USAR: Lakeland II: Southern Division round six preview

Halfway Home for Southern Division Sears Auto Center 250 marks season midpoint Longs, SC-Since coming into the Hooters Pro Cup Series together as rookies in 2000, Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers have been best friends, bitter rivals and two of...

Halfway Home for Southern Division
Sears Auto Center 250 marks season midpoint

Longs, SC-Since coming into the Hooters Pro Cup Series together as rookies in 2000, Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers have been best friends, bitter rivals and two of the top drivers. And after five years, not much has changed.

Heading into the Sears Auto Center 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires at USA Int'l Speedway in Lakland, Fla., the pair is poised atop the point standings, have two wins a piece and a rekindled rivalry.

In the last Southern Division race, Huffman, driver of the No. 88 Champion/US NAVY/Snap-On Chevrolet, shoved Rogers out of the lead in the final turn of the last lap to win Greased Lightning 250 at Concord Motorsports Park on April 29.

While Rogers did congratulate Huffman, who drives for Nextel Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr., in Victory Lane, don't expect him to forget how Huffman got there.

"He did what he had to do; he did what Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. pays him to do," Rogers said of the bump. "I'd do the same thing, if I had to."

But even with the win, Huffman still trail Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Automotive Development Group Ford in the standings (693-684) as the Southern Division rolls into Lakeland, Fla., for the sixth race of the regular season.

"Our team is a strong as we've ever been," said Rogers, the 2004 Hooters Pro Cup Series Champion. "Blake Bainbridge [crew chief] has been a huge addition to our team this season. Our team wants to be first in practice, turn the fastest lap in the race, lead the most laps and win the race."

Those, too, are Huffman's goals. And he's nearly accomplished them in every race.

"I really think we had a car that could have won every race this season," said Huffman. "Our cars have been good all season, and, if we keep bringing cars that fast to the track, we'll win our fair share this year."

Huffman suffered mechanical problems in two races, finished second in one and won the other two events of the Southern Division season.

In the first race at USA Int'l Speedway in February, Huffman dominated the season-opener, leading a race-high 155 laps before losing a line on the rear end of the No. 88 Chevrolet. But Rogers wasn't a slouch in the season-opener either.

After running amongst the leaders for much of the race, Rogers made a late-race attempt to get past race-winner Mardy Lindley. Although he came up shy of taking his second win at USA Int'l, Rogers did finish second.

Fans should expect the dominant duo to be favorites in the Sears Auto Center 250, but it's hard to overlook Bobby Gill's stats at the .75-mile speedplant.

Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, has picked up 11 wins at USA Int'l Speedway and is coming off back-to-back, third-place finishes in his last two races of the season.

The Sears Auto Center 250 is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start on Saturday, June 3. The front gates at USA Int'l Speedway will open to the general public at 12 p.m. Pro Cup practice will start at 12 p.m. and conclude at 2 p.m. Advance Auto Parts Pole Qualifying will start at 5 p.m.

Following qualifying, fans can take part in the on-track autograph session at 6:15 p.m. After the Sears Auto Center 250, USA Int'l Speedway will have a 100-lap Late Model Stock feature.

For more information, visit www.usaspeedway.com or call (800) 964-7223.

2006 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series quick Facts

WHAT: Sears Auto Center 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires
Race No. 11 of 30 (Southern Division Race 6 of 12)

WHERE:                       USA International Speedway - Lakeland, FL

.750-mile, high-banked asphalt oval

WHEN: Saturday, June 3, 2006 - 7:30 p.m. (ET)

DISTANCE: 250 Laps/188 Miles

POSTED AWARDS: $131,649 (Includes $36,400 Point Fund)

TELEVISION:               SPEED Channel, Wednesday, June 7, 2006 (5 p.m. ET)

SPEED Channel, Friday, June 9, 2006 (12 Noon ET)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE:

Saturday, June 3, 2006:
12 Noon Front Gates Open
12 Noon Pro Cup Practice Begins
2 p.m. Pro Cup Practice Ends
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Late Model Practice & Qualifying
5 p.m. Pro Cup Qualifying Time Trials
6:15 p.m. Autograph Session
7 p.m. Pre-Race Ceremonies
7:30 p.m. Sears Auto Center 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires
To Follow Late Model Race - 100 Laps

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Clay Rogers , Shane Huffman