Morgan Earns Third Consecutive Top-Five in USARacing Chase for the Championship; Moves into Second in Points with One Race to Go Rockingham, N.C. -- At the beginning of the 2009 USARacing Pro Cup Series season, who would have thought that J.P.
Morgan Earns Third Consecutive Top-Five in USARacing Chase for the Championship; Moves into Second in Points with One Race to Go
Rockingham, N.C. -- At the beginning of the 2009 USARacing Pro Cup Series season, who would have thought that J.P. Morgan, in only his second full year, would be knocking on the door to his first ever Series Championship. Well, after a win three weeks ago at Iowa Speedway, and his third consecutive top-five finish in the Championship chase in Saturday's Aaron's 150 presented by Black's Tire and Auto Service at Rockingham Speedway, that door is ready to be knocked down.
Morgan's finish did not come without hard work by both the driver and the crew early in the day. After a 13th-place qualifying effort, the team had to come down pit road to make a few changes before the green flag, forcing them to start at the rear of the field.
"It was a trying day for us; the car wasn't exactly right to begin with," commented Morgan. "We had to come in during the parade laps to make a couple of changes to the front end, which helped a lot. We were able to come up through the field, but had a couple of communication issues during a pit stop. We came back from that and as things cycled through, we ended the day pretty decent."
Morgan had a close call about halfway through the event when the machine of A.J. Frank went up in smoke right in front of him.
"I wasn't the first car behind him, but I was probably the one that got the worst of it," said Morgan. "At least they knew where he was before he blew up. Everyone else scattered and I ended up right behind him, in the smoke. He did a great job of keeping it in the middle and keeping it away from everybody. My hats off to him for that; that could have been a real mess. I just followed the smoke 'til I could see a little glimpse of the wall, then I just went on through."
Morgan wheeled his Phil Morgan Pottery Chevrolet into the pits for a fresh set of tires and removal of a windshield tear-off, which put him back to the rear for the second time. On the restart, Morgan looked as though he had been shot out of a cannon, as he picked up nearly a position a lap, gaining eight spots in eight laps, putting him in the fourth spot.
"We came in to get tires, and the car really came to life. That last section I was really driving hard. It was really a lot of fun coming up through the field like that."
A late-race caution would put Morgan in a tough spot after running that hard and thinking the race would finish under the green. Morgan battled with the cars of Lucas Ransone and Jeff Agnew, pulling off the fourth-place finish in a three-wide battle to the checkered flag.
"I didn't expect that last caution," Morgan explained. "I had pretty much used up my tires thinking I had to make it to the front under the green. To make matters worse, the cam-locks that hold the back of the hood came loose, taking away most of the down force on the front and killing horsepower. Even with those problems, we ended up having a good three-wide battle with Lucas and Jeff right at the end. The last couple of laps were a lot of fun."
Morgan's fourth-place finish has now moved him up to second in points, trailing the leader by just 43 points with one race to go.
"We are just going to have to stay on top of our game [at South Boston Speedway], go there with the mindset of winning, and collect every bonus point possible. Whatever else comes with it, we'll take it. If it's the championship, then great. If it's not, then we'll take our second [place points finish] or wherever we come out and celebrate the end of a great season."
Morgan and the rest of the Pro Cup Series competitors will head to South Boston [Va.] Speedway, where the season concludes on Oct. 31 and the series champion will be crowned after the Strutmasters 250.