USAR: Mansfield CS: Round one preview

Sears Auto Center 250 Kicks Off Epic Battle Championship Series Round No. 1 set for Mansfield Motorsports Park Myrtle Beach, S.C.--Take 59 drivers, throw in five tracks, a million bucks, mix and stir. What do you have? It's the recipe for the ...

Sears Auto Center 250 Kicks Off Epic Battle
Championship Series Round No. 1 set for Mansfield Motorsports Park

Myrtle Beach, S.C.--Take 59 drivers, throw in five tracks, a million bucks, mix and stir. What do you have? It's the recipe for the hottest short-track racing in the country. And it all starts on Saturday, Sept. 1 with the running of the Sears Auto Center 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park.

"If you are a short-track fan, this is what it's all about," said Tony Cox, USAR Series Director. "We have experienced the highest level of competition in the history of the series this year, and that was just the regular season. You will not find a tighter field in motorsports than the ones that will be on the track during the Championship Series."

The points will also tightened up for the Championship Series, with only 135 points separating the 59 drivers eligible for the final five-race shootout to determine the overall Hooters Pro Cup Series Champion and Miller Lite Rookie of the Year.

Even though the points were reset, the divisional champions usually have the upper hand in championship battle. Of all the Hooters Pro Cup champions since the inception of the Championship Series format in 2001, only Jason Sarvis in 2002 was not a No. 1 seed coming into the Championship Series. Sarvis came in as a No. 2 seed.

But divisional champions Michael Ritch, winner of the Aaron's Southern Division title, and Gary St. Amant, winner of the Sears Auto Center Northern Division title, don't need history to tell them anything. Both believe they are with "championship-caliber teams" coming into Mansfield.

"We didn't luck into anything," said Ritch. "We had the dominant car for most of the regular season."

St. Amant feels the same.

"We deserved to win the Northern Division title," said St. Amant. "The shorter season may have helped us some, but we beat Benny Gordon, one of the best short-track racers around. That in itself is an accomplishment."

The accomplishment now will be trying to slow down Gordon over the final five races.

After posting finishes of 21st and 30th in the first two races of the season, Gordon averaged a 3.5 finish, including a series-high three wins, the rest of the season.

"Yeah, we're disappointed not to win the Northern title, but I'd be more disappointed if our team wasn't ready for the Championship Series," said Gordon, who won the overall title in 2005. "We're winning races and running up front. In the past, we've had great regular seasons and struggled some in the Championship Series. Hopefully, we've had our bad luck early."

St. Amant and Ritch have to be considered favorites, as well as Gordon, but the list of potential championship candidates is too long to mention.

Through 16 races this season, 12 different drivers visited Victory Lane. Of those drivers, four were first-time winners. Forty different drivers have led laps during the season, 31 drivers have posted at least one top-10 finish and 49 drivers have notched at least one top-10 finish.

The only certain so far in the Championship Series is that a horde of drivers will show up for the Sears Auto Center 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park, trying to make the 36-car field. The rest play out over the next few months, much to delight of the race fans' palates.

The Sears Auto Center 250 is scheduled for a green flag at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1. Front gates will open for the public at 3:30 p.m. Awesome Awnings Pole Qualifying will start at 4:30 p.m. and be followed by the Wraps INK Autograph Session at 5:45 p.m. Pre-race ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m.

***

2007 USAR HOOTERS PRO CUP SERIES QUICK FACTS FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

WHAT: Sears Auto Center 250

WHERE:                  Mansfield Motorsports Park (MMP), Mansfield OH

.5-mile, semi-banked asphalt oval

WHEN: Saturday, September 1, 2007

DISTANCE: 250 Laps/ 100 Miles

POSTED AWARDS: $122,670 (Includes $37,000 Point Fund)

STARTING FIELD: 36 car starting field- Fastest 32 cars through time trials -- two provisional position from 2007 Northern Division top- 30 Driver Points Standings and two provisional position from 2007 Northern Division top-30 Owner points Standing. Provisional for past Champion and past Rookie of the Year (only if necessary)

TELEVISION:             SPEED Channel   Wednesday June 20, 2007 (4 p.m. ET)

Friday June 22, 2007 (12 Noon ET)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE:

Saturday June 9, 2007:
11:30 a.m. USAR HPCS Practice Begins
1:30 p.m. USAR HPCS Practice Ends
3:30 p.m. Front Gates Opens
4:30 p.m. Sears Auto Center 250 Qualifying for the USAR HPCS
5:45 p.m. Wraps Ink on track Autograph Session for the USAR HPCS
6:30 p.m. Pre-Race Ceremonies for the Sears Auto Center 250
7:00 p.m. Charlie Campbell Memorial Sears Auto Center 250

-credit: usar

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