Former Pro Cuppers Race for Busch ROTY O'Quinn, Kauffman and McFarland lend Pro Cup flair to Busch Series rookie race Longs, SC-In the last five years, the Hooters Pro Cup Series has seen some stellar rookie classes. While the most notable may...
Former Pro Cuppers Race for Busch ROTY
O'Quinn, Kauffman and McFarland lend Pro Cup flair to Busch Series rookie race
Longs, SC-In the last five years, the Hooters Pro Cup Series has seen some stellar rookie classes. While the most notable may have been the Class of 2000 that included Brian Vickers, Jon Wood, Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers, the Class of 2005, featuring Woody Howard, Joey Logano, Michael Faulk and A.J. Frank may better them in notoriety one day.
But the oft overlooked-and sometimes underrated-Class of 2003 may soon surpass both, starting with the NASCAR Busch Series Hershey's Kissables 300 at Daytona.
Danny O'Quinn Jr., the 2003 Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and Joel Kauffman, the 2003 Hooters Pro Cup Northern Division Rookie of the Year, will both be competing for Raybestos Rookie of the Year Honors in the Busch Series this season.
"It's definitely a great opportunity for both of us," said O'Quinn Jr. "We're both going to be in top-notch equipment. I've raced with Joel a lot in the past, and it will be nice to be able to talk to him about things during the year."
Although they raced in different divisions while in Pro Cup, O'Quinn Jr. and Kauffman crossed paths many times during the Championship Series and out-of-division starts.
"Danny's first [Pro Cup] win came in a Northern Division race that I was in at Lonesome Pine," said Kauffman. "A few weeks later, I got my first [Pro Cup] win at Salem. It's crazy how our careers have kind of progressed at the same pace."
In 2003, both drivers came into the Hooters Pro Cup Series as 17-year-old hot shoes. Kauffman had just won the Sunoco Super Series title, while O'Quinn had taken the UARA-Stars title. And neither driver missed a beat in their Pro Cup rookie seasons.
Kauffman notched five top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes during his rookie season en route to the Northern Division rookie of the year. O'Quinn finished the Southern Division season with three top-five finishes, nine top-10 finishes and the divisional rookie of the year.
Benny Gordon slipped past both drivers to claim the overall Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title in 2003. But three years later, the 20-year-old duo will get another shot at a rookie title. And both should be legitimate contenders.
O'Quinn, a two-time Gong Show finalist, has been selected by Jack Roush to run the No. 50 World Financial Group Ford Fusion this season.
"I'll be in the best equipment out there," said O'Quinn. "There's not going to be a question about the equipment; I've just got to go out and get the job done."
After a midseason call up in 2005 to FitzBradshaw Racing, Kauffman will start the season out driving the revamped No. 12 SuperCuts Dodge and gunning for the ROTY award.
"This team is stronger than it was last year," said Kauffman, who made seven starts last season for FitzBradshaw. "We've got new cars and a new crew chief in Butch Hylton, and we're getting our engines from Evernham. I'm excited about this year. Danny and I are both in great situations, and I'm looking forward to seeing him each week."
But Kauffman and O'Quinn will also see another familiar face on a weekly basis this season season.
Though not a member of the Class of 2003, Mark McFarland, who finished second in Southern Division points in 2005, will also be a part of Raybestos Rookie of the Year hopefuls in the Busch Series.
"Unfortunately I've only had a couple of opportunities to race against Joel and Danny," said McFarland, who will drive the No. 88 NAVY Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s newly-formed Busch team. "I do know they're both hard, clean racers and I really respect that. The fact that the NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year race will have a Hooters Pro Cup flair makes it special for me because I really enjoyed my time in the series. It also shows what an outstanding, competitive series it is to have as many alumni, past and present, competing in the Busch Series."
And the alumni group will swell later in the season as two members of the Class of 2000 join them.
Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers are scheduled to make selected Busch starts this year and possibly keep the bragging rights with the Class of 2000.