USAR: Lakeland CS: Pre-race champion breakdown

The Championship Breakdown Longs, SC-It's finally here. After 28 races, the Hooters ProCup season has come down to the Four Champions Hooters 300 at USA Int'l Speedway on Saturday. While Clay Rogers, Benny Gordon, Matt Carter and Gary St....

The Championship Breakdown

Longs, SC-It's finally here. After 28 races, the Hooters ProCup season has come down to the Four Champions Hooters 300 at USA Int'l Speedway on Saturday.

While Clay Rogers, Benny Gordon, Matt Carter and Gary St. Amant try to wrap up the overall and rookie titles, the rest of the field will be trying to move up in the standings to claim their portions of the $1.2 million in point money.

Below is a list of the top-20 drivers in points, a Motor Mile Review and a Lakeland Preview.

1. Benny Gordon (No. 66n Predator Performance Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 3rd
Championship Series Points: 755
Points ahead of 2nd: 39
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: 0
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 5.5
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 6.25

Motor Mile Review
WHEW! It could have been a bad day for Gordon at Motor Mile. A cross-threaded lug cost the point leader a lap in the pits, but he raced like a man possessed after the mishap. Some late-race spins by the frontrunners advanced Gordon to third at the finish. If that doesn't happen, Gordon's point lead would only be 20 heading into the season finale.

Lakeland Preview
The scenarios are endless, but if Gordon finishes third, regardless of what Clay Rogers does, he will win the title. Gordon was furious after Motor Mile, and he vowed Predator Performance would redeem itself at Lakeland. They tested at USA Int'l for two days in preparation for the race this weekend. Unofficially, they were one of the quicker teams. Hopefully for Gordon, there won't be three teams better in the race.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 6th (11/29/03)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 12.5 (2 races)

2. Clay Rogers (No. 44s Ultra Comp Trailers Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 1st
Championship Series Points: 716
Points behind 1st: 39
Points ahead of 3rd: 59
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 7.6
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 9.5

Motor Mile Review
Clay Rogers has reemerged at the right time. He dominated at Motor Mile and chopped 35 points off Gordon's point lead with his fourth win of the season. If Rogers didn't crash at Mansfield while battling for the lead, he would be leading the points.

USA Int'l Preview
Rogers needs a repeat of his Motor Mile performance at USA Int'l. That may not be out of the question. Rogers led a race-high 237 laps in the season opener at the .75-mile track.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 1st (2/28/04)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 12.85 (13 starts)

3. Bobby Gill (No. 06s USG Sheetrock Brand Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 7th
Championship Series Points: 657
Points behind 1st: 98
Points ahead of 4th: 14
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 9.5

Motor Mile Review
When Bobby Gill says, "I'd like to thank my crew," he means it. The Lamb & Robinson crew put Gill out in front of the field for the second race in a row. Gill tangled with Agnew late in the race, but the 3-time champ held on to finish seventh.

Lakeland Preview
Gill's shot at the title is miniscule, but he still has a shot. He'll need for Gordon and Rogers to fall out early, then go out and win the race. The latter shouldn't be a tough task, Gill has nine wins at USA Int'l.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 1st (9 times)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 6.75 (21 starts)

4. Shane Huffman (No. 84s Elm Hill Dinner Bell Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 14th
Championship Series Points: 643
Points behind 1st: 112
Points ahead of 5th: 6
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -2
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.3
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 9.5

Motor Mile Review
The Motor Mile curse bit Huffman again. Huffman was staring at a second-place finish with less than 10 laps remaining in the race. But laps later, he was staring at the oncoming field after Johnny Rumley sent him around, ending his chances at defending his championship.

Lakeland Preview
If Gordon doesn't show up at USA Int'l, Huffman mathematically has chance at the title. Knowing this, Gordon has been in Lakeland since last Saturday.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 1st (11/29/03)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 12.75 (16 starts)

5. Jeff Agnew (No. 73n NGA Hooters Golf Tour Chevrolet)
Finish at Motor Mile: 9th
Championship Series Points: 637
Points behind 1st: 118
Points ahead of 6th: 56
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: 0
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 8.75

Motor Mile Review
Evidently, the Motor Mile curse can infect more than one person at the same time. Agnew won his first pole of the year, but he lost the lead after making contact with Michelle Theriault on Lap 26. Things went downhill from there. After racing his way into fifth late in the going, Agnew and Gill performed a synchronized pirouette in Turn 2, and he finished ninth.

Lakeland Preview
Agnew is eliminated from the title chase, but he's got a legitimate shot at finishing third in the overall points. If he can do that, he'll pocket $50,000.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 2nd (2/24/01)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 10.94 (16 starts)

6. Matt Carter (No. 22s HeavyTruckDealers.com Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 5th
Championship Series Points: 581
Points behind 1st: 174
Points ahead of 7th: 11
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +3
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 12.7
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 10.5

Motor Mile Review
Carter is heading in the right direction at the right time. For the second race in a row, he notched a top five. By doing so, Carter overtook Gary St. Amant in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race.

Lakeland Preview
The ROTY title is Carter's to lose. If he can match his 10th-place average at USA Int'l, St. Amant will have to finish third to overtake him.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 7th (2/28/04)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 10.75 (4 starts)

7. Danny O'Quinn Jr. (No. 02s Homesteader Trailer Chevrolet)
Finish at Motor Mile: 4th
Championship Series Points: 570
Points behind 1st: 185
Points ahead of 8th: 18
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +4
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.2
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 10.75

Motor Mile Review
At times, O'Quinn Jr. has been known to stick his hand out the window during a race to direct some fresh air into his car. There was no need for that at Motor Mile. O'Quinn's Chevrolet had a gaping hole in the door after being involved in three separate wrecks. Through it all, O'Quinn managed a fourth-place finish.

Lakeland Preview
With a little luck, O'Quinn Jr. could jump to fifth in the points with a good run at USA Int'l. He's faired well there in the past, finishing in the top 10 in all but one start at the track.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 6th (2/28/04)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 8.6 (6 starts)

8. Gary St. Amant (No. 11 JEGS.com Chevrolet)
Finish at Motor Mile: 25th
Championship Series Points: 552
Points behind 1st: 203
Points ahead of 9th: 7
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -2
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.4
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 16.75

Motor Mile Review
With his car sitting helplessly on the apron, St. Amant watched the field pass him by-and possibly the ROTY award. He wasn't running great, but St. Amant was much better than his 25th-place finish.

Lakeland Preview
St. Amant lost a heartbreaker to Kenny Wallace in the ASA ROTY race in the late '80s in similar fashion. But with just 29 points separating him from Carter, St. Amant has 300 laps to prevent dejà vu.

Best Finish at Lakeland: (First Start at Track)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: (First Start at Track)

9. Michael Ritch (No. 28s Jackaroo Pontiac)
Finish at Motor Mile: 2nd
Championship Series Points: 545
Points behind 1st: 210
Points ahead of 10th: 2
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +9
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 13.7
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 16.75

Motor Mile Review
It seems his choice of lines isn't the only similarity Ritch has with Harry Gant. For the second race in a row and the third time this season, Ritch finished second. Unfortunately for Ritch, if the parallel continues, Ritch needs seven more second-place finishes before he'll visit victory lane.

Lakeland Preview
Ritch has two wins at USA Int'l, but they came six years ago. Ritch has jumped from 29th to ninth in points in the last two races. Realistically, he could jump to sixth with a good run, adding $20,000 to his season winnings from where he was after Mansfield.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 1st (2 times)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 11.63 (17 starts)

10. Billy Bigley Jr. (No. 25s Peerless Woodworking Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 24th
Championship Series Points: 543
Points behind 1st: 212
Points ahead of 11th: 11
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -3
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 8.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 13.5

Motor Mile Review
Contrary to popular belief, Bigley Jr. is mortal. After piloting battered machines to three top-10 finishes in a row, Bigley wasn't able to continue the streak at Motor Mile. A tangle with George Brunnhoelzl III left Bigley's car needing extensive repairs. Bigley finished five laps down in 24th position.

Lakeland Preview
After having his string of top-10s broken at MMS, Bigley will need another top-10 finish to keep him in the top 10 in points.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 12th (6/5/04)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 13.0 (2 starts)

11. David Pletcher (No. 51s RaceFansDating.com Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 8th
Championship Series Points: 532
Points behind 1st: 223
Points ahead of 12th: 9
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +6
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 14.80
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 14.25

Motor Mile Review
For the seventh time this season, Pletcher claimed $500 for being the Hard Charger when he finished eighth after starting 23rd. Some laugh at his qualifying efforts, but others say he smart. He's picked up $3,500 this season via the award. Not to mention, his back-to-back Hard Charger Awards added 10 points to his season total, moving him ahead of Mardy Lindley, which is worth an extra $2,000.

Lakeland Preview
Pletcher lost a photo finish to Derrick Kelley at USA Int'l in 2000. To date, the finish is still the closest in USAR history. Pletcher won't have to worry about Kelley this weekend, but he will be taxed to beat this field.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 2nd (9/2/00)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 15.07 (14 starts)

12. Mardy Lindley (No. 16n Hooters Air Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 37th
Championship Series Points: 523
Points behind 1st: 232
Points ahead of 13th: 4
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -4
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.9
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 21.75

Motor Mile Review
If you add Lindley's practice laps and his races laps together, they still wouldn't equal 50. Plagued by engine problems all weekend, Lindley made just 28 laps before parking his ride. His 37th-place finish dropped him four spots in points.

Lakeland Preview
Lindley started the season out on fire, and he would like to finish it that way. He's had the fastest car a Lakeland in the past only to come up short.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 2nd (5/31/03)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 11.37 (15 starts)

13. Jay Fogleman (No. 4s Lucas Oil Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 29th
Championship Series Points: 519
Points behind 1st: 236
Points ahead of 14th: 3
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -3
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.4
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 21.75

Motor Mile Review
Fogleman charged to the front in the first half of the race. In the second half, Fogleman did the same thing, becoming the first car to pass Clay Rogers all day. The only problem was that Fogleman was 23 laps down when he made the pass due to a mid-race mechanical failure.

Lakeland Preview
Last season, Fogleman stumbled in the season finale, finishing two laps down in 14th position. His ill-timed bad run dropped him from third to sixth in the final points and cost him $22,000 in point fund money. With a good run this weekend, Fogleman could actually move to sixth in the overall standings.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 2nd (5/1/99)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 14.4 (18 starts)

14. Johnny Rumley (No. 8n Lucas Oil Chevrolet)
Finish at Motor Mile: 15th
Championship Series Points: 516
Points behind 1st: 239
Points ahead of 15th: 1
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 6.7
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 21.25

Motor Mile Review
The 'bump-and-run' only works when the car you're bumping doesn't spin out. Rumley's bump of Shane Huffman drew the black flag from race control and dropped him to 15th in the final race results.

Lakeland Preview
It's been quite a while since Rumley has competed at USA Int'l, but it had been a while since Rumley had competed in ProCup before this season and that's worked out OK.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 4th (3/6/99)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 14.0 (7 starts)

15. Brad Rogers (No. 29s T.L. Hyman Properties Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 16th
Championship Series Points: 515
Points behind 1st: 240
Points ahead of 16th: 3
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 10.3
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 18.0

Motor Mile Review
Rogers was involved in a wreck not his doing and lost a lap. He could run with leaders, but he could never get his lap back. He finished the first car one-lap down in 16th position.

Lakeland Preview
Rogers still has an outside shot at the overall ROTY, but he needs some help from Carter and St. Amant. Expect him to run up front, but his rookie hopes could be futile.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 3rd (2/28/04)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 11.5 (2 starts)

16. Eric Corbett (No. 75n Larry & Sons Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 6th
Championship Series Points: 512
Points behind 1st: 243
Points ahead of 17th: 3
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +4
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 10.9
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 11.75

Motor Mile Review
Rarely do you see a driver fist-pumping out the window over a sixth-place finish, but Corbett did just that at MMS. Why the excitement? Corbett jumped four spots in the points with his sixth-place run and beat Bobby Gill to the finish line. What's not to celebrate?

Lakeland Preview
Corbett only has two starts at USA Int'l, and one of them he doesn't remember, literally. Last year, Corbett and Gerald Davis crashed hard along the front stretch on the 11th lap. Corbett finished 39th.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 16th (11/30/02)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 27.5 (2 starts)

17. Danny Sammons (No. 97n Gale Trailers Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 11th
Championship Series Points: 509
Points behind 1st: 246
Points ahead of 18th: 7
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: +1
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 11.8
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 17.0

Motor Mile Review
It wasn't a bad day for Sammons at MMS. He lost a lap, made it up and finished 11th. Sure, he wanted more. But the way his season has been, 11th ain't bad.

Lakeland Preview
Despite being from New Jersey, Sammons has plenty of track time at the Florida track, making seven starts. He ran as high as seventh in the season opener at Lakeland before dropping a motor.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 14th (2/22/03)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 24.14 (7 starts)

18. Mart Nesbitt (No. 92s Blue Cross Blue Shield Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 23rd
Championship Series Points: 502
Points behind 1st: 253
Points ahead of 19th: 1
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -2
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 11.3
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 18.5

Motor Mile Review
Nesbitt never got it going at MMS. He started 18th and finished 23rd.

Lakeland Preview
Last year at this time, Nesbitt was eighth in points going into the season finale. He finished third in the race and fifth in overall points. If Nesbitt finishes third this weekend, he won't finish fifth in overall points, but he could break into the top 10.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 3rd (11/29/03)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 16.43 (22 starts)

19. Joe Gaita (No. 42s U.S. Insurance Group Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 35th
Championship Series Points: 501
Points behind 1st: 254
Points ahead of 20th: 0
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile: -7
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 9.5
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 24.25

Motor Mile Review
42s out, mechanical, Lap 87.

Lakeland Preview
USA Int'l is the only place that Gaita actually got to drive his car to victory lane. Although it's been more than a year ago, he still remembers how to get there.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 1st (2/22/03)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 12.77 (7 starts)

20. Mike Laughlin Jr. (No. 7 Tucson Ford)
Finish at Motor Mile: 28th
Championship Series Points: 501
Points behind 1st: 254
Points ahead of 21st: 32
Point Positions Gained/Lost at Motor Mile:
Regular Season Avg. Finish: 17.0
Championship Series Avg. Finish: 16.25

Motor Mile Review
Laughlin ran well for a bit, sputtered around for some time and then went back to running well. But the time spent sputtering cost him 10 laps, dropping him to 28th at the finish.

Lakeland Preview
Laughlin Jr. has been on the verge of winning all season. A win this weekend would make the winter much more tolerable.

Best Finish at Lakeland: 2nd (6/12/99)
Avg. Finish at Lakeland: 19.0 (23 starts)

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Series Stock car
Drivers Kenny Wallace , Clay Rogers , Billy Bigley , Danny O'Quinn , Harry Gant , Shane Huffman , Michelle Theriault , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew , George Brunnhoelzl III