Clay Rogers wins at Winchester; savorites suffer problems in first Championship Series event. Winchester, Indiana-- If the first race of the 2002 USAR Hooters ProCup Series Championship Series is any indication of what to expect during the ...
Clay Rogers wins at Winchester; savorites suffer problems in first Championship Series event.
Winchester, Indiana-- If the first race of the 2002 USAR Hooters ProCup Series Championship Series is any indication of what to expect during the playoff-type format, then the final four races to determine the Hooters ProCup Series National Champion could feature the most exciting finish in the history of the stock car series.
Clay Rogers took advantage of a timely pit stop and late cautions to hold on and win the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Naturally Fresh Dressings 250 presented by Astral Carrier Sunday afternoon at Winchester Speedway. The 21-year old driver collected his second career USAR Hooters ProCup Series win and first since 2000. Jeff Agnew finished second with Shane Huffman third. Jason Sarvis and Steve Christian completed the top-five.
"This track is extremely hard to race but boy it feels good to get a win as big as this one at a place like Winchester Speedway with all of its history," said Rogers."We pitted early and it paid off for us. We will take this win and get ready for Jennerstown Speedway in two weeks."
The day was not as good day for others entering the Championship Series, as the top-three seeds all experienced trouble in the race.
Bobby Gill, the Southern Division regular season leader, suffered mechanical problems and finished a disappointing 38th. The DNF was the Dalton, Georgia driver's first in 50 races dating back to June 3, 2000 at USA International when he finished 35th. While Gill ended his day on lap 30, Brian Ross was enjoying a solid run in the top-10, when on a restart, he was collected in a crash on the front stretch that ended his chances to defend his win at Winchester Speedway from earlier this season.
The race featured a total of 14 caution periods and two red flags - a rain delay and the incident collected Ross, Mardy Lindley, Shane Wallace, Derrick Kelley and Michael Ritch on lap 204. Lindley suffered mechanical problems on the restart and bunched up the field. Ross was able to return to the track and finish 23rd, 11 laps down.
Huffman won the Sunoco Pole Award and set a blistering pace early in the race and led the first 144 laps of the race before surrendering the lead to pit under caution on lap 145. Huffman also led at the halfway mark of the race to win the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award and the Southern Pride Lap Leader Award for leading the most laps.
"Looking back we should have pitted early when Clay and some of the other guys pitted around lap 100," Huffman said."I feel we had the best car in the race but track position is so important here and with all the late cautions we could never get a run put together at the end. We are happy to come out of here with a good run and now we get ready for Jennerstown Speedway in two weeks."
For Agnew, his thoughts were on getting a long run late in the race to challenge Rogers but the yellow was given to the field three times during the final 46 laps of the race.
"We are happy to get out of Winchester with the car in one piece and gaining points," Agnew said."Track position is so important here. I told Shane during the rain delay I thought I could get around Clay but we never got a long enough run to try. Shane and I raced hard for second and he raced me clean. My car was just too tight when we came back out after the rain."
Several other drivers enjoyed solid runs during the race, gaining valuable points. Toby Robertson finished sixth, Andrew Medlin was seventh and Stacy Puryear was eighth. Joe Gaita and Derrick Kelley completed the unofficial top-10. Kelley advanced 20 positions during the race to win the W.J. Plemons Investments Hard Charger Award.
Medlin used his solid finish to win the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award and more importantly move closer to Ross in the chase for the Rookie of Year Award and $10,000 prize.
Huffman and Agnew took advantage of their strong runs to move into the lead in the point standings with 280 each. Ross is third with 277 and Sarvis is fourth with 275. Rogers used his win to move into the top-five with 273 points.
The chase to the championship continues in two weeks when the USAR Hooters ProCup Series returns to Jennerstown Speedway for race #2 of the five-race Championship Series.
NEWS & NOTES
* A total of 44 drivers attempted to qualify for the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Naturally Fresh Dressings 250 presented by Astral Courrier. Drivers who failed to qualify were: Justin Ely, Mike Williams, Dale Evonsion and Ronnie Davidson.
* Shane Huffman equaled a mark he set last year in the Championship Series. Although he didn't get the win at Winchester Speedway, Huffman vaulted into the lead in the point standings just like he did after winning at Jennerstown Speedway last year.
* Repeat winner at Jennerstown Speedway. There are a total of five drivers who have won at the track who will be entered in two weeks. Mardy Lindley, Huffman, Bobby Gill, Stacy Puryear, and Jeff Agnew have each won at the track with Agnew the only two-time winner.
* Danny Sammons suffered damage to his primary car in practice and had to go to a back-up car for Sunday's race and finished a respectable 15th.