Lakeland, FL& ...
Lakeland, FL– In excess of one million dollars, 50 eligible drivers, 29 races, a 19 point lead, 14 different winners and only one race remains as the USAR Hooters ProCup Series heads to Lakeland’s USA International Speedway for the final showdown of the season and to crown the 2001 Series National Champion on November 24th. The Alan Kulwicki Memorial Hooters 300 is the culmination of a very unique season in the history of the Hooters ProCup Series and also marks the 100th event in the five-year history of the series.
The point of focus is the battle for the quarter million dollar share of the point fund monies designated for the 2001 champion. Leading the points into the finale is Hal Goodson after taking the winners check in the 2 most recent championship races. By winning 2 of the 4 Four Champions Championship Series races, Goodson has secured a $10,000 bonus and could increase the bonus to $25,000 by winning at Lakeland. Goodson‘ s road to the point lead has been one of extremes. Goodson, a Citadel graduate, lost his primary ride when then car owner George Taylor closed the doors on his shop 5 days before the second championship race at Myrtle Beach. Goodson picked up a ride with the backup car out of the Bill Plemons stable and responded by winning the race. Goodson proved the win to be more than a fluke by also nailing the win at Concord, NC to establish himself as the point leader with the single race remaining.
The metrics to decide the 2001 champion are unique in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series and many eyes are on the post-season championship format. The top 25 drivers from each the north and south division regular season were invited for a five race championships series to determine the overall champion. Each driver was awarded points based upon the respective position, which the driver finished in his division. Additional points are earned through each of the championship races to determine the overall champion. The first championship race was scheduled for Chicago Motor Speedway but due the terrorist attacks of September 11th that race was cancelled and the Championship Series was reduced to just 4 races - Jennerstown, Myrtle Beach, Concord and Lakeland.
Available bonus points for the Pole Position, Halfway Leader, Hard Charger, Lap Leader and Most Laps Led means that the slight 19 point advantage Goodson owns over two-time champion Bobby Gill is in limbo with a total of five drivers holding solid a chance and five more with long-shot possibilities. To clinch the championship, regardless of the performance of Gill, Shane Huffman, Mardy Lindley or Brian Vickers, Goodson would need to win the race. Such a scenario will be a tall order. Second place point man, Bobby Gill’s past performances at USA has resulted in the Dalton, GA driver celebrating in Victory Circle 5 times.
Shane Huffman, only 9 points back from Gill in third, turned heads quickly in the championship series by winning in Jennerstown along with setting fast time and picking the bonus points by leading at halfway. Huffman’s win moved him into the point lead by one point over Bobby Gill. Huffman has continued to stay in the hunt and has captured the fast qualifier award for all three of the championship races.
Mardy Lindley, northern series point leader and fourth in points, has struggled in the championship series after posting an impressive performance by completing every lap attempted during the regular season. Although consistent, Lindley was unable to visit Victory Lane during the 2001 campaign. A win would mark the second generation driver’s third win in the ProCup Series but Lindley would need for Goodson to have trouble and finish out of the top five to take the title.
Sophomore driver and 2000 Rookie of the Year, Brian Vickers needs similar circumstances as Lindley to snare the crown. Vickers looks to his first series win which came at USA in June 2000 as a positive indicator of the teams potential at Lakeland coming into the final race of the season. Vickers won his third series race at Chemung, NY early in the northern series season.
Along with the championship title the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title is still on the line with Toby Robertson holding the advantage over Jason Sarvis. Robertson, tied for ninth in the standings with 1999 Alan Kulwicki Memorial Hooters 300 winner Derrick Kelley, is looking to follow-up a top 5 run at Concord to secure the title.
Race weekend activities get underway on Friday November 23rd with early parking for the team haulers and a remote radio broadcast from the north Lakeland Hooters location. Practice begins on Saturday November 24th at 10 AM, qualifying is at 3:30. The GOODYEAR Pit Crew Challenge is slated for 5 PM followed by an on-track autograph session. The Alan Kulwicki Memorial Hooters 300 sees the green flag at 7:30 PM. Advance reserve tickets are available from the speedway ticket office or via Ticketmaster. Raceday schedule, entry list and updated race data available at the speedway website.