PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: GREENVILLE by Jeremy Troiano, Matthew Dillner & Jayson Kaplan
Huffman, Rogers, Rogers, Faulk, McFarland, Wallace & Much More
POINTS TIGHTEN UP AS HUFFMAN GOES OUT EARLY
Mike Garvey’s win, along with Toby Porter’s third-place finish vaulted them up in the Pro Cup Series points standings. Now, Garvey sits just three points behind leader Shane Huffman, with Porter just eight points behind Huffman.
That is all thanks to Huffman’s disappointing 25th-palce finish on Saturday night in Greenville after his engine let go on lap 118. It was a far cry from the results of the first two events, each of which Huffman won in dominating fashion.
However, the tight pit road is part of the reason Huffman is not a big fan of Greenville.
“The fans here at Greenville-Pickens are awesome. Where else can you get 12,000 people on an average Saturday night, especially for a Pro Cup race? As a track to race at for Pro Cup though; I feel it is not for us. Pit road is way too dangerous and the track is way too small and tight, but USAR makes the schedule and we have to follow it.”
SCARY WRECK LEAVES WALLACE STEAMED AT LAPPED CAR
Sometimes, lapped cars are just scary. Especially when it comes to a tight track like Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
The lapped car of Mark Whitaker drew the ire of Pro Cup officials and rookie contender Steve Wallace on Saturday night… and rightfully so.
Whitaker had received the black flag from Pro Cup officials for not yielding to lead lapped cars and allowing them to pass on the inside when lapped cars are to stay low and allow lead laps cars to pass on the outside.
Irony??? Huffman won the Engine Builder of the Race award during prerace intros. (Kathy Bond Photo)
“We had a descent car tonight,” said Huffman. “The car was way too free at the start of the race. When the track got slicker, that’s what I like and we were making our move through the field when the motor messed up. I can count on one hand the times I’ve had an engine problem in the last four years. That’s just racing.”
Huffman proved what kind of a class act he was after his engine expired. The caution brought out by his misfortunes was the one that brought all of the leaders into the pits for their one and only stop. With a very tight Greenville-Pickens pit road, Huffman coasted his car onto pit road and parked it by an opening right beside the wall that separates the pits and the race track. That way, Huffman’s car was not sitting in its proper pit stall and wouldn’t make it difficult for those pitting in-front and behind him to get into their stalls.
Finally, as Whitaker was about to receive the black and white flag (which signifies his scorecard was being pulled), he made a sudden move to the left to get to pit road. Unfortunately, there were a few cars below him, one of which was Wallace.
Wallace’s car climbed up onto the side of Whitaker’s car and the two cars slid toward the inside wall. With Wallace’s car literally sitting on top of Whitaker’s car, there was some thought Wallace might go over the pit wall. Luckily that was not the case, but both drivers were finished for the night.
Wallace got out of his car and stormed over to Whitaker
Steve Wallace's #66 nearly flips as it climbs the site of Mark Whitaker's #3. (Bond Photo)
and voiced his displeasure. After Whitaker got out of his car,
“I think the #3 car (Whitaker) is a complete idiot,” said Wallace, who was poised to possibly take over the rookie points lead after Andrew Rogers and Wallace got together earlier. “I need to spend some money and buy him radios.
”We had a really good car and we were just sitting there riding along on cruise control. Then the idiot, his scorecard must have got pulled. He was about six-laps down. He freakin runs on the outside for 20-laps and all of the sudden when we get underneath him he decided to turn left. He sent me basically on my lid but not quite. I almost ended up on pit road.
that they pulled it three laps before the wreck. I don't think that's true. On the scanner they were saying get the 3 car down and we were trying to get down. We were just getting freight-trained and couldn't get down there. I maybe shouldn't have been up there in the first place, but that is my mistake. A little bit of patience might have paid off there.
“I really don't know what happened. Hopefully on TV it will show what happened. It happened really quick. I do know that I got hit in the back and spun around. It was probably my fault though because of where I was. Somebody is behind you, you just can't run over them. I'm sure he didn't mean to. But maybe it's one of those racing things people talk about. I was coming down to get out of the way and he was coming down to get around and we collided.”
As for what Wallace said to him after the accident.
“It was a lot of emotions. If I am wrong I am not going to argue about it. I have to get better. I'm not 100-percent sure that it is entirely 100-percent my fault. I don't know. I'm sure I will catch all the flack about it because I am the little guy.”
INSIDE WALL GETS GILL TWICE
There isn’t many times you hear about how tough the inside wall can be, but the way Greenville Pickens Speedway is setup, running along the inside wall in the corners is essential.
Bobby Gill became good friends with the inside wall on Saturday. And that might have cost him a shot at the win and why he settled for second place.
Both cars had serious damage, although Whitaker's (bottom) looked much worse for wear. (51 Photos)
“I closed my eyes and I said 'Bristol, Bristol, Bristol' all over again. I closed my eyes and took my hands off the wheel and I just held on. I saw that telephone pole and I thought I was going to KO that pole. I just shut my eyes. I thought I was over.
“We destroyed the car, spent about 50-grand, ripped the oil pan out, destroyed the motor, destroyed the front clip. Not only did he destroy our car, but had it gotten over the pit wall and into the pits, which it almost did, we’d all be looking at a really horrible scenario right now.”
As for what kinda words Wallace had for Whitaker when he got out of the car…
“I told him I was gonna beat his ass. I told him he was an idiot that's what I told him. Basically he's a tooth doctor trying to be a racecar driver. He's got a little bit of money so he bought him a racecar and tries to race and ends up wrecking everybody.”
As for Whitaker, he wasn’t quite sure what happened.
“I didn't see a whole lot,” said Whitaker. “I never saw a black flag. My scorer told me that they took the scorecard after the wreck. I was told by other people
“(Toby) checked out early,” said Gill. “He used his stuff up a lot more than I did. We were racing each other and Garvey came sneaking up on us there. Garvey got up there a couple of times on the outside. When Toby really got bad loose, I hit the inside wall and bent the left-front wheel and it knocked me up. Then Garvey got underneath me. All we could do from that point was get Toby and finish second.
“If I didn't run into the inside wall coming off of there we would have been good. Today in practice I hit it with the door. You see, you have to get down there to get a good
Gill (#06) liked to race right against the inside wall.
run off of turn two. The track de-cambers on you and the car really rolls over on the right rear and gets loose.”
But the second place run was good for Gill, who now sits fourth in the points.
“Hell, this is the beginning of the year. We've got a long way to go.
“It used to be the driver that could do the deal. It's now all about who has the best racecar each night. It's not all about the driver no more. We had a good points night so we'll go from there.”
RISKY GORDON BRINGS CAR TO GREENVILLE
Defending Northern Division champion Benny Gordon made a risky move on Saturday by bringing his new and only car to Greenville-Pickens Speedway to an out-of-division race just seven days before the start of the Northern Division season. With prior experience on the track and lots of success there, Gordon and his team thought they had a good shot at winning. However, problems plagued the team and they parked the car early.
ANOTHER HO-HUM RUN FOR CLAY ROGERS
Defending Pro Cup National Champion Clay Rogers has had good cars this year, but has just not been “right there” as of yet. It didn’t change on Saturday night, as Rogers had a solid run and came home eighth.
“We had something go bad and give up on the car with the suspension or a shock go bad or something,” said Rogers. “We had a good car at the beginning. Heck, we weren't that bad but didn't have anything for Toby. We were a couple of adjustments away from being a second-place car and all the sudden the car just went evil. In a lap and a half, it went from being alright to the point where I don't think I turned left the last 50-laps. (Shane) Huffman fell out and (Mark) McFarland had trouble. so it was a good points night for us.”
Benny Gordon (#66) leads a pack of cars in practice.
Thankfully, the car came home in one piece.
“The car started coming to,” said Gordon. “I though we were on after that. Then, something happened with the right front. Something was wrong with the shock or something. We fixed it and went back out to test and see if we knew what the problem was or what. It didn’t do any good. So we came in and parked it. We didn’t need to tear anything up when we need to be in South Boston in a couple of days anyway.
“We think we know what we did and where we at.
“I’ve run this track a bunch and I’ve won here before. We wanted to win this race. Thought it would be a good race to run to get us ready for our first race. We probably took a chance by coming here, but we came out of here without a dent on the car and we figured out some stuff, so I think we’ll be as good as we can be over at South Boston.”
Clay did have a little run in with fellow competitor Benny Gordon on pit road though. The two were pitted beside each other and during the round of pit stops, Gordon got into his pits and blocked Rogers in.
“Everybody down in that bend talked about what we can all do to not jam up down there,” said Rogers, talking of the curve in Greenville’s pit road. “I stopped way short. Benny isn't down here racing for points, he's just down here to run. He blocked us in real bad.
“Once we gave him some pressure after that on the racetrack, he gave us the spot so I do have to tip my hat to that. It is frustrating getting blocked in the pits but at least he didn't make it too hard for us on the racetrack.”
Gordon said it was nothing intentional.
“He wasn't too happy. I wasn't too happy with him after that either.
It's tight and he knew we were gonna block him in and he came up to me (on the track) after that and was all mad. It's tight in here. That's all there is to it. He could have positioned himself better. There's a car in front of us and a car behind us and nowhere else to get in. If he wants to be mad he needs to be mad at the series for not getting us bigger pit roads.
“It was nothing intentional. I just did what I had to do.”
PIT STOPS CAN WIN RACES… JUST ASK CARTER
Matt Carter finished fourth on Saturday night, another quiet top-five run for the second year driver, but all he could talk about after the race was his team’s pit stop.
Carter was mired back in traffic early in the race, not getting much higher than 12th or 13th during the night.
needed to be on TV. I’ve never seen anything like that in this series—that stop was fast.
“We got there up front and had a clean track to run on. We didn’t have anything for the top two or three cars, but we had a good car. This is a track position track. To come out of here with a top-five finish without coming here to test. That is awesome. I can walk out of here with our heads up.”
ANOTHER STRONG RUN FOR GENTRY
Randy Gentry is becoming one of the quiet killers in the Pro Cup Series. Gentry nearly got his first win in the series at Valdosta (GA) and was right near the front all night long in Greenville. He finished fifth despite coming into the pits with less than 50-to-go and coming from the back of the pack.
“We were just extremely loose came in and made a bunch of adjustments with 40-laps to go. So I radioed in to my crew chief we came in and put the right rear on the right front. I think that everyone had just slowed down so much and I just had that little bit of extra traction from the tires that I was able to pass cars.”
However, then came the only round of stops.
“We had a good car, but we were back there stuck around 13th or 14th. This place is so tight that once you get stuck back there with the lapped cars and there are so many around you, you can’t make up very much ground.
“We came in and had a stop. Let me tell you, that was the best stop I’ve ever seen in this series. We went from 13th to second with a four-tire stop. That was the best pit stop I’ve ever seen in Hooters Did you see that? That
Gentry also got through problems during the day.
“We had transmission line leak a little fluid on the headers during practice causing a bunch of smoke. So when I saw that I just shut the car down and brought in the pits. We put a plug on it fixed it and got back out with out any problems.
“I always want to do better, but after what went through today pitting and going to the rear than pitting again and going back to the rear, I will take fifth. We have been able to take home two top-five finishes this year and had a win go out the window, so its been a pretty good start for year. We just need a couple of wins and keep running consistent.
Randy Gentry ran into problems during the practice at Greenville, but overcame them well.
“Our goal is to keep everyone in check and keep digging. Even though at times we might look like we are having a bad night, we are talking as a team and working as a team and getting everything done that we need to get done to get the finishes we need.”
Gentry is now eight in the points, less than 50 back of the leader.
ROGERS GETS TAKEN OUT BY WALLACE
Andrew Rogers was hoping to make a statement on Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens Speedway to show everyone that his second-place run in the last USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series race was no fluke. It looked like Rogers might be able to make that statement until a run in with fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Steve Wallace sent his night on a downward spiral that eventually led to a 28th-place finish.
“I think we had a car capable of a top-five, but stuff happens,” said the 19-year-old Rogers. “So we’ll just come back and get them some other time.”
That stuff was typical short track racing, with plenty of beating and banging. However, a little too much banging from Wallace left Rogers a little steamed.
Despite the 28th-palce run, Rogers continues to lead the Pro Cup Series Rookie of the Year standings.
“Steve ended up wrecking before we fell out, so I don’t think we had a terrible points night as far as the rookie points. Overall, I’m pretty sure we dropped a little bit. There are still 10 races left, so we’ll be alright.”
Rogers fell to 11th in the points, but still leads the Rookie of the Year standings.
WILLARD FINALLY FINISHES A RACE
No one will doubt what kind of racer that Wayne Willard is. He’s one of the best out there. But sometimes, luck doesn’t really take into account what kind of racer that you are. Willard know that this year.
“I got into (Billy) Bigley there at one point and he got me back. I don’t know what he thinks, but I think he and I are pretty square. We were just battling back and forth. It was just typical short track stuff.
“The, I don’t know, but I got behind Steve Wallace. You never want to be back around him anyway. He is a maniac. I followed him for about four laps. He would wash up and then cut back down, like he was trying to diamond the corner. I finally stuck my nose underneath him. I was right against the inside wall.
“He came back across the front of my car and got himself loose. Then, going into the next corner, he just dumped me and turned us around. After that, I don’t know if trash got up in the radiator or we bent the nose in real bad or what, but the car kept getting hotter and hotter. We finally had terminal engine problems. I don’t know if we blew the engine or not, but I saw the warning signs and I just decided to come in.”
So far, Willard has fell out of both races he’s entered early. However, at Greenville, he made it to the finish and came home with a beat up car, but a 13th-place finish.
“All of that damage happened early. This place is so tight and the corners are so slow, but at least we finished. That is a plus.”
“We joked around after qualifying. We qualified fourth at Lakeland and fell out early. We qualified 15th at Valdosta and fell out, but we made more laps. We qualified 23rd here, so we thought maybe we’d even make it to the finish. We did. It seems the further back I qualify, the more laps I complete.
Randy Gentry ran into problems during the practice at Greenville, but overcame them well.
“So at Peach State, I’m looking for a provisional so at the end of the race, we’ll be in the top 10.”
LOOK UP BAD LUCK, SEE BRUNNHOELZL
Yes, yes, bad luck seems to follow a lot of racers. But George Brunnhoelzl III will tell anyone that it seems to follow him more than anyone.
Brunnhoelzl spent almost all of the night running in fifth- or sixth-place at Greenville before he fell off the pace and out of the event with less than 25-laps to go on Saturday night.
He finished 22nd.
“Yeah, we had a good run going on tonight, but the car started acting up. It seemed like it was something with the driveline, tranny or rear end, making the car real free; almost like something was braking on the rear end.
“The car up until that point was descent. We had a top-five car out there. It is just a tough night. I hate it for the guys and my sponsors. The bad luck just seems to find us lately, but hopefully it will change soon and when it does we will be in victory lane.”
FAULK FINALLY SHOWS HIS POTENTIAL
Dluzniewski served as crew chief during Faulk’s first top-10 finish. “Duze” is a former Bobby Gill crew chief and one of the most notable guys in the Pro Cup garage area.
BIG IMPROVEMENT FOR LAVENDER
Jody Lavender has had a string of bad luck dating back to the start of the 2004 Championship Series. Saturday night, Lavender notched his best finish in seven races with a ninth-place showing.
"These are the kind of runs I think this team is capable of," said Lavender. "We ran up towards of the top five in the first half. But for some reason in the second half, we weren’t as good, and I was just holding on. With the luck we’ve had, I’ll take ninth, and it gives us something to build on.
“We had a good run going we moved up pretty good through the pack early in the race. My guys gave me a good pit stop unfortunately something happened to the car causing me to back peddle. We wound up with a top-10 finish out of it. It has been a rough season so far for us but we can build off this top-10 finish and move on to Peach State and hope things will get better for us from there.”
McFARLAND LOSES POWER AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
To say that Michael Faulk’s rookie year hasn’t quite gotten off to the start he envisioned would be a healthy understatement. The first race of the year ended with a DNF after an early engine problem and South Georgia ended with a lackluster performance.
So Faulk was in dire need of a good run and he got it. It didn’t come easy though, as Fault started from the very rear of the field.
“The car was good and took a while to come in,” said Faulk. “On pit road though, to come in 15th and go out 7th and have a problem with the left-rear tire...that impressed me a lot. We had David Reutimann's crew helping us tonight.
“We had a good night. We needed this. To get the highest finishing rookie and the hard charger award felt really good and took a big load of my shoulders.
In addition to having help from the Reutimann’s crew, Steve "Duze"
For Mark McFarland, Saturday night’s running of the BFGoodrich Tires 250 at Greenville was like a recurring nightmare from which he couldn’t awake. Just like the first two races, McFarland was fast, but this time, battery problems plagued the former NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Champion and the team toughed out a 15th-place finish.
"It looks like the alternator went bad,” said McFarland. “We found a dead battery during practice and didn’t think anything of it until the second one started dying in the race," says McFarland. "Too little, too late then, and we just had to nurse it home. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating to run with the leaders, but three laps down, after we fixed it."
Mark McFarland was ready to go before Greenville.
The race started smoothly for McFarland, however, around Lap 40 the second battery of the day began to go and the team lost three laps due to the unscheduled pit stop. With a fresh power cell McFarland was able to run up front with the leaders, eventually passing then-leader, Toby Porter, to get a lap back, but Porter was able to power back around several laps later.
"The car was awesome, the best it had been yet at this track. We just need a good, solid top-5 right now to get us on track. Some of my better tracks are coming up" sounded McFarland.
FOGLEMAN AND BIGLEY HAVE SOLID NIGHTS
Jay Fogelman and Billy Bigley had quiet nights, finishing sixth and seventh respectively, and both were able to make up some ground in the point standings.
cars hurt us a little bit, which kind of held us up. I had to play a little bumper tag with a couple of cars.
“It wasn’t the best of times, it wasn’t the worst of times. We started around 26th and finished seventh. Finishing with a top-10 which helps us in the overall picture.”
SPENCER’S TEST SESSION DOESN’T WORK OUT SO WELL
Jimmy Spencer Jr. is running in the entire Northern Division in 2005. So coming to Greenville was more of a test session to make sure the team was ready for the Northern opener at South Boston.
“It is a good night for being off,” said Fogleman. “We just have to get this stuff figured out. I have good people working with me trying to get it all figured out. The car was a little bit on the tight side or a little bit on the loose side and we have not been able so far to find that balance yet. The new BFGoodrich tires have also thrown me for a loop which are a little different than last years tires. I feel I will figure it all out and in the meantime, if we can keep hanging out here in the points until I can figure this out, we will be in good shape.”
“It was rough and crazy out their tonight,” said Bigley. “We had a good racecar. We started a little too far back than I would have liked to, but the thing about it is lapped
Jay Fogleman's #4
They might have to work harder. The team missed the race.
“We were coming down here to Greenville, even though it's a South race, to get ready for the Northern opener at South Boston,” said Spencer Jr. “We’re trying to get adjusted to things with the new team. These guys busted their butts today so it's hard to describe how disappointing it is to miss the race because of that. But then again, it's a South race and it doesn't really matter. We'll be back at South Boston and they'll know it.
“We came down here and tested and were able to hang with (Toby) Porter and all of them. We have had problems today with the engine.
All the work Spencer and his team did on the car didn't pay off in the end.
INTERESTED OBSERVER IN GREENVILLE: TEDDY MUSGRAVE JR
With nothing to do last weekend, Ted Musgrave Jr. made the short trip from Concord, NC to Greenville, SC to watch the Pro Cup race.
“I’m just hanging out, helping David Pletcher,” said Musgrave. “I don't have anywhere to race this weekend. I was going to run Birmingham (AL, Southern All Stars race) but didn't have the tire money so I figured I would come down here. I'm going to be a tire changer.
“I would like to get a ride in this series but it seems every seat is filled up over here.”