An Eye for an Eye Clay Rogers Wins Aaron's 199 Jefferson, Ga.--Through three Sears Auto Center Northern Division events this season, two winners have come out of the Southern Division. Well, Clay Rogers carried the Northern flag down to the ...
An Eye for an Eye
Clay Rogers Wins Aaron's 199
Jefferson, Ga.--Through three Sears Auto Center Northern Division events this season, two winners have come out of the Southern Division. Well, Clay Rogers carried the Northern flag down to the Aaron's Southern Division for the running of the Aaron's 199 at Peachstate Speedway on Sunday, June 3 and returned the favor.
Rogers, driver of the No. 29n Bowen Family Homes Chevrolet, took the lead from Bill Plemons Jr. on Lap 118 and held off a hard-charging Michael Ritch for his first win of the season.
"I'm just happy to get a win for everybody on this Bowen team," said Rogers, who pushed his career earnings to $1,115,750 with the win. "Their corporate office is right down the road and they had a lot of people here today.
"Keith [Hinkein] made a great call for us to come in to get fuel early. The car was little tight in the center of the corner, once the fuel burnt off, but we also had a few cautions towards the end of the race that could have had a little affect on the car."
Rogers had a hand in one of those cautions.
With the laps winding down, Rogers was having problems putting a lap on Jody Lavender and Ritch closed in a hurry. As the lead duo barreled off into Turn 3 on Lap 161, Ritch jumped to the high side of Rogers, who then made a bold move to get past Lavender and keep the lead.
As Rogers ducked to the inside of Lavender's No. 4n Greased Lightning Ford, the two made contact and Lavender's machine slammed the Turn 4 wall. Rogers kept the lead, but the move didn't go over well with Lavender, or his JFco teammates.
"You just drove in over your head," Lavender yelled to Rogers after he left Victory Lane. Jay Fogleman, team owner, also had a few words for Rogers after the event.
While the move was bold, Rogers couldn't afford to let Ritch get out front.
"I knew if Michael got out front it was going to be tough to pass him, and that's part of what happened with Jody," said Rogers. "Jody's a good friend of mine, and I hate that it happened. [Ritch] had a run on the outside of me and I had to do a slide job on [Lavender]. When I did, it just happened to catch my right-front tire just right and it shot him into the wall. I just couldn't afford to let [Ritch] get by."
Even though Rogers kept the lead, Ritch wasn't going to make it easy on the out-of-division competitor. Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Naturally Fresh/Jackaroo Ford, hounded Rogers for the final 35 laps. And his best chance to take the lead came on the final lap.
Ritch got a great run on Rogers going down the backstretch and tucked underneath coming off Turn 4, but Ritch was unable keep the momentum off the corner and fell .267 of a second shy of taking the victory. But his second-place finish was great run, considering he had to start shotgun on the field after working on his car after qualifying.
"We came up through the field and we were pretty much faster than everybody," said Ritch, who went from 32nd to second in 52 laps. "Then all of a sudden, [Rogers] just picked it up. But he's real smart around here. I think if I could've got in front of him, I'd a been a little faster. There was no way I could get by him without wrecking him."
The theme of a leader getting caught up in a fracas didn't only feature Clay Rogers on Sunday afternoon. Bobby Gill also got into a squabble for track position while leading, but Gill wasn't as fortunate as Rogers.
After leading 110 of the first 111 laps, Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, was trying to put a lap on Carl Long coming off Turn 4 when the two tangled and Gill nosed into the outside wall. Gill spent two laps on pit road as his team repaired the damage, but the 3-time Pro Cup champion finished 18th.
Gill, who came into the Aaron's 199 second in points, slipped to fifth in the standings. Point leader Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevrolet, also had his troubles at Peachstate Speedway.
Howard slipped well back into the field at the start of the race and nearly was lapped before the caution waved. Howard elected to pit early, but he was clipped by another car while coming to pit road and spun. The former Miller Lite Rookie of the Year lost a lap in the pits and another one before the event ended, pushing him to 20th in the results and third in the points.
Chase Pistone, driver of the No. 54 C&C Boiler Chevrolet, took advantage of Gill's and Howard's misfortunes by finishing third and jumping into the Southern Division point lead.
Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Chevrolet, also had a solid points day at Peachstate Speedway. After starting seventh, McFarland moved to fourth at the finish.
Rookie Matt Hawkins, driver of the No. 2 H&H Electric Ford, completed the top five and picked up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race.
Shelby Howard, Caleb Holman, Wade Day, Frank Deiny Jr. and Kirk Leone completed the top 10. Seventeen cars finished on the lead lap.
The Aaron's 199 was slowed seven times for 47 laps of caution and featured four lead changes among four drivers.
Aaron's 199 Notebook
Chase Pistone finds himself in the enviable position of being the Aaron's Southern Division point leader after four races. He's done it by being fast, but he's also shown uncanny maturity for a young driver.
"It's all about finishing races," said Pistone, driver of the No. 54 C&C Boiler Chevrolet. "Even when we were running 15th, I knew [Gill and Howard] were having a bad day and I wasn't going to wreck. I just had to be patient and get what we could."
Pistone got to third and now leads Michael Ritch by 20 points in the Southern Division standings.
Stealing My Line
As usual, Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Naturally Fresh/Jackaroo Ford, was one of the first drivers to venture to the high line at Peachstate Speedway during the Aaron's 199. But after mowing past half the field on the outside, Ritch had plenty of company on the cushion in the second half of the event.
"That's the way it is here," said Ritch, who finished second. "I had a strategy to go up there, but when everybody went there, it turned into a one-groove racetrack. That's all right, we had a great car. I have to thank Eastern Foods, CV Products, Faces South and all the people that help me get here."
Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Chevrolet, can breathe just a little bit easier after coming home fourth in the Aaron's 199 at Peachstate Speedway. McFarland's run pushed him from 20th to 12th in points, giving him a better chance at a provisional, if needed, in the unparalleled qualifying sessions that have become commonplace this season.
"We were back there in 20th in points, so we had to pay attention in qualifying," said McFarland. "As tight as these fields are, one slip in qualifying and you could go home if you're not up in the points. It was a good run, and it gives us a little comfort going into Myrtle Beach."
How tough has it become to make a Hooters Pro Cup race? Well, the provisionals at Peachstate went to teams fifth, 11th, 14th and 16th in points, the field was separated by .272 of a second and 23rd- and 24th-place teams in points went home.
Are You Crazy?
The owners of Peachstate Speedway are planning some capital improvements to the Georgia facility in the near future, but they may want to reconsider paving the track.
"Somebody said earlier today that they needed to repave the track, and I told them they were crazy," said Caleb Holman, driver of the No. 75 Food Country Chevrolet. "If they do repave, they need to find some pavement just like this and put it back down. Every track in the country needs pavement like this. What's the fun in running around on tracks where you can just put the pedal to the floor? I mean, are you really driving?"
Holman might be a little biased, considering he tends to excel on slick tracks. The rookie posted a top-five finish at grip-less Myrtle Beach Speedway last year and finished seventh in the Aaron's 199.
Extra Work, Extra Money
Just making the Aaron's 199 at Peachstate Speedway was an accomplishment for many drivers, but Dange Hanniford had a different explanation for his 31st-starting spot on Sunday.
"Well, we've been off for a while, so I really wanted to get a lot of racing in," joked Hanniford, driver of the No. 65 TNT Fireworks Chevy. "We decided to start at the back come up through there and get the Hard Charger, and we feel really good about it."
On a more serious note, Hanniford picked up five bonus points and $500 for being the recipient of the Aaron's "Do the Math" Award.
Dusty Williams, driver of the No. 40 Dustcom Ltd Ford, has been racing around the Southeast for many years, but the rookie picked up his first BFGoodrich Tires Pole Award in qualifying for the Aaron's 199.
"The pole kind of picked up the expectations of the entire team," said Williams, a former Southeast Series regular. "We finished 13th, but that is still a move in the right direction. I'm glad my team stuck with me through some tough races, and I think we proved something by winning the pole."