Review
Carter looked to have one of the faster cars at Mansfield, but he was stuck in the middle of an aggressive group of drivers running fifth to 12th most of the race. He'd gain three positions only to be shuffled back four spots via the chrome horn. Eventually, Carter came home in 11th with plenty of donuts on the side of his car.

Iowa Preview
Carter started 17th and finished 17th at Iowa last year. Carter should be better this time around, though. All season long, Carter has been a legitimate top-five candidate. He's another driver that could take his first Pro Cup win in the Hawkeye State.

Best Finish at Iowa: 17th (9/15/06)

11. Derek Kale (No. 22n Heritage Equipment/Gaerte Engines Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 8th
Championship Series Points: 246
Points behind 1st: 109
Points ahead of 12th: 9
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +8
Season Avg. Finish: 14.8
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 13.6

Mansfield Review
Kale had a much better run at Mansfield than he did earlier in the season. Kale's team did just about everything right, including getting all the lugs tight, and sent their driver to an eighth-place finish. It was the second top-10 finish in a row for Kale.

Iowa Preview
For some reason, Kale seems to get better in the Championship Series. Last year, he saved his best for last and won the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title. His best two finishes (fourth and eighth) of the season have come in the last two races. He may not grab his first win at Iowa, but a top-five isn't out of the question.

Best Finish at Iowa: 14th (9/15/06)

12. Mike Garvey (No. 17s JaniKing Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 19th
Championship Series Points: 237
Points behind 1st: 118
Points ahead of 13th: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -3
Season Avg. Finish: 15.7
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 14.2

Mansfield Review
Garvey has been in noticeable pain since having back problems prior to Bristol. And he looked like he was still suffering at Mansfield. The veteran started 16th and finished 19th.

He won't contend for the title with runs like that.

Iowa Preview
Garvey hasn't competed at Iowa before, but he's seen every kind of race track during his career. If he's feeling better, Garvey should contend for the win at Iowa.

Best Finish at Iowa: Never Competed

13. Trevor Bayne (No. 29s Chevy Racing/DEI Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 34th
Championship Series Points: 236
Points behind 1st: 119
Points ahead of 14th: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -10
Season Avg. Finish: 13.8
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 15.0

Mansfield Review
Bayne was fast at Mansfield, but he fell from the race on Lap 105 with mechanical problems. It didn't kill his championship hopes, but it did maim them. He dropped 10 spots in points with the DNF.

Iowa Preview
Bayne seems to rise to the occasion on tracks that should intimidate a 16-year-old driver. He's been quick at Bristol the last two years and led laps at Iowa last year. Without mechanical problems, Bayne has to be considered a threat to win this time around.

Best Finish at Iowa: 18th (9/15/06)

14. Chase Pistone (No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 25th
Championship Series Points: 235
Points behind 1st: 120
Points ahead of 15th: 10
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -7
Season Avg. Finish: 15.4
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 20.8

Mansfield Review
Pistone had a solid run going early in the Mansfield event, running in the top 10 for much of the night. But on Lap 229, Pistone tangled with Lavender. The contact sent Pistone into the wall and out of contention.

Iowa Preview
Pistone's 34th-place finish at Iowa last year was better than the result. Pistone drove from 13th to the front before retiring with mechanical problems on Lap 124. Pistone should be good, but he's going to have plenty of competition that's good, too.

Best Finish at Iowa: 34th (9/15/06)

15. James Buescher (No. 84s Mercedes Homes Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 10th
Championship Series Points: 225
Points behind 1st: 130
Points ahead of 16th: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +16
Season Avg. Finish: 15.4
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 18.2

Mansfield Review
Buescher has seen plenty of success this season, just not a lot in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. Finally, at Mansfield, Buescher pieced together one of his strongest runs of the season. The youngster started 17th, led 56 laps and finished 10th.

Iowa Preview
Buescher will be making his first start at Iowa in a Pro Cup car. If he can back up his Mansfield performance, Buescher will keep himself in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year chase.

Best Finish at Iowa: Never Competed

16. Lonnie Rush Jr. (No. 71n Ray Skillman Classic Cars Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 3rd
Championship Series Points: 224
Points behind 1st: 131
Points ahead of 17th: 2
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +34
Season Avg. Finish: 7.5
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 6.4

Mansfield Review
Rush had a stout run at Mansfield. The veteran driver barely missed the pole, led 19 laps and a season-best third. He came back from a rough-driving penalty early in the race and challenged St. Amant for second with a few laps to go. It was his best overall performance of the season.

Iowa Preview
Rush won't have to worry about any payback at Iowa, mainly because he's not going. His team is taking the rest of the year off.

Best Finish at Iowa: 6th (9/15/06)

17. Shelby Howard (No. 22s Black's Tire & Auto Service Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 28th
Championship Series Points: 222
Points behind 1st: 133
Points ahead of 19th: 2
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -6
Season Avg. Finish: 14.1
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 16.2

Mansfield Review
Howard started slow and faded fast at Mansfield. After qualifying 27th, Howard lost nearly 40 laps in the middle of the race with mechanical problems before returning late in the going. His 28th-place finish wasn't the run he needed to contend for the title.

Iowa Preview
Howard will always have the title of being the first pole winner at Iowa, but he would like to add his name to the list of winners.

Howard led 15 laps at Iowa last year and finished 12th. This team really needs a top-five finish this time around. They have the potential, but they've been a touch off. When the fields are separated by less than three-tenths of a second, being a touch off is huge.

Best Finish at Iowa: 12th (9/15/06)

17. Frank Deiny Jr. (No. 5 Bailey's/Concept Mining Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 18th
Championship Series Points: 222
Points behind 1st: 133
Points ahead of 19th: 2
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +6
Season Avg. Finish: 14.6
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 23.2

Mansfield Review
Deiny Jr. had one of the better cars at Mansfield, but a run-in with Lonnie Rush Jr. took him from the lead on Lap 20. He rallied back to reclaim the lead in the middle of the event, but a later run-in with Richard Boswell ended his chance at winning. Deiny finished 18th.

Iowa Preview
He may be a rookie by classification, but Frank Deiny Jr. is not the typical rookie. Deiny has plenty of starts at super-fast speedplants like Iowa Speedway. If his car stays under him, Deiny Jr. may be the spoiler in the Soy Biodiesel 225.

Best Finish at Iowa: Never Competed

19. Jeff Agnew (No. 73n Mark IV Suzuki/Team 7 Ford)
Finish at Mansfield: 22nd
Championship Series Points: 220
Points behind 1st: 135
Points ahead of 21st: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: -4
Season Avg. Finish: 15.6
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 11.2

Mansfield Review
After having back-to-back top-10 performances, Agnew slipped back into the doldrums with a 22nd-place effort at Mansfield. And he had to rally to get it. Agnew started 30th and had a mid-race spin before coming back to finish 22nd. It wasn't a good night for Team 7.

Iowa Preview
Agnew needs to win at Iowa to climb back into contention for his second title. Last year, Agnew started 25th before retiring on Lap 209. He can ill-afford that kind of showing this year.

Best Finish at Iowa: 31st (9/15/06)

19. Dange Hanniford (No. 65s Smith Transport/The Works Chevrolet)
Finish at Mansfield: 13th
Championship Series Points: 220
Points behind 1st: 135
Points ahead of 21st: 1
Point positions gained/lost at Mansfield: +5
Season Avg. Finish: 14.3
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 15.2

Mansfield Review
It wasn't of his doing, but Hanniford seemed to be near every accident at Mansfield. He finished the night with a decent showing, coming home 13th, but his nerves had to be shot.

Iowa Preview
Hanniford had a great run by finishing eighth at Iowa last year. He's with the same team and should be just as competitive. Look for him inside the top 10 at Iowa this year.

Best Finish at Iowa: 8th (9/15/06)

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Trevor Bayne , Shelby Howard , Jody Lavender , Mark McFarland , Mike Garvey , James Buescher , A.J. Frank , Richard Boswell , Jeff Agnew