PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: LAKELAND  by Jeremy Troiano
McFarland, Pistone, Rogers, Rogers, Garvey, Hobgood, Wallace & More
NAMES, NAMES, NAMES

Everyone knew heading into the 2005 Hooter Pro Cup Series season opener at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL that the series was on the verge of exploding.  With the demise of ASA, the only other viable all-short track racing series with prominent television coverage was the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

Before the year, the list of names interested in the series was staggering. However, no one really knew how many of those “interested parties” would actually show up to Lakeland.  Well, the numbers weren’t staggering, but the names were.
“We’ve been working on this deal for a while,” said Porter.  “I’m just glad to have something to be somewhere good.  I don’t have to worry about the ASA deal any more and get stressed out over that.  This is a major relief.  It was something we’d talked about for a little while, but it really just came together over the last month.  Heck, the shop is just 15 minutes or so from my house.”

Of course, as has been well-documented, Mike Garvey showed up to Lakeland with the same team, same hauler and even Jani-King in tow. 
Toby Porter made a return to the Pro Cup Series at Lakeland.  (51 Photos)
One of the biggest surprises to head to Pro Cup in 2005 was that of Toby Porter.  Porter, a former Truck Series, All Pro and ASA standout, had a quiet off-season and he’s named hadn’t been mentioned much. 

However, in Lakeland, Porter showed up as part of a two-car team for Titan Industrial.  Porter and teammate Gene Morgan are planning to run the entire 2005 season. 

It is Porter’s second stint in the Pro Cup Series.  Before driving the #11 Meijer car in ASA for Go Go Motorsports, Porter raced the #16 Naturally Fresh car for Haskell-Whiligham Motorsports.  Porter already has one career Pro Cup Series victory, when he won at Greenville-Pickens Speedway several years ago.
Three NASCAR Nextel Cup Series regulars had their cars in Lakeland.  Former NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Champion Mark McFarland was in Lakeland with his Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned ride.  Last year’s Snowball Derby winner and UARA Rookie of the Year Steve Wallace had his car at Lakeland, owned by father Rusty.   Michael Waltrip Racing’s #00 Aaron’s Dream Machine made its Pro Cup Series debut with driver Ken Butler III

Lanier National Speedway and NASCAR Weekly Racing Series standout Dwayne Buggay will drive the car that Jimmy Spencer Jr. ran in the Southern Division in last year, as Spencer Jr. make s move to the Northern Division full-time in 2005.
Ken Butler's #99 Aaron's "Dream Machine" is one of the Nextel Cup connections in Pro Cup.
After part-time campaigns in 2004, Billy Bigley Jr. and Randy Gentry returned to the series at Lakeland, both intending to run full-time in 2005.

Former NASCAR Truck Series driver Shane Wallace, who also spent a lot of time in the Pro Cup Series before moving to the Trucks, returned in Lakeland with a full-time, family-owned operation.

Former part-time ASAer and Late Model Stock veteran Kirk Leone now has a Pro Cup car.   Other big names, most who had already made their announcements of running with Pro Cup known, included road-race standout JP Morgan, former Southern All Star Series champion Wayne Willard, former Dash Series champion Jake Hobgood, and Tim Edwards, who took over the familiar #1 ride from Don Satterfield, who still owns the car.

WELCOME BACK, YEAH, WELCOME BACK

The opening of the 2005 season meant a new beginning for former ASA standout Mike Garvey.

Garvey qualified second and finished there as well, after leading from lap 14 until lap 124.

“It’s a riot to be back.  The lapped cars kind of scare you because you don’t know where they are going to go.  But all in all, I think everyone did a good job last night.  Everyone ran a good race and I had a blast.

“I’m real impressed with this series and I finally realized that racing in fun again.”

PISTONE IMPRESSIVE

With lots of big-name rookies with high-dollar teams entering the Pro Cup Series in 2005, there weren’t too many eyes on some of the smaller guys, those guys like 21-year-old Chase Pistone.  However, after Lakeland, there will be a lot of eyes on Pistone for the rest of the season.

Pistone shocked everyone by grabbing the pole for the event in just his first career Pro Cup race, and the first race for FastTime Motorsports.  Pistone then proceeded to lead the race’s first 13 laps before falling back into the top-five and riding.

Garvey (right) took some time on Saturday to watch other cars practice.
Garvey, who actually won the first ever Hooters Series race when they ran Late Models before switching to the current Pro Cup cars, got his first taste of Pro Cup racing and showed that he hadn’t lost a step from his ASA days, despite switching up cars.

“It was a long off season,” said Garvey, who also had Jani-King back with him on his Pro Cup car.  Jani-King just decided a short time ago that they wanted to come back as a full-time sponsor, so in the meantime, Garvey and the boys had to work on a limited budget, since the ASA points fund never saw the light of day.
“I think I shocked a lot of people by winning the pole,” said Pistone.  “I think I also built a lot of confidence in people by showing the patience to do that.  I knew deep down that I could do it and the team could do it, but I don’t think anyone else thought I could because a lot of people have never seen me race.”

The first 30 laps weren’t completely uneventful for the rookie, however.  Pistone lost the lead on lap 14 after having transmission problems off of one of the first restarts.

“The car just popped out of gear off that early restart, which is why we lost the lead.  Thankfully, I was able to turn the car down and didn’t get run over while I got the car back into gear.  But it kept popping out of gear, so
Chase Pistone is interviewed by Speed Channel after winning the pole award on Saturday.
for about 20 laps there, I was driving with one hand while holding the gear shift until we could come in and fix it.  We finally came in during one of the cautions and put a bungee cord on it, but that meant we had to stay in fourth gear the rest of the night.

“I was coming up through the field and was having some problems with a few of the lapped cars.  One of them did a four-wheel slide while I was trying to pass them and squeezed me into the outside wall coming off of turn two.  While I was trying to make those positions up that I had lost, I was getting a little impatient and got into the back of another lapped car and the officials put me at the back of the field.  It was my own fault.  It was just brain fade on my part.”

Pistone’s problems still weren’t over.  While again charging up through the field, Pistone’s car suffered a cut right-front tire, likely a result of the earlier contact with the wall.  That brought Pistone to pit road and put him a lap down.  He got back out and made up a couple of more spots before eventually coming home 14th.

“I’m disappointed because we had the Rookie of the Race award covered,” added Pistone.  “We had one of the best cars there for sure, but there were just a few too many problems we couldn’t overcome.  Everyone at the track knew we had a top-five car and to come home 14th… that is what I’m kicking myself in the butt for.

“I think people took notice of us and that is great.  I think we can do this all year long with the help of crew chief David Pletcher and the great crew we have.  It was a great showing for our new, in-house engine program as well.”

WIN KEEPING CARTER UP??

“We’ve had three top-fives in the last six races. If we can keep getting top-fives, hopefully the win will come.

“It is terrible to not have won yet.  It gets to the point to where you can’t sleep at night.  All you think about is winning.  I think if we keep the car up front, we are bound to get a win.  It is bound to happen sometime.  Better later than never I guess. “

FOR THIRD, ROGERS NOT VERY HAPPY

Most driver would be happy as all get out to earn a third-place finish in the Pro Cup Series, especially with the caliber of cars that the series is seeing now.   However, if you looked at defending champion Clay Roger’s face after the race on Saturday night, you’d thought he just got out of a car that finished in the 30s, not in third place.
Matt Carter (left) laughs with Shane Huffman (right) before the race on Saturday night.
If there is a winless driver on the Pro Cup Series right now that people are surprised still hasn’t pulled into Victory Lane yet, it would likely be Matt Carter, last year’s Rookie of the Year.

Carter showed again why people are thinking this on Saturday night, as Carter drove a clean, quiet race, en route to a solid fourth-place finish. 

“I’m still learning, and I’m not going to go out there and set the world on fire,” said Carter. “Tonight, we just took our time and stayed out of trouble.  We had an awesome pit stop.  I told my guys this fourth place is because of them.  That was just an awesome stop.
“I’m not too happy,” said Rogers after the race.  “That is what happens when you get run over by lapped cars and its the same one every week like Daniel Johnson.  Then, the exhaust was about to fall out of it after the sixth or seventh lap.   And we were having power problems too.  It wouldn’t pull a greasy string out of a cat’s rear end on the straightaway.   And the car was tight as hell.  I made the wrong call on the sway bar, track bar and the left rear shock.”

Despite the array of problems, Rogers still had one of the best cars of the night.

“The pit crew had a great stop.  I had a ton of adjustments for them to do on the stop and we actually gained a few spots on that.  I’m happy with that.   I mean, I have
Clay Rogers (right) offers some advice to Andrew Rogers before Saturday's qualifying session.
practically a whole new team this year and they stood up to the challenge and did a great job.  I’d say by midseason, we are going to be better than we have ever been before. 

“I’m not disappointed with a top three, but with as many problems as we had, I probably could have had them covered by a long shot tonight.”

IRONIC?  WALLACE MILLER LITE ROOKIE OF THE RACE

Like most racing sons, Steve Wallace is likely trying to also make a name for himself, rather than just being the son of NASCAR Nextel Cup legend Rusty Wallace.  And Wallace took a giant step to furthering himself from his dad by being the top rookie at Lakeland with his seventh place finish, winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race award, ironically, the award sponsored by his dad’s long-time Cup sponsor.
“I think we did pretty good.   I made a bunch of mistakes.  I’d like to apologize to Bobby Gill.  We had a pit road incident with him.  Then, me and Jason Sarvis got together.  I don’t’ know what his problem is.  He jacked me all up the race track.    I don’t know.   Overall though, I guess it was a good night.

“The guys in this series are really tough, so there’s something to be said for having a top-ten finish in our first race.  This was definitely a good learning experience for all of us.”

ANOTHER ROGERS MAKES GOOD RUN

Rookie Andrew Rogers was pretty nervous heading into his first career Hooters Pro Cup Series race this past weekend at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL.  However, following Lakeland, Rogers did the most that he could, and despite his 24th-place finish, left quite an impression with the rest of the series, its drivers, his fellow rookies and the fans.

Rogers’ Termidor #18 Chevrolet was quick in practice, but even quicker in qualifying.  The rookie qualified seventh among the 46 cars on hand at Lakeland, then proceeded to race inside the top-10 for much of the night, falling back no further than 15th, before falling victim to the chrome horn of another competitor.

“We finished the race and I learned an awful lot,” said Rogers.  “I hate that we tore the car up, but we learned a lot.  I learned how to pass guys, who was going to drive you clean and who was not.   I’d say the weekend started out as an eight or nine if I had to grade myself.  I actually surprised myself qualifying.  I didn’t think we’d do that well qualifying.  I made a mistake then come race time, and it was my fault that we got behind, so I’d say we were either a four or a five during the race, but we came back and responded to all of that well and got back into the top-10 before getting hit.  So I’d give the guys very high marks.”
Steve Wallace (#66) and Chase Pistone (#40) were the two best rookies on Saturday night.  (Kathy Bond Photo)
Wallace was the fastest car in Saturday’s practice sessions and ran solidly in the top-10 most of the night and as high as fourth position at one point during the event.  After overcoming a tight handling condition, pit road problems and several run-ins with competitors, Wallace was able to claw his way back to seventh.

“That was a decent run for us,” said Wallace.  “I’m a racer and I want to win, though.  I can’t really say that I’m satisfied with a seventh, because I really thought that we would have a better handling car than that. 
As the night went on though, our car just kept getting tighter and tighter.  I’ve never had a car that tight in my life. 
The race was one of ups and downs for Rogers.  Following his good qualifying run, he bounced his car off of the wall early and had to fight a tight car the rest of the evening. 

“I was following Shane Wallace and I just drove it a little too hard and pancaked the wall and knocked the toe out a little bit.  The car was really bad tight from then on everywhere.  We fell back to 15th or so.  On the long run, though, the car really picked up.  We were following Chase Pistone back up through there and I think we ended up getting up to ninth or so.  I had a really good car and it just seemed to get better the longer the run was.
Andrew Rogers made quite an impression on the Pro Cup Series Saturday.
“I got beside Jason Sarvis getting in to one. I drove it a little hard and we both washed up the track.  It was just a little bit of rubbing and part of racing.  I didn’t think it was that big of deal.  We got down to three and four and he just punted the crap out of me.  We just spun around; I was waiting for the wall.

“We got the car fixed and were 26th when we got back out there. There was a purpose to getting the car fixed and going back out there.  We were a lot of laps down, but we wanted to make up some positions and also get as many laps and gain as much experience as we could out there. 

“I did and I learned quite a bit out there.  It was a successful evening, even though we bent the car up a bit.”

SARVIS HAS EVENTFUL RETURN

“That was probably one of the wildest races I’ve been in.”
During the race, Sarvis had a couple run-ins with a couple of different rookies, including Andrew Rogers and Steve Wallace.  His contact with Rogers sent the youngster into the wall.

“There are a lot of young guys coming in this series that have a lot of money and they have a lot of pressure on them,” said Sarvis.  “Some of them drove a little crazy out there tonight.  Maybe some of them need a sit down and have a talking to.  But hey, that is beyond the point.   I can handle what I need to handle on the race track.

“The media and NASCAR makes such a big hype about 18-year-old drivers and, in their heads, they think they are ready for Nextel Cup.  If they are on the gas, I’ll give it to them.  But if they are not, I won’t.  Some of them are all over the place.  Once the tires wear down, they have no car control and they are all over the track.  They just need to calm down a little bit.”

Outside of his run in with some of the youngsters, Sarvis and his team had a bad day turn good.

“I just want to thank Haskell Willingham and the guys for sticking in there today.  Benny Gordon worked with me al day and the guys worked their tail off.  We had terrible car to start with. We worked on that thing all day and got into the top 10, and then we adjusted ourselves out of it.  We adjusted ourselves back into it and then got it running right.

“I’m glad to be back, but I’ll be even more glad when I’m parked up there on the front straightaway.”

GILL’S 11TH HAS TO WAIT
Jason Sarvis
That was the thought of Jason Sarvis when he climbed out of his ride at the end of Saturday night’s race at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL after a ninth-place finish. 

Sarvis, driver of the No. 16 Naturally Fresh Ford, is returning full-time to the Hooters Pro Cup Series this season for the first time since winning the championship in 2002.   And the former Myrtle Beach Speedway champion got to see all the newcomers up-close-and-personal during evening.  Sarvis pitted before the race, started last and finished ninth.
With 10 wins at USA International Speedway already, Bobby Gill’s 11th will have to wait for another day.

After charging from 22nd to fourth in typical Bobby Gill style, the team suffered a problem with the rear end of his car, which forced them behind the wall on lap 166.  Gill returned several laps later, but had to settle for a 22nd place finish.

“We were making out way to the front.  The car was really pretty good.  I don’t know if we could have won though or not.  But something in the rear end broke.  Oh well.”
Gill made a run to the front Saturday, but fell out with mechanical problems.
BIGLEY LUCKS OUT

Billy Bigley had a good car, not a great car, on Saturday night, and found himself running inside the top-six with just a few laps to go on Saturday night at Lakeland.  But, as the checkers fell, Bigley spun coming off of turn for towards the checkers and ended his night one-lap down, in 10th.

So how would he luck out, as the headline says?

“I ran over something on the front straightaway and it actually ripped my exhaust off my car,” said Bigley, of what happened to him on that last lap.  “The exhaust then went through my seat.  It went through the floorboard and hit me in the seat.  I’ll be alright.  It just hurts.  I’m pretty sore.   But I’m pretty lucky I guess.”

HARD WORK FALLS SHORT FOR HIOBGOOD

There may have been no harder working team in Lakeland this weekend than that of Jake Hobgood’s team.  Hobgood, who dabbled around in the Pro Cup Series in 2004, came to Lakeland with high hopes and planning to make a splash behind the wheel of his #64 machine.
qualifying, the #64 headed through tech and straight out onto the track for his qualifying attempt.

And despite the valiant effort, the team fell just short of making the field.

O’QUINN HATES TO GO OUT THAT WAY

A few weeks ago, Danny O’Quinn got the call from Roush Racing that he’ll be a part-timer with Roush in the ARCA Series in 2005, stopping his run at the Pro Cup title in 2005.

However, O’Quinn plans to remain in the HPC Series on a part-time basis during the ’05 season, but his days as a HPC Series regular are over.

His time as a part-timer started on Saturday night, but ended a little early, on lap 43, the result of an accident on the backstretch.

“People were just getting impatient and there was a lot of beating and banging,” said O’Quinn.  “There was an accident coming out of that turn.  I checked up and someone got into the back of me, spun me around and I got into that other car.  It is just a shame that we tore a new car up there. There will be days like that.  We just have to get it together and come back and get them another time.”
Jake Hobgood's #64 sits heavily damaged in this practice crash.
Unfortunately, that was all dashed in a practice crash where Hobgood was the innocent victim.

The #0 of Scott Seither spun in turn four right in front of Hobgood.  The former Dash driver locked up the brakes, but had no where to go and plowed into the side of Seither’s car.

When most teams would have packed it up, Hobgood and his crew went to work, thrashing to get the car fixed in hopes of at least making a qualifying attempt. 

Just as the final car was about to pull off of pit road for
JR MOTORSPORTS & McFARLAND IMRPESSIVE

Mark McFarland looked to be one of the best rookies in Lakeland before his motor expired while running second to Mike Garvey.

“The car was really, really good,” said McFarland, who was one of the fastest cars all day and who actually led the final practice session.  “I think we blew a motor though.  It was running pretty good though.  We were a little tight and then a little loose off.  We were about to fix it in that pit stop in the coming laps.  We just didn’t get a chance.
Mark McFarland
“I feel bad for these guys though.  They worked hard on this car getting it ready to come down here.  We tested real good and qualified real good.  It was running great in the race.”

McFarland even led some laps, making a impressive outside pass on Mike Garvey at one point in the race. 

“It gives me a good feeling knowing what kind of car we have,” added McFarland, who drives for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s JR Motorsports.  “We had a car tonight that we could have won with.  It is just a shame though.  We’ll pack everything up and be back next time.”

GENTRY READY FOR LAKELAND RETURN

Randy Gentry was a fixture in the top five all night at Lakeland.  Gentry started fifth and finished fifth, giving the second-year driver an optimistic outlook about the July race at USA Int’l.

“We tried to make a lot of adjustments on the car during the night to run with the guys up front,” said Gentry. “But when they were fueling the car, the catch can fell out and we couldn’t get the fuel to go in, so we had to come back in. It cost us some spots, but we made back up to the front. We can’t complain. Now, we’ve got a good place to start [our setup] when we come back.”