USAR: Rockingham CS: Race report, Gordon takes title

Rogers Wins Wild One at "The Rock" Benny Gordon claims overall title; Drew Herring takes rookie of the year Rockingham, N.C.-Rockingham Speedway has seen its fair share of exciting finishes in the past. Well, add the finish of Mark Brooks...

Rogers Wins Wild One at "The Rock"
Benny Gordon claims overall title; Drew Herring takes rookie of the year

Rockingham, N.C.-Rockingham Speedway has seen its fair share of exciting finishes in the past. Well, add the finish of Mark Brooks Memorial Black's Tire American 200 to the list of memorable moments at "The Rock."

Rookie Drew Herring blasted by Benny Gordon with 20 laps remaining and was pulling away for his first Hooters Pro Cup win before catching lapped traffic with seven laps remaining. Herring had to check up, allowing Rogers to swing by to take the lead and hold on for the win on Saturday, Nov. 1.

"This is a pretty emotional win," said Rogers, who took home $12,000 for the win. "I've won a race every year in my career since 1989, and it didn't look like it was going to happen this year the way our luck was going lately.

"I thought our car was as good as Drew's, but we got tight when I got up to him. It looked like the lapped cars were racing ahead of him and he caught them at the wrong time. I've had it happen to me. Sometimes it just happens that way. He had the momentum taken away, and I didn't have to slow down. Once we got out front, I was just concentrating on protecting the bottom."

Herring made several runs at Rogers down the stretch, but the rookie had to settle for second. On the bright side, Herring, driver of the No. 22s BTS Tire & Wheel Distributor Ford, did clinch the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year and a $20,000 bonus.

"It's bittersweet for sure," said Herring. "We accomplished our main goal by winning the rookie title, but I'm disappointed. We had such a great car and a great weekend going. We had it wrapped up and in the bag, then three lapped cars racing like they were racing for the win. Then they slam on brakes and about tore the nose off our car. It's stupid."

Tom Hessert, who led a race-high 85 laps, came home third, marking his first podium finish in the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

"We had a really good car all day," said Hessert, driver of the No. 9s Macco Chevrolet. "On that last restart, they kind of got away from us and we ran out of laps."

Caleb Holman, driver of the No. 75s Food Country Chevrolet, rallied from a lap down to finish fourth.

Benny Gordon, who was forced to start last for working on his car after qualifying, completed the top five and claimed the overall Hooters Pro Cup Series Championship.

"The tension was high, but I had such a good race car from the beginning of the race that it relaxed me," said Gordon, who took home $150,000 for his second Hooters Pro Cup title. "I have to compliment my team. They put a lot of work into this. I really wanted to win this race, but we knew what was going on around us."

Gordon, who held a 27-point lead over Mark McFarland coming into the event, shadowed McFarland for much of the day, knowing McFarland would have to lead the most laps, lead halfway and win the event to erase his margin. However, on Lap 168, McFarland caught a piece of an accident on the backstretch that took him out of title contention. Gordon finished the four- race Championship Series with two wins, a fifth-place and eighth-place finish.

"I've had a great year, and it's because of the guys around me," said Gordon, of DuBois, Pa. "Samuel Metals has been great to me. It means a lot to win the title for all of them."

The Black's Tire American 200 was slowed eight times for 46 laps of caution and featured 11 lead changes among nine drivers.

The Champion "To finish first, you must first finish."

Benny Gordon may not be a Rick Mears fan, but his 2008 season mirrored the famous quote word for word. Gordon finished first a series-high six times during the season, but the most impressive stat may be the fact that the DuBois, Pa., driver completed every lap during the season-all 2,789 of them.

"That's a testament to all the guys that work on these cars," said Gordon, who joined Bobby Gill and Clay Rogers as the only drivers to win multiple Hooters Pro Cup titles. "We've had very few mechanical failures in the last five years, and we've been able to stay out of accidents. The guys that win race and titles do that."

Even though Gordon has been mathematically eligible to win four of the last five titles going into the final race, the road to his second Pro Cup title wasn't without a few bumps. He lost a primary sponsor and team owner during the unprecedented run, but somehow he managed to keep it all together.

"Basically, I'm the quarterback of this team, and people rally around the quarterback," said Gordon, who won the title in 2005 with Predator Performance. "If I'm moping around and don't have that enthusiasm that a team needs, then the rest of the team follows. Whether I'm up or down, I had to keep that fire going and keep everybody pumped up. When that's going on, everybody works harder. And that's how we've been able to keep this going."

Though it wasn't a complete rags-to-riches story, the weight of fighting back to the top of the Hooters Pro Cup Series was evident on Gordon's face following the Black's Tire American 200.

"These things get harder and harder to win," said an emotional Gordon. "There's more and more competition coming into this series every year. To be able to stay up on our game and compete year in and year out has been pretty special.

"I know a lot of racecar drivers say, 'I couldn't ask for a better group of guys,' but I really couldn't. I've just got a great group of people around me. They're my friends, and I couldn't ask for a better team."

Gordon finished the season with six wins, 11 top-5s and 12 top-10s. In addition, he led a series-high 898 laps, led 12 of the 13 races in which he competed and finished the season with an average finish of 3.15.

With his second title in hand, Gordon pushed his career earnings in the Hooters Pro Cup Series to $1,396,100 in 99 starts.

The Rookie While most rookies would have been doing burnouts along the frontstretch after clinching the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title, a sullen Drew Herring slipped from his machine following the Black's Tire American 200 at Rockingham Speedway and simply leaned up against the pit wall. Despite winning top rookie honors and a $20,000 bonus, Herring was in no mood to celebrate. And his dejection was understandable.

With 10 laps remaining in the race, Herring was pulling away from Clay Rogers, inching ever closer to his first Hooters Pro Cup win. His faithful followers were on their feet with anticipation, and Herring was up on the wheel. Eight laps around Rockingham Speedway was all he needed for a breakout win.

"I was on cruise control," said Herring. "I knew we had it."

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Herring was picked by a lapped car and Clay Rogers pounced, slipping to the high side as Herring jammed the brakes and made contact with the lapped machine. In the blink of an eye, Herring's win bid was over, leaving him with a bittersweet taste in his mouth.

"Yeah, we accomplished our main goal, but we go to every race wanting to win," said Herring. "Regardless if I'm a rookie or not, we want to win races. This team worked so hard and had such a great race going, it's disappointing not to win."

Though Herring failed to pick up a win in his rookie season, his freshman campaign was pretty solid.

The Benson, N.C., driver posted two runner-up finishes and seven top-10s. The only time Herring finished outside the top-15 all season was due to mechanical failures or accidents. But what the stats don't show is that Herring and Ricky Benton Racing were one of the fastest cars at every track this season.

"I'm real excited with the way the RBR team ran this year," said Herring. "Mike Hester [crew chief] deserves a lot of credit. This team has worked their butts off and given me great racecars and real good pit stops all year. I really wanted to win, but we'll take rookie of the year."

Herring's second-place finish pushed him to fourth in the overall standings. In the 12-year history of the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year program, only Jeff Agnew (1998), Brian Vickers (2000) and Benny Gordon (2003) have finished better than fourth in the overall standings during their rookie seasons.

-credit: usar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Rick Mears , Brian Vickers , Tom Hessert , Caleb Holman , Mark McFarland , Drew Herring , Jeff Agnew