A Special Evening Longs, SC-On Saturday night, the final touches were put on the 2004 Hooters Pro Cup season during the season-ending awards banquet held at Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C. While everyone knew going in that Clay...
A Special Evening
Longs, SC-On Saturday night, the final touches were put on the 2004 Hooters Pro Cup season during the season-ending awards banquet held at Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
While everyone knew going in that Clay Rogers was the 2004 HPC Series Champion and Matt Carter was the 2004 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year, there proved to be several surprising-and special-moments during the evening. And none were more special than the Four Champions Award.
The Four Champions Award is in memory Alan Kulwicki, Dan Duncan, Mark Brooks and Charlie Campbell. The award is given to the driver that best exemplifies the winning spirit of the fallen heroes.
Joe Harrison Jr., a long-time veteran of the HPC Series, received the award this season. Although Harrison, who is recovering from surgery, was unable to attend, Dorothy Hall accepted on his behalf.
"Joe really wanted to be here tonight," said Hall. "...You just don't know how much Joe loves racing and this series."
Harrison offered his thoughts on the award from his home.
"I appreciate the fact that people in the series feel that way about me," said Harrison Jr. "I enjoy racing, and I'm not like 20-year-olds trying to make it to the next level. I'm doing it because I love to do it. I'm just overwhelmed that other people see that."
Another special award that was handed out during the 2-hour ceremony was the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Ricky Benton, owner of Ricky Benton Racing, was the recipient of the award for his unwavering support of the Boys and Girls Club of N.C. and S.C. Benton's golf tournament raised $26,200 this year.
"There should be another person up here," said Benton while receiving his award. "Everett Durham [co-owner of the now-defunct XTRA Motorsports] was a big part of this. He was a great help in the tournament. He taught me a lot over the years about giving back."
While Benton was honored for giving back, others were honored for taking, specifically Clay Rogers. Rogers took home $200,000 for his championship campaign, pushing his season winnings to nearly $400,000.
"There just so many people that made it possible to be here," said Rogers, who became the youngest Pro Cup champion at 24-years-old. "First, I have to thank my car owners, Johnny Dangerfield and Troy Baird. They put a lot of trust in me and the team. They're great car owners. Billy Hess, Ultra Comp Trailers, Ohlins Shocks, Schaffer Manufacturing and my dad have done so much to help my effort this year. The lists go on and on of the people have helped me through the year and are responsible for me being here. As champion, I will make certain that I represent the series well. And hopefully, I will make [Alan Kulwicki, Mark Brooks, Dan Duncan and Charlie Campbell] proud."
Rogers' crew chief, Brad Fritz, was honored as crew chief of the year for his efforts in the championship.
While the evening was full of heartfelt moments, Benny Gordon, who finished second in points, offered some comic relief during his speech.
"I just want to congratulate Clay Rogers and all of East Coast Motorsports for a job well done," said Gordon, who picked up a $25,000 bonus for being the Northern Division champion. "I know they will be good representatives of the series. Wait a minute, I have to start over. That was the biggest lie I've ever told. I really wanted to be the champion!"
Matt Carter also left the banquet a $25,000 check. Carter edged Brad Rogers, who won $10,000 for being the Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and Gary St. Amant, who won $10,000 for being the Northern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year, for the overall Miller Lite Rookie of the Year.
"I was really disappointed not to win the Southern Division rookie of the year," said Carter. "But our team came back at the most important time, and we were able to get the overall title. I had a great time racing against Brad and Gary, as well as the rest of the rookies, this season. I need to thank Ricky Benton for letting me drive his cars, Mike Hester for being a great crew chief, and the whole team for a great season."
Daniel Schmitz and Fritz Augustine received awards for their 10 years of service under the USAR banner.