Clay Rogers Collects 2nd Straight Rockingham Victory, WIX Challenge Award; Resumes Point Lead
Rockingham, N.C. (October 10, 2009) -- Clay Rogers dominated Saturday's Aaron's 150 presented by Black's Tire and Auto Service at Rockingham Speedway to walk off with the largest payday this season in the USARacing Pro Cup Series and regain the lead in the Championship Series point standings with one race remaining.
Rogers received the $15,000 WIX Challenge Award for earning the pole for the event and then winning the race, his fifth victory this season. That coupled with the $8,000 that goes to the winner and contingency money, brought his winnings to $24,017.
"I've been fortunate over the years to win a lot of money in this series when they have little bonus programs like that," Rogers said after collecting the WIX Challenge Award that's worth $5,000 per race. "The bonus money is (now) back to $5,000, so we'll just try and go get that.
With Rogers' 22nd career victory, he became the only two-time winner in this season's four-race Championship Series. Rogers won the Sept. 5 Concord, N.C., race, which opened the title bout. For his Rockingham victory, Rogers turned to "Old Faithful", an engine that's carried him to four of his five victories this year.
"For sure that was a tough call," Rogers said about the C&C Boiler Sales & Service team's decision to change engines during Friday's final practice session. "We kinda felt like something was just a little bit off in the motor we started with. It turned out to be the right decision. I mean, it wasn't anything catastrophic. We didn't blow up. Just something was a little off somewhere and I'm just glad we put 'Old Faithful' in. I guess when you don't know what to do you go to your 'Big Batter.' That's our 'Big Batter' motor there, 'Old Faithful.'"
Rogers led twice for 108 laps in the 150-lap event that was slowed by seven caution flags for 51 laps on the 1-mile track.
With the victory, Rogers regained the point lead he lost to Drew Herring at Iowa Speedway last month. Entering Saturday's race Herring possessed a two-point advantage over Rogers. However, an accident in turn one on lap 13 that involved Dana White and Herring dropped the Benson, N.C., resident to third in the standings, 85 points behind Rogers.
"At the beginning of the race, I tried my best to get around Clay (Rogers) on the outside," Herring said. "When I couldn't do it, I got in line behind him and was running him down. The car was really fast on the bottom.
"A few laps into the run the motor missed and we came in to see if we could fix it and we couldn't. We went back out into turn one, a car spun in front of me. I tried everything I could to avoid it, but it came back down and clipped me."
The accident occurred on the restart following the first caution period that consumed laps 5-11.
Rogers jumped into the lead when the race started and maintained the top position until lap 60 when he pitted for service during the race's fourth caution flag. That turned the lead over to Bryce Walker, who held it for five laps before relinquishing it to 15-year-old Logan Ruffin, of Brentwood, Tenn. In only his second USAR Pro Cup start, Ruffin maintained the advantage for 11 laps and picked up five bonus points for leading at the halfway point.
Ruffin battled Mike Garvey briefly before relinquishing the lead to him on the frontstretch on lap 77. When the fifth caution flag waved, Garvey and Ruffin both pitted for fuel and Shane Hall inherited the lead. Hall held the No. 1 position through the remainder of the 14-lap caution. When the race restarted on lap 101, Hall kept the lead for only two laps before Rogers sailed past him on lap 103 and into the lead for good.
It appeared Bobby Gill might have a shot to challenge Rogers for the lead in the closing laps after the final caution flag waved for debris in the first and second turns with eight laps remaining. The race restarted with four laps to go, but Gill's USG Sheetrock/Building Specialties Ford Fusion was no match for Rogers Chevrolet, as he pulled away to a 1.108-second victory.
"They let me know Bob (Gill) was coming and they were keeping me posted on how far back he was, what his lap times were," Rogers said after collecting his second straight victory at the historic track. "He was actually running a little bit quicker than we were at one point, but we took a couple of laps there to pick up the pace and we were able to match or maybe beat him by a tenth, based on lap times.
"Our car was really good on cold tires and being out front in clean air and having a wide-open race track on restarts is the place you want to be anyway. Bobby, you never know with him; he's sly on those restarts. He's been famous for making things happen on restarts for years. I felt like if we could beat him in turn one, we'd be all right. Luckily, we were able to do that."
Gill admitted he was pleased with his first second-place finish this year.
"Last year, we went out here and blew a motor and this year we finished second," Gill noted. "I'd just like to thank all the guys. We've been struggling all year."
John Gibson also was happy with his third-place finish in his MitiGator Ford Fusion.
"This has been a long time coming, honestly," Gibson said about only his second top-5 this season. "We've run better than what our results have shown for the past two years, but no one hears those stories. They don't hear about the blown tires and they don't hear about the constant struggles you have when you're a low-budget team like ourselves. The way things have been going here, I wish we had seven more races."
The USAR Pro Cup Series 2009 season ends Oct. 31 at South Boston, Va. Rogers takes a 43-point lead over J.P. Morgan into the season finale. Morgan took over second with his fourth-place finish at Rockingham.