USAR: Mansfield - Championship breakdown

Championship Breakdown: Mansfield Motorsports Park Myrtle Beach, S.C.-It's the time of year Hooters Pro Cup fans live for: The Hooters Pro Cup Championship Series. Since its inception in 2001, the format has been mimicked, but has never been...

Championship Breakdown: Mansfield Motorsports Park

Myrtle Beach, S.C.-It's the time of year Hooters Pro Cup fans live for: The Hooters Pro Cup Championship Series.

Since its inception in 2001, the format has been mimicked, but has never been duplicated. The five-race shootout will bring together the top 30 drivers in the Aaron's Southern Division against the top 30 drivers in the Sears Auto Center Northern Division to crown the overall Hooters Pro Cup National Champion and Miller Lite Rookie of the Year.

Nearly $100,000 in bonuses were determined in the regular season, but the real money is on the line now with over $1,000,000 in points fund and purses up for grabs over the final five races.

Below is a listing of the top-20 drivers in points going into the Championship Series, a Regular Season Recap and a Mansfield Preview.

No. 1 SEEDS

1. Gary St. Amant (Car No. 7n JEGS.com/Speedco Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 205
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 4.38
Races Led: 3
Laps Led: 68
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 4.8
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Salem Speedway)

Regular Season Review
Gary St. Amant finished the Championship Series last season on a roll and carried the momentum right through the entire 2007 regular season. The former ASA National Tour champ led the series with an average finish of 4.38 during the regular season and picked up his first win since 2004.

Mansfield Preview
It's been a storybook season for the short-track great so far, but the conclusion will be a tougher read than the regular season. St. Amant will need to get off to a good start at Mansfield to keep his points position intact heading into Iowa Speedway, and a top-five finish will do the trick.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 4th (6/10/06)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 6.4 (7 starts)

1. Michael Ritch (Car No. 28s Naturally Fresh/Jackaroo Ford)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 205
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 13.56
Races Led: 5
Laps Led: 304
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 16
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Myrtle Beach, Southern National)

Regular Season Recap
Michael Ritch isn't lying when he says he dominated most of the regular season. He won two out of eight regular season races, but he could have won four. Two rough-driving penalties cost him a shot at winning Concord and South Georgia. However, the veteran limped home over the final two races, posting finishes of 28th and 19th at Hickory and Bristol, respectively.

Mansfield Preview
Ritch picked up an emotional win a couple of years ago at Mansfield that sparked his return to the upper echelon of the Pro Cup Series. If he can pick up another win this time around, he may find himself alone atop the Pro Cup world. That may be a stretch, however. Ritch's win was his lone top-five finish at Mansfield in five starts.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 1st (10/8/05)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 21.8 (5 starts)

No. 2 SEEDS
2. Benny Gordon (Car No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 165
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 7.90
Races Led: 7
Laps Led: 562
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 3.6
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Bristol, Madison, Lake Erie)

Regular Season Recap
Benny Gordon led the series in laps led and wins, but he couldn't overcome two DNFs at the start of the season, falling 45 points shy of his fourth consecutive Northern Division title. Not winning the Northern title was a bit of a letdown for Gordon's team, but they have been the hottest team in either division since June.

Mansfield Preview
Gordon is good most anywhere, but he's particularly good at Mansfield. In seven races at MMP, Gordon has three wins, four top-5s, five top-10s, two poles and led 442 laps. He'll need to keep up the dominance there in order to close the 40-point head start that Ritch and St. Amant have in the race for the championship.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 1st (7/31/04, 10/9/04&6/10/06)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 7.0 (7 starts)

2. Trevor Bayne (Car No. 29 Chevy Racing/DEI Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 165
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 11.25
Races Led: 3
Laps Led: 217
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 12.4
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Hickory)

Regular Season Recap
Bayne's win at Hickory couldn't have come at a more opportune time. The 16-year-old driver jumped from 11th to second in points and solidified his No. 2 seed with a third-place effort at Bristol. If he can continue this momentum, Bayne could possibly become the youngest Pro Cup champ ever.

Mansfield Preview
Bayne doesn't have a lot of experience at Mansfield. But at 16-years-old, that is to be expected. He's only made one Pro Cup start at MMP and he finished 32nd after starting 30th last year. Bayne ran well at South Georgia, a similar track, earlier this year, so he should be better this time around.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 32nd (10/14/06) Average Finish at Mansfield: 32.0 (1 start)

No. 3 SEEDS

3. Brandon Ward (Car No. 93n SupplyOne Ford)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 160
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 12.56
Races Led: 4
Laps Led: 137
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 12
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Motor Mile)

Regular Season Recap
For a guy who was driving Modifieds two weeks before the season, Brandon Ward sure put on a show during the regular season. Ward led in his second race, posted back-to-back, second-place finishes in his next races and later grabbed his first win. He touched it off by winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title in the Northern Division. Ward's rookie season was one of the more impressive ones in recent history.

Mansfield Preview
Ward finished second in his only start at Mansfield earlier this year in a championship-caliber field. He's not easily intimidated, so expect to see him around the leaders-or leading-this time around.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 2nd (6/9/07) Average Finish at Mansfield: 2.0 (1 start)

3. Bobby Gill (Car No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 160
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 12.33
Races Led: 4
Laps Led: 307
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 14.4
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (South Boston)

Regular Season Recap
Bobby Gill could've won three of his first five races this season, but his only victory came in an out-of-division start at South Boston. Gill crashed while leading at South Georgia and Peachstate, dropping him from second to sixth in points. He rallied with two top-10s in the final three races to take third in the points.

Mansfield Preview
Bobby Gill has averaged a win every 3.6 races in his Hooters Pro Cup career. As of now, he's 0-for-3 at MMP. If the stats hold up, Gill should win this time around.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 2nd (10/9/04)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 9.3 (3 starts)

No. 4 SEEDS

4. Jody Lavender (Car: No. 4n Greased Lightning Ford)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 155
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 10.7
Races Led: 1
Laps Led: 21
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 8.4
Best Finish in 2007: 4th (Shenandoah)

Regular Season Recap
After two years in the Southern Division, Lavender moved to the Northern Division this season. He got off to a good start, posting top-10 finishes in the first three races and sitting second in points. He finished in the top 10 in all but one race in the Northern Division this season, but wins by Gordon and Ward dropped him to fourth in the final standings. Lavender had a solid season, not a spectacular one.

Mansfield Preview
Lavender's one finish outside the top 10 in the Northern Division came at Mansfield earlier this year. Lavender was running third late in the race before tangling with Mike Garvey. The contact cut down Lavender's tire and he was forced to make an unscheduled stop. Without any contact this time around, Lavender should be able to add to his top-10 total.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 2nd (10/8/05)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 15.5 (6 starts)

4. Chase Pistone (No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 155
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 14.33
Races Led: 1
Laps Led: 107
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 19.6
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Concord)

Regular Season Recap
After winning at Concord, Pistone was leading the Southern Division points. But his breakout season was broken up by four finishes of 19th or worse in the middle of the year. Pistone did salvage the regular season by coming home second at Bristol to move to fourth in the final standings.

Mansfield Preview
Pistone has only made one start at MMP, coming home 19th earlier this year. If he can avoid crashes and mechanical failures in the Championship Series, Pistone has to be considered a threat. But with five finishes outside the top 15 this year, that's a big if.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 19th (6/9/07) Average Finish at Mansfield: 19.0 (1 start)

No. 5 SEEDS

5. A.J. Frank (Car: No. 56n Camping World Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 150
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 10.3
Races Led: 2
Laps Led: 97
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 8.6
Best Finish in 2007: 2nd (Lake Erie)

Regular Season Recap
Many thought Frank would have picked up his first Pro Cup win this season, but it didn't happen. His second-place finish at Lake Erie was as close as he got to Victory Lane. Overall, Frank had a solid year, posting five top-10 finishes in eight starts. That consistency will go a long way in the Championship Series, but his first win will go further.

Mansfield Preview
Mansfield hasn't been to kind to Frank over the last few years. In five starts, he hasn't posted a top-five finish and has only finished inside the top 10 twice. Frank needs to improve those stats to remain a championship contender.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 7th (10/14/06)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 17.4 (5 starts)

5. Mike Garvey (Car: No. 17s JaniKing Ford)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 150
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 15.45
Races Led: 2
Laps Led: 104
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 17.0
Best Finish in 2007: 3rd (Mansfield)

Regular Season Recap
Garvey's anticipated return to Pro Cup action really didn't fester into the season many envisioned. In 11 starts, Garvey posted just five top-10 finishes. The good part for Garvey is that four of those were top-five finishes. Garvey had a fill-in driver on standby at Bristol due to a recent back injury, but he didn't need one. Hopefully, this is a sign Garvey will be ready for the Championship Series.

Mansfield Preview
Word on Garvey's team is that they did a lot of experimenting during the regular season. If that's the case, he could play the role of spoiler in the final five races. His best finish of the season (third) came at Mansfield earlier this year.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 3rd (6/9/07) Average Finish at Mansfield: 3.0 (1 start)

No. 6 SEEDS

6. Ben Stancill (Car: No. 9n Stancill Farms Ford)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 145
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 11.75
Races Led: 0
Laps Led: 0
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 8.4
Best Finish in 2007: 4th (Salem, Lake Erie)

Regular Season Recap
In any other year, Stancill's rookie season would have been considered great. The youngster picked up two top-five finishes, five top-10 finishes and finished sixth in the regular season points. Unfortunately, for Stancill, Brandon Ward was just tick better. The good news for Stancill is that he has five races to find that tick.

Mansfield Preview
Stancill's only start at Mansfield in Pro Cup competition came earlier this year. Stancill started fifth and finished eighth on the night he was supposed to be attending his high school graduation. If Stancill can match that performance, he'll get the ultimate racing rite of passage: a top-10 in a Championship Series field.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 8th (6/9/07)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 8.0 (1 start)

6. Shelby Howard (Car: No. 22s Black's Tire&Auto Service Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 145
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 12.70
Races Led: 1
Laps Led: 7
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 12.6
Best Finish in 2007: 4th (Bristol)

Regular Season Recap
Week in and week out, Shelby Howard was around the leaders during the regular season, but rarely was he one. After finishing second in overall points last season, Howard led just seven laps during the regular season. Howard finished the regular season with a fourth-place effort at Bristol to jump up from eighth to sixth in points. If the run was a precursor to the Championship Series, Howard should once again be a force in the final five.

Mansfield Preview
Howard gave Clay Rogers everything he could handle last year in the Championship Series race at Mansfield. Overall, Howard has faired pretty well at the half-mile track, picking up two top-10 finishes, a pole and leading 118 laps in five starts.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 2nd (10/14/06)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 14.6 (5 starts)

No. 7 SEEDS

7. Matt Carter (Car: No. 26 Travis Carter Motorsports Ford)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 141
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 13.11
Races Led: 1
Laps Led: 16
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 11.6
Best Finish in 2007: 2nd (Salem)

Regular Season Recap
Matt Carter joined A.J. Frank as one of the guys most likely to pick up their first Pro Cup wins this season. But like Frank, Carter came up one position shy of his first victory by finishing second at Salem. It was career-best finish for Carter, but he still wants that first win. Carter posted four top-five finishes in the regular season and five top-10 finishes en route to his seventh-place seeding.

Mansfield Preview
Carter's only drawback at Mansfield-and the Championship Series-is that he's only using one car this year. This could force him to drive a little cautious at times, while his competitors throw caution to the wind. On second thought, that may not be so bad for Carter. Five top-five finishes in a row could probably win the overall title.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 3rd (10/8/05) Average Finish at Mansfield: 15.25 (4 starts)

7. Mark McFarland (Car: No. 81 Knight's Companies Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 141
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 12.89
Races Led: 9
Laps Led: 330
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 17.2
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (Shenandoah, Mansfield)

Regular Season Recap
McFarland has got to be frustrated. He turned a dismal season into a promising one, only to see it slip away with back-to-back DNFs to end the year. Until then, McFarland was as hot as anyone in the series. He led a series-high nine races this season and picked up two wins. You can bet that the leaders will be watching McFarland's every move during the Championship Series.

Mansfield Preview
McFarland won the regular-season race earlier this year at Mansfield. The win was his only top-five finish in three starts at MMP, but he has led laps and won a pole in his previous starts. Without mechanical problems, McFarland should be a lock for a podium finish.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 1st (6/9/07) Average Finish at Mansfield: 14.3 (3 starts)

No. 8 SEEDS

8. Jeff Agnew (Car: No. 73 Mark IV Suzuki/Team 7 Ford)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 137
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 14.89
Races Led: 3
Laps Led: 127
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 11.2
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (South Boston)

Regular Season Recap
Jeff Agnew was heading towards his worst regular season since joining the Hooters Pro Cup Series in 1998. Then the unthinkable happened. He won the season finale at South Boston. It's hard to salvage a season by winning one race, but there are about 100 other Pro Cup drivers that would certainly trade places with Agnew.

Mansfield Preview
If Agnew's win jumpstarts his team, he should be good at Mansfield. In eight starts at MMP, Agnew has three top-five finishes, five top-10 finishes and has led 148 laps. Agnew has the team and talent to win several of the Championship Series races, but they also have a history of bad luck.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 3rd (10/9/04)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 10.63 (8 starts)

8. Richard Boswell (Car: No. 88 Champion Spark Plugs Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 137
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 14.50
Races Led: 2
Laps Led: 6
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 16.6
Best Finish in 2007: 3rd (Concord)

Regular Season Recap
Talk about a buzzer-beater. Boswell swooped in at the last possible moment and took the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title for the Southern Division with an eighth-place finish at Bristol. It was his fourth top-10 finish of the season, but just his second in seven races.

The season may have been a little bit of a letdown, considering a JR Motorsports car has won at least one race a year since joining Pro Cup in 2005. But at least the $10,000 rookie bonus paid the same as a victory.

Mansfield Preview
Boswell only has one start at MMP, and it was a so-so effort. The rookie came home 16th earlier this year. Though he picked up the Southern rookie title, Boswell has to make up some ground on Brandon Ward to challenge for the $25,000 bonus given to the overall rookie. He'll need at least a top-10 this time around.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 16th (6/9/07) Average Finish at Mansfield: 16.0 (1 start)

No. 9 SEEDS

9. Sam Fullone (Car: No. 48 Pero Vegetables Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 133
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 14.38
Races Led: 1
Laps Led: 111
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 14.6
Best Finish in 2007: 6th (Salem)

Regular Season Recap
Sam Fullone has run well in the past, but this year was the first time he ran well for extended amounts of time. Fullone has quietly gone from a top-15 driver to a top-10 driver. He completed 94 percent of the laps this season, grabbed three top-10 finishes and led 111 laps. Overall, Fullone had a pretty good regular season.

Mansfield Preview
Fullone will have to shake off his lackluster record at MMP if he wants to stay in the championship hunt. In seven races at MMP, Fullone's best finish is 10th. He'll need to match that or better, or he'll risk being blown past in the points.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 10th (7/31/04)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 21.57 (7 starts)

9. Matt Hawkins (Car: No. 2 H&H Electric Ford)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 133
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 15.63
Races Led: 2
Laps Led: 27
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 17.2
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (USA Int'l Speedway)

Regular Season Recap
Hawkins showed signs of brilliance during his rookie season. At other times, he showed his rookie stripes. Hawkins grabbed a win and three top-five finishes during the regular season, but the rest of his finishes were outside the top 15. In the end, Hawkins lost the rookie title by nine points to Richard Boswell.

Mansfield Preview
Hawkins has yet to turn a lap at MMP, but at least he's watched 250 laps there. Hawkins was intently monitoring his teammate, Mike Garvey, during the first event at Mansfield this season. Hawkins also has a full-day test planned before this weekend's race, so expect to him to show some brilliance.

Best Finish at Mansfield: Never Competed Average Finish at Mansfield: Never Competed

No. 10 SEEDS

10. Derek Kale (Car: No. 22n Heritage Equipment Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Sears Auto Center North
Championship Series Points: 129
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 15.63
Races Led: 1
Laps Led: 126
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 17.6
Best Finish in 2007: 4th (South Boston)

Regular Season Recap
Kale started the year by nearly winning at South Boston, and he nearly did the same to end it. But in the middle, the 2006 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year struggled a bit, posting just two finishes inside the top-15. He finished higher in points than he did last year, but it was not the regular season Kale was hoping for.

Mansfield Preview
Kale's last run at Mansfield ended with his car, minus a wheel, sitting idle on pit road. His best finish is 12th in three starts at MMP. If Kale can match that, perhaps he can recapture the momentum that pushed him to the rookie title last year.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 12th (10/14/06)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 21.0 (3 starts)

10. Woody Howard (Car: No. 55s Dean Motorsports Chevrolet)
Regular Season Division: Aaron's South
Championship Series Points: 129
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 16.73
Races Led: 3
Laps Led: 94
Last Five Races Avg. Finish: 22.6
Best Finish in 2007: 1st (South Georgia)

Regular Season Recap
After picking up a win and averaging a 6.3 finish in the first three races, Woody Howard was the Southern Division point leader. How quickly things change. Over the final five races, Howard's best finish was 12th at Myrtle Beach. During that time, he fell from first to 10th in the standings. The only saving grace for Howard was that he was fast everywhere and it was mostly bad luck and mechanical problems that caused the slump.

Mansfield Preview
Everybody knows that Woody Howard can be streaky. If he gets hot, there's no doubt he can win the title. But if the cold spell continues, he'll be lucky to finish in the top 30 in points. Mansfield is not his best track, but he does have two top-10 finishes in four starts. It may take more than a top-10 finish in order to get off his downward slide.

Best Finish at Mansfield: 3rd (6/10/06)
Avg. Finish at Mansfield: 16.0 (4 starts)

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Trevor Bayne , Shelby Howard , Jody Lavender , Mark McFarland , Mike Garvey , Ben Stancill , A.J. Frank , Richard Boswell , Jeff Agnew
Teams JR Motorsports