Gill wins the battle while Sarvis wins the war.
Lakeland, FL (November 30, 2002) -- Bobby Gill ended a frustrating run in the championship series on a positive note to win the Four Champions Memorial Hooters 300 Presented by Jennie-O Turkey Store USAR Hooters ProCup Series race Saturday night at USA International Speedway. Gill held off a hard-charging Joe Gaita to collect his 14th win of the season and sixth overall at USA International Speedway in ProCup action.
While Gill won the race, Myrtle Beach, SC native Jason Sarvis finished fourth to win the 2002 USAR Hooters ProCup Series National Championship and end Gill's three-year title run. Sarvis, who won two of the five championship series races this season, was obviously excited with the title.
"This is a result of a great group of guys working together to achieve a common goal," Sarvis said. "I can't thank everyone enough for helping us put this Naturally Fresh/ Black's Tire Service Chevrolet up front all year long. I knew with Steven (Christian) finishing behind us all we had to do was finish in the top-10 and we did. This is an awesome feeling."
Gill, who broke his previous mark for wins in a season with his 14Tth win, was happy with winning the race. Gill used his win to move up from fourth to second-place in the final standings.
"We had a spark plug wire come off and we had to make several pit stops to stay on the lead lap and fix the problem," Gill said. "The car came around there at the end and Joe and I raced hard for the win. He did a great job and it was fun racing hard with Joe."
Brian Ross, who entered the championship series tied with Gill as the top seed for leading the Northern Division regular season standings, rebounded from some disappointing finishes in the playoff as well to finish third and clinch the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year award. Jay Fogleman followed Sarvis to complete the top five.
Steve Christian entered the night in second place and finished a respectable sixth in the season-ending race. Gill passed Christian for the runner-up position in the point standings by winning the final race. Darlington, SC native Hal Goodson finished seventh and Billy Mowery followed in eighth. Phil Rondeau collected his first top-10 finish in the championship series finishing ninth and Shane Huffman completed the top-10.
After the dust settled Sarvis edged Gill by 49 points to win the title (853-804) and collected the $250,000 first place prize. Sarvis finished the year with over $366,000 in prize money to break the previous mark of over $358,000 set by Gill in 2000. Gill also will finish the season with over $200,000 in posted awards to mark the first time in the history of the series two drivers posted winnings over $200,000 in a single season.
Clay Rogers, who won the first Championship Series race at Winchester Speedway in September, entered the night in third place in the standings but lost his chance to challenge for the title when he hit the wall and lost a tire on lap 47 while running third. The mechanical problems dropped him to seventh in the final standings.
Gaita began the 2002 season without a ride in the Hooters ProCup Series and quickly made his presence known throughout the garage area, none more so than Saturday night.
"One of our goals this year was to win the pole position at some point during the season and we did that," said Gaita. "Obviously we wanted to win but Bobby is a great racer and he is hard to pass. This will give our team great momentum for next year when we can challenge for a championship and hopefully get some wins. I have a great team supporting me and we will work hard over the winter to get ready."
The race was slowed 13 times for caution with a pair of multi-car incidents collecting drivers. The most serious accident occurred on lap 240 when six cars made contact on the front stretch with Mardy Lindley hitting the inside retaining wall and forcing a 10 minute red flag to clear the track. No one was injured in the accident.
Gaita also collected Miller Lite Rookie of the Race and Southern Pride Lap Leader Awards in addition to the Buffalo Nickel Buffalo Burger Pole Award. Fogleman won the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award that gave him an additional $1,000 but more importantly, the five bonus points he received for leading at halfway enabled him to finish fourth ahead of Ross in the final point standings.
The top-40 finishers will all receive their postseason awards at the 2002 USAR Hooters ProCup Series Awards Banquet to be held on Saturday, January 11, 2003 at the Airport Marriott in Atlanta.