ROGERS, HUFFMAN LEAD ROOKIES INTO PRO CUP CONCORD TEST by Jeremy Troiano
Plenty Of First-Timers Take Advantage of Open Test
Testing is always a good thing. Testing at a track you’ve never been to before is an even better thing. Testing at one of the toughest Short Tracks around is invaluable.
That is why so many drivers, including several rookies and first-timers, took part in an open test session at Concord Motorsport Park (NC) on Monday to get ready for this weekend’s Pro Cup Southern Division race at the tricky half-mile.
Concord is one of “those” tracks. It is a track everyone’s heard of, but unless they’ve seen it, they can’t get the full idea of what it is like. It is a half-mile, tri-oval. There are three turns. The second turn is actually a “dogleg” in the middle of the backstretch. Think of it as a half-mile version of Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.
It is a track that some love, some hate, scares others and everyone respects.
So that is why so many “first timers” showed up on Monday.
Clay Rogers was at the test with a car that looked like it was ready for testing. (51 Photos)
The Monday tests have become a regular among the Pro Cup cars this year. And at Concord, just as many drivers took part. In the morning, Shane Huffman, Michael Faulk and Toby Porter all spent time on the track, while things got much busier in the afternoon, as Mark McFarland, Shane Wallace, Ken Buttler III, Jay Fogleman, Kirk Leone, Daniel Johnson, George Brunnhoelzl III and Clay Rogers all tested.
Along with those on the track, there were plenty of interested observers at Concord as well. Some were other Pro Cup drivers. Some were drivers from other series and other parts of the country.
“It is the most different track I’ve ever been on,” said Leone, a rookie contender with the Southern Division this year. “This is by far one of the weirdest short tracks around. There have been a lot of big names come out of this place and I can see why now. This is a driver’s track. This is an awesome place, but we’ve got our work cut out for us, that is for sure.”
Leone was only able to be at the track for a little over an hour, but that seat time was priceless.
“It was very important to come here because I’ve heard all about this place, I’ve just not been able to race here. We just wanted to get some seat time out here. This
Kirk Leone got his first taste of Concord on Monday.
was the best hour I’ve gotten behind the wheel of a car in a while. We were hoping to get here earlier, but we had a lot of work to do on the car from running Peach State (Saturday). I think if I can get a full day here, we’ll be pretty good.
“This hour that we got will have me something to think about when we come back Saturday. The most I’ve learned so far is to not get too hard in turn three. It is so easy to drive it in hard because you are coming across that tri-oval so fast and you are carrying so much speed into the corner that you just want to keep on driving. I just got to try not to drive it in there too deep. That will help us most.”
bolted on one set of stickers and we were pretty good. We’ll be able to change a bunch of stuff when we come back and see where we are at.”
One of the most improved drivers from Lakeland until now during the Pro Cup hear has been that of rookie Ken Butler. Butler will admit that he had his share of problems, but with more and more seat time, has gotten better.
He’s been to Concord before, when he tested an ASA car at the track last year. But as everyone else agrees, the more seat time the better.
“These (Pro Cup) cars are a lot harder to steer,” said Butler. “They are heavier and more powerful than the ASA car. We were actually slower in the ASA car then we were in this car, which was a little surprising. You could think an ASA car would be faster. But maybe I’m just getting better. I am still working on this track. It is a different track than what I’m used to.
“These tests are big. You can take all these laps and then you can have some days to think about it. Every time we’ve tested, we’ve gotten better come race day.”
If you've never seen it before, Concord is a weird track. (Track Photo)
Mark McFarland, despite his vast racing experience, drove onto the Concord track for the first time ever on Monday as well.
“I’ve never been here, but some of my guys have been here before,” said McFarland, who drives for JR Motorsports. “This test helped a lot. I was a little worried about this place from hearing people talk about it. We got the opportunity to come, so we came here to pretty much just get me dialed in. The car is actually pretty close I think.
“It is a different place. It took me a lot of getting used to. It took a while to get used to it more than any other track I’ve been too. I think we’ve got pretty good. W e
But there wasn’t just rookies out there testing. There were plenty of guys that have plenty of laps around the Concord track testing too; namely, Clay Rogers.
Rogers, who was a regular at Concord in Late Model Stocks for several years, was testing too. Clay, along with younger brother Brad, who was also a regular at Concord, were both in attendance on Monday, but Brad was just there helping out older brother.
“We just wanted to test this car more than anything,” said Clay of his test. “This is the car we were leading the race with at Valdosta (South Georgia Motorsports Park) before we blew a right front tire and hit the wall. It is a standard snout car. I ran a drop snout car here last year, but you got to keep trying to get better and I feel like there is something here.”
Shane Huffman (right) was an interested observer on what kinds of times the guys were running in the afternoon.
The test wasn’t very long for Clay, who along with his team, had spent most of the day on Sunday and all of Sunday night working to get the car ready. They reclipped it and had to put an entire new body on the car, among other various fixes.
“This car was hurt pretty bad, so we are testing it in bare metal here today. It is going to the paint shop in the morning. I didn’t send the steering box off to get rebuilt after that wreck in Valdosta and that is why we are going home
“We ran in the 90s right off the trailer. So I’m pretty happy with that. The fastest I think anyone has run is a (16.)66.
“You can never have too much practice though. We are on a different tire than last year too. So we wanted to get that figured out. We just wanted to make sure there were no surprises there. I also feel like it is going to be a little better tire. It is a little more stable through the dogleg than it felt last year. Maybe it is just this car. That is why I brought this car. I thought it would be more stable and not as twitch as the other car. Look like it might be that way.”
fast, turning one of the best times in the afternoon, along with McFarland.
The Pro Cup cars will race on Saturday at Concord. Speed51.com will be there and have a full recap of everything that goes on.
George Brunnhoelzl works on his engine at the test. He was fast, but had engine problems during the day.
It wasn’t just drivers on the track though on Monday. There were racers at the track too. Along with Brad Rogers, rookie contender Andrew Rogers (no relation to Clay or Brad) was also at the track, working with and observing Clay. Also walking around in the afternoon was Huffman, who tested in the morning, but just watched the afternoon session.
Also seen around the pits was veteran NASCAR Whelen Modified driver Donny Lia. Lia was in Charlotte and came to the track to get a feel for what the USAR Pro Cup Series is all about.
There were no official times kept, but the consensus seemed to be that Huffman turned the quickest time of the day in the morning session. Brunnhoelzl was also