CONCORD, N.C. (July 25, 2000) -- Short track racing is always exciting. You can always expect some close rubbing, and a little beating and banging. You can also expect a greater chance of loosing a lap early in a race if you start in the rear.
CONCORD, N.C. (July 25, 2000) -- Short track racing is always exciting. You can always expect some close rubbing, and a little beating and banging. You can also expect a greater chance of loosing a lap early in a race if you start in the rear. That is, unless your a 19-year-old determined driver from Mooresville, North Carolina. Clay Rogers, who qualified 4th for the Kroger 250, was forced to start the event from the 36th and last starting spot at New River Valley Speedway, Saturday night July 22nd, because his No. 2 Ford Taurus was 4 pounds light after time trials. Although the rule infraction was a disappointment, it wasn't about to keep Rogers from charging toward the front of the pack. He marched to a 4th-place showing =8B his 5th straight top-five finish in the last 6 USAR Hooters ProCup events. Rogers also jumped 3 spots in the Series' championship points race, from the 10th position to 7th, with a total of 1,292 points.
The "Miller Lite Rookie of the Year" candidate explains the circumstances surrounding Saturday's events.
"The rule reads in the rule book that there will be no ballast, including fuel, added to the car after qualifying," stated Rogers. "(The car) has to meet the weight requirements in post-qualifying inspection, which is 3,350 pounds, and we weighed 3,346 pounds after qualifying. We didn't meet the weight rule so we had to go to the rear. I guess it was just a rookie mistake of a rookie team."
Starting shotgun on the field proved to be a challenge for the Fire Protection Motorsports team, as staying on the lead lap became a consideration when the green flag started the 250-lap event.
"We had to pick and choose our way through the field and we tried to get up through the first 10 or so spots as quick as we could, to get a little bit of a cushion between us and the leader," explained Rogers. "At one point the leader was going into (turn) 1 and I was coming off of turn 2. That was the main goal early in the race =8B to stay on the lead lap. We knew we had a car that could get to the front, we just didn't know how quick we could get there."
Rogers was able to stay on the lead-lap, and thanks to handy pit work from his Fire Protection Motorsports crew at half-way, he gained a few spots on pit road. Rogers finished the event in the 4th spot, notching his 5th-straight top-five finish of the season =8B a finish that propelled him 3 spots, in the series point standings, to 7th.
"To win one of these races you have to be consistent and be up front every week," Rogers added. "We're knocking on the door for that first win. If we keep finishing in the top-five or the top-three, hopefully we can break through that barrier soon. It seems like we just have some small circumstances keeping us out of victory lane."
With 5 consecutive top-five finishes notched on his steering wheel, Rogers is confident his first win is just around the corner. He said, =B3There's no doubt in my mind we are going to win one of these races, we just need everything to go our way. We'll get there. I couldn't be happier with the car and this race team. We'll see what happens at Peach State in a couple of weeks."
For the 2000 season Rogers now has 5 top-five finishes and 2 poles. He is 7th in the 2000 USAR Hooters ProCup Series championship point standings, with 1,292 total points. The Series' next event is scheduled for Saturday, August 5th at Peach State Speedway (Jefferson, Ga.).