USAR: Jake Hobgood - USAR profile

DASH Champ Learning Pro Cup Ropes Hobgood Shows Fortitude Longs, SC-The slogan "Don't give up, don't ever give up!" ranks right behind "Give 110 percent!" in the most overused cliches in motorsports. But for Jake Hobgood and his team, the...

DASH Champ Learning Pro Cup Ropes
Hobgood Shows Fortitude

Longs, SC-The slogan "Don't give up, don't ever give up!" ranks right behind "Give 110 percent!" in the most overused cliches in motorsports. But for Jake Hobgood and his team, the saying, and the accompanying picture of a frog prying itself from a crane's mouth, litters their shop. For them it's not a trite jingle, they live by the motto.

Unfortunately, they've had to since joining the Hooters Pro Cup Series last season.

Hobgood, the 2002 Goody's Dash Champion, showed well in his first start in the HPC Series last season, qualifying 23rd and finishing 20th at Myrtle Beach Speedway. However, in his next two outings, Hobgood couldn't back up his sound start.

The Winnsboro, S.C., driver recorded finishes of 24th and 28th in the ensuing races and logged just 57 laps in the lackluster performances.

"We really felt like we had a monkey on our back last year," said Hobgood. "We had some problems with the oiling system that led to mechanical failures. After that, we decided to regroup and start over fresh this season."

But the start of '05 resembled the end of '04.

After clipping off the 21st-quickest lap in practice, Hobgood was swept into a crash with just five minutes remaining in practice. The crash sent Hobgood on a long walk back to his hauler. His mangled car joined him shortly thereafter. Minutes later, as his crew prepared to load up and go home, Hobgood's crewmember made a startling discovery.

"He came running over and said, 'The steering still works. I think we can fix it,'" said Hobgood.

Over the next two hours, Hobgood's team showed their resolve, beating, banging and piecing the car together enough to make a qualifying attempt. Although Hobgood's qualifying lap wasn't good enough to make the show, the effort his team put into the DNQ may have boosted his confidence more than a top-five finish would have.

"The crew guys are all volunteers, and it's not like they had to do that," said Hobgood. "As a driver, that's all you can ask for from your team. It lets you know that the team is behind you. After seeing them do that, it made me want to drive as hard as you can for the team."

In the second race of the season, Hobgood finally got a chance to repay his team, notching his first top-10 finish at South Georgia Motorsports Park in just his fourth Pro Cup start.

"I think we proved to ourselves that we could be a competitive team in the series [with the top-10 finish at SGPM]," said Hobgood. "That's saying a lot because you have 10 to 12 guys that could win each week. The competition from top to bottom is so close, it reminds me a lot of the Busch Series. It's a great series and has world-class racers in it. It's tough, but I think we can compete and be a top-five car."

For nearly his entire career, Hobgood has had a top-five car, or better, picking up numerous wins and the 2002 title in the now-defunct Dash Series. Unfortunately, the knowledge gained in the smaller cars hasn't translated into Pro Cup.

"The first time I sat in a Pro Cup car, I thought it wasn't going to be that big of a difference," said Hobgood, driver of the No.64 Ford. "Now, I realize it's a bigger difference than I thought.

"You could hustle a Dash car around the track, but that doesn't work in a Pro Cup car. You've got to get the chassis to work and let the car do the work. I'm still learning how to do that."

Hobgood's next chance to continue his Pro Cup education will be in the BFGoodrich Tires 250 presented by the U.S. Army at Greenville Pickens Speedway on April 2. In 2002, Hobgood outran Robert Huffman at GPS to take the win in the Dash Series. The win fueled Hobgood's championship run. A win may be out of the question this time around, but it won't be for lack of effort.

Hobgood plans on running the entire Southern Division season and competing for the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year crown, but the team is still seeking a full-time sponsor. Interested marketing partners are encouraged to call Connie Shoemaker at (724) 285-0516.

-usar-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Robert Huffman