USAR: Southern: Round 10 Southern Division preview

SNS Prepares for Merchant's Tire & Auto Centers 250 Longs, SC-On the surface, picking a favorite in the Merchant's Tire & Auto Centers 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Southern National Speedway (SNS) won't be too hard. Shane Huffman,...

SNS Prepares for Merchant's Tire & Auto Centers 250

Longs, SC-On the surface, picking a favorite in the Merchant's Tire & Auto Centers 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Southern National Speedway (SNS) won't be too hard.

Shane Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford, has dominated the Southern Division of the Hooters Pro Cup Series this season, picking up a series-high six wins through nine races and leading the series in laps led. Not to mention last season at SNS, Huffman led a race-high 153 laps. So, undoubtedly, all eyes will be on Huffman to continue his banner year at the Kenly, N.C., track. But don't hand Huffman the trophy yet, the high-speed, half-mile track has been known to produce a dark-horse winner.

Brad Rogers, driver of the No. 29 FPS Ford, shocked the best short-track drivers in the country by holding off Michael Ritch to win the Hooters Pro Cup 250 last season. Rogers led the final 23 laps en route to his first Pro Cup win.

"I really felt like I had a chance to get him," said Ritch, who has 10 Hooters Pro Cup wins in his career. "We we're under him right before the final caution came out, but I didn't have anything for him in the end."

Out of the top five finishers in last year's race, Ritch was only driver to have more than one win.

Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 84 H&R Block Ford, had his best finish of the year at SNS last season. Lavender followed Ritch across the line for a podium finish. And it wouldn't be a stretch for Lavender to be the driver everyone is chasing on July 23.

Lavender has moved from pretender to contender in the last two months, picking up his first win at Ace (NC) Speedway and backing it up with a second-place finish at Myrtle Beach. Lavender has jumped to seventh in points.

"I have to credit much of our success to Birdie [Steve Bird]," said Lavender. "He just brings so much knowledge to our team. It pays off to be around people that are smarter than you. And Birdie has really turned our team around."

Billy Bigley Jr. is looking for something to get his season turned around.

After being a fixture in the top-10 last season, Bigley has just three top-10 finishes in eight starts this season. And he's only managed to crack the top five once. But SNS may be just the medicine the doctor ordered for Bigley's ailing season. Last year, Bigley finished fourth at SNS.

The Merchant's Tires & Auto Centers 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires will be race No. 10 of 13 for the Southern Division. With just three races remaining after SNS, Pro Cup fans-and drivers-will likely have a clear indication of who will be among the top contenders for the top seed entering the Championship Series in the fall.

The Merchant's Tire & Auto Center 250 is scheduled to take the green flag at 7:30 p.m. Front gates at SNS will open to the public at 4 p.m. Pro Cup qualifying will start at 4:30 p.m. and be followed by a 50-lap Allison Legacy Series feature at 5:15 p.m.

After the Legacy race, fans will be allowed to mingle with Pro Cup drivers during the on-track autograph session starting at 6:15 p.m.

For ticket information concerning the Merchant's Tires & Auto Center 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires, please contact Southern National Speedway at (919) 284-1114.

2005 USAR Hooters ProCup Series quick Facts

WHAT:                         Merchant's Tire & Auto Centers 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires

USAR Hooters ProCup Series Race #18 of 30 (Southern Division Race #10 of 13)

WHERE:                       Southern National Speedway - Kenly, NC

.400-mile, high-banked asphalt oval

WHEN: Saturday, July 23, 2005 - 7:30 pm (EDT)

DISTANCE: 250 Laps/100 Miles

POSTED AWARDS: $121,991 (Includes $36,800 Point Fund)

STARTING FIELD: 32 car starting field. 34 cars possible. Fastest 28 cars through time trials. Two provisional positions for top-30 from 2005 Southern Division Driver Points Standings. Two provisionals for 2005 Southern Division top-30 Car Owner Points Standings. Two provisional starting positions available for a past Hooters Pro Cup Series champion or rookie of the year (only if necessary).

TELEVISION:                SPEED Channel, Saturday, July 30, 2005 (11:00 p.m. EDT)

SPEED Channel, Friday, August 5, 2005 (12 Noon (EDT)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE:

Saturday, July 23, 2005:
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Hooters ProCup Series Practice
2:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. Allison Legacy Series Practice and Qualifying
4 p.m. Grandstand Front Gates Open
4:30 p.m. Hooters ProCup Series Qualifying
5:15 p.m. Allison Legacy Series Race - 50 Laps
6:15 p.m. Autograph Session
7 p.m. Pre-Race Ceremonies
7:30 p.m. Merchant's Tire & Auto Centers 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Billy Bigley , Jody Lavender , Shane Huffman