Lakeland, FL (Nov. 23, 2001)& ...
Lakeland, FL (Nov. 23, 2001)– Every season the reigning champion is described as the man to beat on the track if you want to win a championship. For the 150+ USAR Hooters ProCup Series competitors who participated in 2001, Bobby Gill was the defending champion and, by all accounts, the man to beat.
Now it appears competitors will be repeating that comment in 2002, after Gill won the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Hooters 300 Saturday night at USA International Speedway and in the process won his third consecutive USAR Hooters ProCup Series championship.
Gill entered the day 19 points behind Hal Goodson. Goodson had won the previous two Four Champions Championship Series events and vaulted into the lead for the final race of the season.
Gill qualified third, his second-best qualifying effort of the season. He quickly took the lead from pole-sitter Steven Christian on lap 12 and never looked back, leading a total of 223 of the 301 laps completed during the race.
“ We had a really good car tonight,” said an ecstatic Gill in victory lane.“ The car was good all day in practice and qualifying. I want to thank Steve Dulzienski for all of his hard work. He doesn’t get paid the big money other crew chiefs make but he takes pride in what he does and he does a great job for the team. Duz gets the car prepared the right way.”
The remaining top-five finishers all collected their best finishes in the championship series. Brian Vickers finished second and Mardy Lindley followed in third. Mario Gosselin, the 1997 USAR Hooters ProCup Series champion, finished fourth and Lee Tissot completed the top five.
“ I want to congratulate Bobby on winning the championship,” Vickers said.“ We would have liked to have won the championship this year but we reached some goals this year for the team and we are happy with what we accomplished. I also want to congratulate Toby on winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award. I know from experience how prestigious an honor it is to win in this Series.”
Christian regained the top spot under caution when he beat Gill out of the pits and led from lap 107 until lap 150; Gill regained the lead on lap 151. Christian appeared to have the car to stay with Gill until mechanical problems slowed him down. Christian was able to stay on the lead lap and finished ninth.
Bill Plemons, Jr. assumed the top spot under caution on lap 226 and led until lap 233 when Brian Vickers took the lead. Vickers led for the next 14 laps, before Gill took over for the final time on lap 248.
Goodson struggled all day, qualifying 25th and finished in the same spot, 7 laps down, at the end of the race. Goodson and Vickers finished tied for second place in the final point standings. Gill finished the season with 729 points while, Vickers and Goodson each finished with 673 points. Lindley finished fourth and Shane Huffman finished fifth in the final point standings.
The race was slowed eight times by caution with only a pair of multi-car incidents. On lap one caution was given to the field when Lonnie Rush and Jabe Jones got together in turn four. Both cars were able to continue after Jones made repairs to his car.
The next incident occurred on lap 151 when Jon Kerley and Regan Smith got together in turn three. Both cars were able to continue after the accident.
Toby Robertson finished sixth and clinched the 2001 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year championship. Robertson finished the championship series with three consecutive top-10 finishes to grab the title.
Christian collected the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award, adding it to his Lance Snacks Pole Award. Robertson also won the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award. Dale Delozier and Joe Harrison, Jr. shared the W.J. Plemons Investments Hard Charger Award.
Gill will officially be crowned the 2001 USAR Hooters ProCup Series championship on January 12 at the USAR post-season awards banquet.