USAR: Championship breakdown 2004-11-04

The Championship Breakdown Longs, SC-With just two races left to determine the 2004 Hooters ProCup champion, the tension is mounting amongst the contenders. Though Benny Gordon is in the driver's seat to take the overall title with his ...

The Championship Breakdown

Longs, SC-With just two races left to determine the 2004 Hooters ProCup champion, the tension is mounting amongst the contenders. Though Benny Gordon is in the driver's seat to take the overall title with his 74-point lead over the field, second through sixth in points is separated by just 22 points and there are only 56 points separating 10th position from 20th position, placing a premium on Sunday's running of the Dan Duncan Memorial Kroger 250 at Motor Mile Speedway.

Below is a listing of the top-20 drivers in Championship Series points, a Myrtle Beach Review and a Motor Mile Preview.

1. Benny Gordon (No. 66n Predator Performance Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 1st
Championship Series Points: 615
Points ahead of 2nd: 74
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +2
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 5.5
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 7.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Gordon did what he had to do at Myrtle Beach. He led the most laps, led at halfway and led at the finish. Now, he leads the points. Gordon is now 74 points ahead of the pack, and that's a hefty margin with just two races remaining.

Motor Mile Preview
Motor Mile is where Gordon started his march towards the Northern Division title. Gordon has won five times in the last seven races. If he win's this weekend, Gordon would add at least $37,000 to his season winnings and move closer to claiming the $200,000 prize for being ProCup champion.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 1st (7/17/04)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 1.0 (1 race)

2. Shane Huffman (No. 84s Elm Hill Meats Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 17th
Championship Series Points: 541
Points behind 1st: 74
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.3
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 8.0

Myrtle Beach Review
Huffman had a car that was good enough to finish in the top five at Myrtle Beach, but it wasn't to be. Huffman elected to stay out and pit after the leaders pitted at Lap 83. By the time he came to pit road, Huffman was two laps down. Adding insult to injury, Huffman was collected in a late-race incident and finished 17th.

Motor Mile Preview
Huffman has led laps in two of his three starts at Motor Mile, but his finishes haven't been the best, notching three finishes worse than 29th. Though his finishing position indicates otherwise, Huffman says Motor Mile is one of his favorite tracks. In a recent Late Model race MMS, Huffman won the pole and led the most laps. But like his ProCup performances at MMS, Huffman had late-race troubles and finished 13th.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 29th (7/20/02)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 31.3 (3 starts)

3. Clay Rogers (No. 44s Ultra Comp Trailers Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 5th
Championship Series Points: 541
Points behind 1st: 74
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +3
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 7.6
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 12.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Rogers went from the front to the back and eventually back to fifth at MBS. He thought he'd be happy with a top-five finishing going into MBS. But after Gordon extended his point lead, Rogers thought otherwise. On the bright side, Rogers only lost 45 points to Gordon at MBS, while Huffman lost 79 points and Gill lost 89 points.

Motor Mile Preview
Like virtually everyone else, Rogers needs to have a good run and for Gordon to have bad day at MMS to have a shot at winning the ProCup title. He doesn't have a lot of seat time at the track, but what he does have isn't bad. He finished fourth in his first-and only-start at high-banked track.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 4th (7/22/00)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 4.0 (1 start)

4. Bobby Gill (No. 06s USG Sheetrock Brand Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 24th
Championship Series Points: 531
Points behind 1st: 84
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -3
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 10.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Gill appeared to have one of the few cars that could lead at will at MBS. Unfortunately, for Gill, his car was unwilling at the end. Gill abruptly pulled behind the wall with a broken axle on Lap 206. He later returned to the track 11 laps down.

Motor Mile Preview
Gill needs a win to get back in the championship hunt, and MMS may be an easy target. Gill has won three out of four races he's entered at MMS.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 1st (7/22/00, 7/21/01 & 7/20/02)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 2.0 (4 starts)

5. Jeff Agnew (No. 73n NGA Hooters Golf Tour Chevrolet)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 21st
Championship Series Points: 519
Points behind 1st: 96
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 8.6

Myrtle Beach Review
Agnew looked like he may have to change his opinion of MBS in the early going. After starting third, Agnew stayed in the top five for the first half of the race. However, on Lap 162, Agnew's reasons for loathing the track were reconfirmed when he cut down a tire and lost two laps.

Motor Mile Preview
Talk about a story-book ending. If Agnew could win in front of hometown fans this weekend, there may not be a dry eye in the house. In the past, there hasn't been a dry eye after most of his Motor Mile races, but mostly out of heartache. Agnew has lost countless races at his old stomping ground in every way imaginable.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 2nd (7/18/98)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 10.1 (7 starts)

6. Gary St. Amant (No. 11n JEGS.com Chevrolet)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 33rd
Championship Series Points: 472
Points behind 1st: 143
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: 0
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.4
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 14.0

Myrtle Beach Review
St. Amant's mid-race charge was something to witness at MBS. Like Huffman, St. Amant gambled on pit strategy and lost a lap. But St. Amant raced his way back on the lead and nearly chased down the leaders before his car gave up on Lap 190.

Motor Mile Preview
St. Amant's bad luck at Myrtle Beach may have cost him a shot at the overall title. But if happens again, St. Amant could be in trouble for the overall Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title. St. Amant is only 21 points ahead of Matt Carter in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race heading into MMS. St. Amant's only run at MMS resulted in a 22nd-place finish.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 22nd (7/17/04)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 22.0 (1 start)

7. Billy Bigley Jr. (No. 25s Peerless Woodworking Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 10th
Championship Series Points: 462
Points behind 1st: 153
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: 0
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 10.0

Myrtle Beach Review
Bigley Jr. notched his third 10th-place finish in a row in the Championship Series at MBS. Any other night, Bigley Jr. may have been pleased, but he had a car that was much better than his finishing position. After starting 24th, Bigley Jr. raced into second-place in the first 150 laps, but a unscheduled pit stop late in the race dropped him to 10th.

Motor Mile Preview
Motor Mile is another track Bigley Jr. will see for the first time when he unloads on Saturday. That hasn't slowed him down all year long, and it won't be a factor in how he runs this weekend.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)

8. Mardy Lindley (No. 16n Hooters Air Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 9th
Championship Series Points: 455
Points behind 1st: 160
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.9
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 16.6

Myrtle Beach Review
At Mansfield, Lindley spun twice and finished seventh. At MBS, Lindley didn't spin and finished ninth. Evidently, a spin is worth one position.

Motor Mile Preview
Lindley has shown flashes of brilliance during the season, but he's been a mere mortal during the Championship Series, averaging six positions less than he did during the regular season. He needs to find some semblance of his former self before it's too late.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 5th (7/17/04)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 11.25 (4 starts)

9. Matt Carter (No. 22s HeavyTruckDealers.com Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 4th
Championship Series Points: 451
Points behind 1st: 164
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +5
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 12.7
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 12.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Other than not winning in front of a throng of Ricky Benton Racing fans, it was a great night for Carter. The RBR driver had the fastest car in the first half of the race and led 82 laps, second only to Gordon's 90 laps led. Carter eventually dropped to fourth at the finish, but he made up plenty of gains on St. Amant in the ROTY battle.

Motor Mile Preview
The Kroger 250 will be the first time Carter has raced a ProCup car at MMS, but he's made several starts in his Late Model car at MMS. RBR tested at Motor Mile this past week, and they'll be ready come Sunday.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)

10. Jay Fogleman (No. 4s Lucas Oil Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 11th
Championship Series Points: 443
Points behind 1st: 172
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: 0
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.4
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 16.0

Myrtle Beach Review
Fogleman was unable back up his strong run from Mansfield at MBS. Fogleman started eighth and finished 11th. It wasn't a bad run, but it wasn't what Fogleman needed to close the gap on the top five in points.

Motor Mile Preview
One thing is for sure, Fogleman will draw some noise when he's introduced on Sunday. His bump-and-run on Agnew a few years ago nearly started a riot, and Agnew fans haven't forgotten. Fogleman joins Gill as the only drivers to have multiple wins at MMS competing in Sunday's race.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 1st (7/19/03 & 7/18/98)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 4.4 (7 races)

11. Danny O'Quinn Jr. (No. 02s Homesteader Trailers Chevrolet)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 13th
Championship Series Points: 435
Points behind 1st: 180
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: 0
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.2
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 13.0

Myrtle Beach Review
O'Quinn Jr. hasn't been as much of a frontrunner during the Championship Series as most would have thought. He showed late in the regular season that he could be a dominant driver on any given night, but that night hasn't come around during the Championship Series. O'Quinn Jr. started 10th and finished 13th at MBS.

Motor Mile Preview
O'Quinn Jr. turned the heads of the Roush organization during the "Race for the Ride" tryouts last week. Buoyed by his invitation to the second round, O'Quinn's confidence should be high this weekend. He's never raced at MMS, but he'd never been to North Wilkesboro before last week, and that worked out pretty well.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: (First Race at Track)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: (First Race at Track)

12. Joe Giata (No. 42s U.S. Insurance Group Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 3rd
Championship Series Points: 431
Points behind 1st: 184
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +9
Season Avg. Finish: 9.5
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 20.6

Myrtle Beach Review
Gaita didn't win, or even finish second, at MBS, but you couldn't tell after the race. His third-place run had the Odle Motorsports Team smiling wide. Gaita led 23 laps and moved up nine positions in points with his podium finish.

Motor Mile Preview
Gaita is going to Motor Mile for the first time, but Darin Odle has been there multiple times with Brian Ross. Although Ross' best finish is 12th, he did lead 22 laps driving for Odle Motorsports in the 2002 race at MMS. Coupled with the momentum gained from MBS, Gaita should be strong again this week.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)

13. Mike Laughlin Jr. (No. 7s Tucson Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 16th
Championship Series Points: 424
Points behind 1st: 191
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 17.0
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 12.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Laughlin Jr. hovered around the top 10 for the first half of the race at MBS and mingled with the leaders late in the going. Laughlin Jr. led from Lap 201 to 209, but mechanical problems dropped him to 16th at the finish.

Motor Mile Preview
Laughlin Jr. is one of only three drivers in the top-20 in points to improve their average finish in the Championship Series over the regular season. Matt Carter and Agnew are the other drivers, but their gains pale in comparison to Laughlin's. He's finishing nearly five positions better in the Championship Series than he did in the regular season. It's almost a mirror image of what he did last season. If that holds true this weekend, Laughlin Jr. will finish second by a fender.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 7th (7/24/99)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 20.7 (3 starts)

14. Brad Rogers (No. 29s T.L. Hyman Properties Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 7th
Championship Series Points: 422
Points behind 1st: 193
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +4
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 10.3
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 18.7

Myrtle Beach Review
Rogers won his first ProCup pole at MBS. He was quickest during practice and quickest in qualifying, but he couldn't hold the speed during the race and finished seventh. It wasn't a bad night, but a podium finish would have bolstered his ROTY hopes.

Motor Mile Preview
Sunday's race will be the first time he's competed at the .416-mile track. MMS looks like a baby Bristol, and Rogers ran well there. So look for him to be around the front again this weekend.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: (First Start at Track)

15. Johnny Rumley (No. 8n Lucas Oil Chevrolet)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 32nd
Championship Series Points: 421
Points behind 1st: 194
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -7
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 6.7
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 23.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Rumley's title hopes-and his car-were battered on Lap 197. After running in the top 10 for much of the night, Rumley tagged the Turn 3 wall and finished 32nd.

Motor Mile Preview
Back-to-back 32nd-place finishes isn't what Rumley needed. But if there's any place that can cure his recent slide in points, it's MMS. He's a multi-time track champion in the LMS division, and he's not too bad there in a ProCup car either. He nearly won there last season and sat on the pole in this year's race.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 4th (7/17/04)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 9.75 (4 starts)

16. Mart Nesbitt (No. 92s Blue Cross Blue Shield Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 8th
Championship Series Points: 420
Points behind 1st: 195
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 11.3
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 17.0

Myrtle Beach Review
Nesbitt knocked down his second top-10 finish in a row at MBS, but he only gained one spot in points. If you take away Nesbitt's bad finish at Jennerstown, the N.C. driver would be in the top five in points. But only the divisional winners have the luxury of a mulligan in the Championship Series.

Motor Mile Preview
MMS may be the place Nesbitt can pick up his second career win. He's finished in the top 10 in all three starts at the track.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 2nd (7/21/01)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 7.0 (3 starts)

17. David Pletcher (No. 51s RaceFansDating.com Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 14th
Championship Series Points: 405
Points behind 1st: 210
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 14.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 16.3

Myrtle Beach Review
Pletcher went through two motors and still had a decent finish at MBS. This has become a common theme for Pletcher in the Championship Series, and an expensive one as well.

Motor Mile Preview
Pletcher only has one start at MMS, but his concerns won't be on seat time this weekend. More likely, Pletcher will be focusing on finishing the race on the same engine he practices with.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 35th (7/22/00)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 35.0 (1 start)

18. Danny Sammons (No. 97n Gale Trailers Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 20th
Championship Series Points: 403
Points behind 1st: 212
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: -5
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 11.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 18.0

Myrtle Beach Review
It only took four laps for bad luck to bite Sammons at MBS. After qualifying seventh, Sammons dropped off the pace on Lap 4. He rejoined the field laps later, but his hopes of a solid run were gone. Sammons finished 20th.

Motor Mile Preview
Bill Boger hired a priest to perform an exorcism on Sammons' car last week to rid it of the demons that have taken possession of the No. 97. If it worked, Sammons should be amongst the leaders this weekend.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 3rd (7/19/03)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 11.25 (4 starts)

19. Michael Ritch (No. 28s Jackaroo Pontiac)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 2nd
Championship Series Points: 400
Points behind 1st: 215
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +9
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 13.7
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 21.7

Myrtle Beach Review
Ritch needed a good run at MBS, and he got it with his second-place finish. He didn't have anything for Gordon at the end, but he jumped nine positions in points with his runner-up showing.

Motor Mile Preview
Like Agnew, Fogleman and Rumley, Ritch is a former regular at MMS in the Late Model Stock division. Ritch finished third earlier this season at MMS.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 3rd (7/17/04)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 15.75 (3 starts)

20. Eric Corbett (No. 75n Larry & Sons Ford)
Finish at Myrtle Beach: 12th
Championship Series Points: 387
Points behind 1st: 228
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Myrtle Beach: +2
Season Avg. Finish: 10.9
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 13.6

Myrtle Beach Review
Corbett continued to climb in the points at MBS. He started 15th and finished 12th. Not great, but plenty of other drivers would have taken a top-15 finish.

Motor Mile Preview
Though Corbett's chances at winning the title are long gone, he can move up in the points with a good run at MMS. Currently, Corbett sits just 56 points behind Jay Fogleman for the 10th position in points.

Best Finish at Motor Mile: 2nd (7/19/03)
Avg. Finish at Motor Mile: 9.0 (3 starts)

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Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Billy Bigley , Brian Ross , Danny O'Quinn , Shane Huffman , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew