PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: PEACH STATE by Jeremy Troiano & Jayson Kaplan
McFarland, Wallace (Shane & Steve), Faulk, Hobgood, Gentry & So Much More
TWO SPINS CAN’T KEEP GENTRY DOWN
Up until lap 200 on Saturday night, Randy Gentry was having a pretty quiet night at Peach State Speedway.
Then, all hell broke loose.
Gentry spun on lap 205. He had to go to the back of the pack, only to charge back through the field. Then, just a few laps later (lap 216), he spun yet again.
was pretty simple. We got together up here. It was just hard racing. The 19 (Gentry) raced me real hard, moved me up the track and passed me. That’s cool, but then he brake-checks me halfway down the backstretch.”
Like the first spin, Gentry was able to fly back through the field, showing how good his car really was, and came home with a third-place finish.
“My car was running awful good,” added Gentry. “We got behind early cause the grill was taped off, so the car was running hot. We had to come in and take some tape off and that set us back. We fought hard. We came in with 40 to go and put some rear tires on it.
“So to spin twice and come back up to third. What more can you say? That is a great run.
“We are starting to get to go to these tracks twice. It makes difference. We are getting to know what we need. We are working hard. We want to be up there where Shane (Huffman) is at and it is going to happen.”
CLAY ROGERS LEARNS HOW TO SMILE AGAIN
Mark McFarland (#32) and Randy Gentry (#19) had a couple of run-ins at Peach State. (Kathy Bond Photo)
The first spin was a racing deal. The second spin was with a little help, which came from the night’s pole sitter Mark McFarland.
“I don’t know what McFarland was doing,” said Gentry. “I dove under him coming off of four and he came down on me. I just touched him a little bit. I was on the brakes hard. Then he runs into me and turns me coming out of turn two.
“I’ll remember it. What goes around comes around.”
McFarland liked to brush it off as a racing deal.
“We just got together,” said McFarland. “He spun out. It
On Saturday night, second-place finisher Clay Rogers was the first to admit that he was points racing.
Well, it worked, as he now sits second in the Pro Cup Southern Division standings.
The defending Pro Cup champ picked up five points for leading the most laps and five points for leading at halfway, one of the bonuses the Pro Cup Series awards.
“I wanted to get to the lead and lead a lap for the five bonus points,” said Rogers. “I thought this was going to
Rogers' #44 and Shane Huffman's #81 were the two best cars on Saturday.. (Bond Photo)
be a good points night, especially when I thought we were going to lap Shane (Huffman). He drove a smart race. We did what we had to do though because we needed bonus points.”
And with his second-place run and a good points night; a smile (that has been absent from Rogers’ face for most of the year) found its way back home.
“I guess you could say we feel like we are on to something now,” said Rogers when asked about the smile. “We had the best car here tonight, we were just on a different agenda than Shane. He is sitting out there with the points lead, so all he has to do it ride. That is a good position to be in.
“But we’ve got things working and I know it will just be a matter of time until we are back winning races and that makes you feel good.”
FAULK WHO? THE NEW ROOKIE POINTS LEADER
There are a number of drivers that have a good chance of being this year’s Pro Cup Rookie of the Year. But up until this week, not a lot of people have thought that Michael Faulk was one of them.
Well, Faulk made a statement with his fifth-place run at Peach State Speedway. The finished vaulted him into the rookie points lead over Andrew Rogers by just a couple of points.
It is a dramatic turnaround from the beginning of the year, where a few people might have thought that Faulk was in over his head.
“Everyone did a great job. This whole team gave 110% tonight. We were just four away from a win.”
It helps too that Faulk is having a good time now.
"This is a blast," added Faulk. "I am having the most fun of my racing career this season and it is still early in the year. This program is starting to come around and all of the hard work put into this new deal is starting to show these last two races. I am confident we can keep this positive momentum going and I think we will contend each week out there and win us a race or two. The big picture for me is still to win this tough battle for the Rookie of the Year and make a strong showing in the Championship Series and I have the team and ability to do that."
McFARLAND FIGHTS BACK FROM SERIES PENALTY
We’ve already documented Mark McFarland’s run in with Randy Gentry late in the going on Saturday night. Well, that run in with Gentry drew the ire of the Pro Cup officials, who penalized McFarland after the contact, sending him to the tail end of the longest line with just 25 laps to go.
It wasn’t his only action in the last few laps. As he cut his way back through the field, McFarland got into Bobby Gill on lap 240 as they both tried to miss a spinning Ken Butler. Again, he was toward the tail end of the longest line.
Michael Faulk (right) now leads the rookie points over guys like Wayne Willard (left). (51 Photo)
“We had a great run tonight,” said Faulk, who qualified a career-best fourth as well. “I will tell you what, with finishing at Greenville in 10th and being the top-finishing rookie this week and coming home fifth is amazing. (Crew chief) Mario (Gosselin) has been a big part of my early success so far. We have been learning more and more about each other and things are starting to click.
“This was one of the best nights of my life and we are progressing. It won’t be long before you will see us in Victory Lane. Mario has been the world to this team and had helped the learning curve.”
Having Gosselin, a former Pro Cup winner, around has been big.
“This kid did an awesome job tonight,” said Gosselin.
That meant McFarland, who won his second pole of the season, had a long way to go and a short time to get there. He did the best he could, but could get no better than seventh.
“I race hard and I expect to be raced hard,” said McFarland. “USAR said that if you hit front to tail, squarely, then you will be sent to the rear. I don’t know what they wanted me to do, but I learned a rule the hard way.
“Then, I had no where to go when the 99 spun. I apologize to Bobby Gill for that.
“We found out real quick at the test session that the man who took the best care of his tires would definitely
McFarland (right) won the pole for the second time in just four races. (51 Photo)
be a factor at the end. We were really good on long runs, as were a couple others, like the #81 and #22. Our pit crew did a great job and I think we had something for them. Everyone kept backing up to me towards the end of a long run.”
BOBBY GILL – QUICK AND TO THE POINT
Bobby Gill didn’t have a great car on Saturday night. But like the Bobby Gill we all know, he somehow found his way to the top-five and looked like he might be a factor.
But, his run in with Mark McFarland on the backstretch with just 10 laps to go put an end to things quickly and he tried to limp the #06 around for a decent finish. He finished 19th.
So when asked about his night, Gill had a simple response.
“Same ole’ crap. The car ain’t good in the end. We just need a better racecar, that’s all.”
PISTONE HAS BEST RUN OF 2005
They finished ninth and moved themselves right back into the thick of the Pro Cup Rookie of the Year point’s race.
“We started off real tight and burned a hole in the right-front tire in the first run and went a lap down,” said Pistone, who started the night just outside the top-10 (11th). “I thought for sure we had a top-five car, but finished ninth, so no complaints here.”
Pistone ran a quiet race on Saturday. It was nothing flashy. It was just a good, solid race with little excitement, which is what the team needed. Most of the year, the team has been very fast everywhere they’ve been, but something has always kept them from finding the top-10, be it mechanical problems or accidents.
Nothing stopped them this week.
“During our fist race this year, we learned to just keep digging when you have problems and that’s what we have done. That is something that this entire team has learned and that is something that I’ve learned as a driver. You just need to keep going and heading forward when you have some troubles, because if you do, you can make something good out of it. That is what we did tonight. We didn’t give up and we kept ourselves near the front all night long. We did that and we got a top-10 out of it. It paid off.
“We brought the car home in one piece and to have a ninth-place finish to go along with it is just great. That shows what this team is capable of and I think we can just get better and we can learn from our mistakes from here on out. This was our best finish of the year so far and now we’re building momentum. That is exactly what we needed. I’m really looking forward to the next races now. This could be really good for us.”
TALK ABOUT A BAD DAY TURNED INTO NIGHT
Steve Wallace has been fast this year. There is no doubting that. But one thing that he hasn’t done is have the finishes to prove it. It could be bad luck. It could be bad karma. But whatever it is, it is resulting in bad finishes that aren’t reminiscent of what the team is capable of.
It started early in the day when the team lost their third engine of the year just five laps into practice. The rest of the day was spent changing engines.
Pistone (#40) got his first-career Pro Cup top-10.
If you talked to Hooters Pro Cup Series rookie contender Chase Pistone during the day on Saturday at Peach State Speedway, you would have seen that he was brimming with confidence. After all, the team had a solid test at Peach State a week before and that morning’s practice had gone as well as they could have hoped. In fact, they even cut their practice short because the car was that good.
At the end of the night, after 250 grueling laps, Pistone was still pretty happy. He and the FastTime Motorsport #40 team picked up their best finish of the young season.
Come race time, after starting 12th, Wallace started working his way toward the front, until he brushed the outside wall. A few laps later, he pancaked the outside wall, which forced him to come to pit road.
Things just continued to get worse, as during the green-flag stop, Wallace left his stall before the right front tire was attached. He had to back up down pit road minus a right front while the crew replaced it. Then, he couldn’t get off pit road without a push from his crew and the help of Mark McFarland’s team.
Wallace would eventually fall six laps down. He’d make up a couple, but came home a disappointing 23rd place finish.
“We ran like crap,” said Wallace. “We’ve got to figure out what in the world is going on with these engines. I just cannot believe that we’ve had three of them fail this year. Losing the engine and not being able to have any practice time today absolutely killed us.
“The glare was so bad off of turn four you couldn’t see were you were going. I got my right front wheel up on the wall and blew the right front tire out or something. Then I came down pit road. I guess the front wheel was stuck on the car and my tire changer went to get a crow
Steve Wallace's day was full of problems, from the engine change (top, 51 photo) to the problems on pit road (bottom, Bond photo).
bar and the jack falls, so I took off. I got halfway down pit road and the right front tire falls off.
“Tonight, it was an all around team screw up. Its all part of the learning curve I guess. I messed up. The crew messed up. We just have to suck it up.
“I have never in my life have had a season like this one. I went from winning the Snowball Derby, Bristol (in UARA) and all these races and I come here and it’s been my worst start in my whole life in racing. I am not really looking forward to racing at all to be honest with you. It just seems like everything is going downhill so quick. Who knows? I don’t understand.”
WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE SEEN IT ALL
After the race at Peach State, veteran Mike Garvey was at a loss for words. That is because he came into the pits for the only round of stops in the top-five after leading some laps early.
“Then, something went wrong with the car near the end and I could barely drive it. I thought we could get our laps back. We could catch the leaders like a piece of cake. Then, something happened. It was so bad; I can’t even tell you what it is. We’ll have to look over when we get home.”
Garvey finished 18th.
In the age of PR-speak, it’s good to hear an honest answer once in a while. And Jake Hobgood gave one after winning the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award on Saturday night.
"“Your kidding, I won the hard charger award? No way," said Hobgood. "I guess there’s one benefit in qualifying bad. Well, at least we won something.
“It’s just aggravating when you have been competitive before. I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk because these guys are good. It’s just frustrating and I don’t know if it’s me or the car. We are not giving up by any means. It’s just frustrating.”
ROGERS DROPS FROM POINTS LEAD
Andrew Rogers was hoping that history would repeat itself. Earlier this year, Rogers finished second at South Georgia Motorsports Park after the team skipped the open practice at the track earlier in the week.
However, when everyone else took off and out of their pit stalls following their stops, Garvey didn’t. Why?
“A terminal broke off the battery,” said a disbelieving Garvey after the race. “That’s a parts failure, nothing more. I’ve been racing a long time and I’ve never seen that happen. Just when you think that you’ve seen it all, something new happens.
“What do you do? You just suck it up. We had an awesome car on long runs.
Well, Rogers skipped the open test at Peach State Speedway this past Monday because the car wasn’t ready. So, would just showing up to the track on Saturday for be the magic touch for the Pro Cup rookie points leader?
Rogers had a great car. In fact, on a couple of different occasions on Saturday night, Rogers passed the leaders. But when he passed them, he wasn’t taking the lead. That is because Rogers got behind early when he was involved in two separate incidents that put the team
Andrew Rogers' team works to fix the damage to his car on pit road. (Bond Photo)
behind and eventually a couple of laps down before they could show their hand.
“Going into three real early in the race, a coupe of cars stacked up and I tried to go high to get around them,” said Rogers. “The 5 car (Jason Patison) came down at the same time I went high and we wheel hoped. It didn’t really mess up the car too bad, just body stuff. But we had to come in and pull some body work away, but we were in the back.
“Then there was another caution. All the cars just stopped like they do there on I-85 to look at the wreck and I just ran into the back of a couple of them. I had to come in again and pull some more stuff off the front of the racecar. So I kept coming out last and in the back of the pack. We finally got her running and the car was decent.”
So with Rogers being so far behind the leaders each time, he eventually couldn’t keep the car from going a lap down. Then, the team decided to take a chance.
“We tried to chance it and stay out when everyone else came into pit and got back on the tail end of the lead lap,” said Rogers. “Then there was a 40-lap green flag run. I was doing anything I could to keep the car under me. I don’t know how I didn’t lose it. Around lap 135, we finally had to come in and get tires under green. We lost two laps down on the track and a couple more in the pits under green.
“We went back out and charged back up through the field. I think we would have had one of the cars to beat had we kept it together to start the race out. We made up two laps by passing the leaders under green.
“Once we had fresh tires, it was easy to pass those leaders. When I got to Shane (Huffman) and Clay (Rogers), I just figured we needed more sponsor TV time. I was passing the lead lap cars on the outside. We had an awesome car. I just hate it we didn’t have the finish we should have.”
NO GOOD DREAMS FOR WILLARD AT HOME
much air pressure in the tires. “Then, come race time, I got into a little skirmish when the caution came out. I was on the outside of the 84 (Jody Lavender) and he came up a little bit. It was kind of like a give-and-take thing. I got into the wall and messed up the front alignment and after that we were done.
“Overall it was a good point day for us, and we still have to look at the big picture. Winning "Rookie of the Year" was our goal from the beginning, and it still is. We are building on this program and trying to get better each week. We are over coming some of these set backs but at least we did finish.”
FROM ONE LAP DOWN TO TOP-FIVE
Jay Fogleman was consistent and persistent on Saturday night. The veteran Pro Cup driver came from a lap down and one point, made it up on the track, and finished fourth.
“We came in on the lead lap and dropped the jack and the tire wasn’t on and we lost a lap in the pits,” said Fogleman. “I used up every bit of that racecar to get a lap back. We were just fortunate that this car was good enough that I could get a lap back.
Aaron’s, who sponsored this weekend’s event at Peach State, has a “dream” slogan. It was perfect, because this could have been a “dream” weekend for homestate driver, Wayne Willard, who calls Peach State his home track.
In fact, Willard tested at the track more than six times since the start of the season. But while the weekend started like a dream weekend, it didn’t end that way for Willard.
“We messed up in qualifying and that was our fault,” said Willard, who was the fastest car in practice during the day, but qualified a disappointing 15th as a result of too
“Then we came back in and I let the air pressures down quick and got the car a little out of balance and it was loose after that.
“It was a good run. The main thing is being competitive and putting ourselves in positions to win races and it will come. As long as I can stay competitive, I will stay here for a while.
“Next is Concord. A lot of people hate Concord. I am looking forward to going there and after Concord its Ace Speedway, a track I know very well.”
A TALE OF TWO HALVES
Jay Fogleman (left) talks with Jason Patison (right) at Peach State.
On the surface, Matt Carter, finished in sixth position, narrowly missing his third top-five finish of the season. In reality, Carter looked to have a car capable of winning in the first half of the event, but one that fell off big time during the second half.
In fact, near the 100-lap mark, Carter was nearly two-tenths a second quicker than the rest of the field.
”At the start of the race, we were trying to save the tires,” said Carter. “Normally here, there are a lot of cautions to start a race. So I took it easy on tires. At the end of that run, we were flying. It was a great car. We came into the pits second and made a little adjustment. We wanted to tighten the car up for the second half of the race.
“We were going to do the same thing for the second half of the race. We were going to just save our tires. Then, all of a sudden, it got bad, bad loose. I think something with a shock might have happened. The car was just too good. And with the adjustment we made, that shouldn’t have happened.”
Later, Carter found out it was a spring problem.
“It is almost a good thing to be disappointed about a sixth place finish. That just means a top-10 isn’t quite good enough anymore.”
EARLY LEADER WALLACE USES HIS STUFF UP
it back to sixth place before our first pit stop,” said Wallace. “The guys got me out and I just hustled a little bit too hard and hoped it would go green the rest of the way.
“The last two cautions just made the car way to free. Besides that, we led a couple laps and earned five bonus points. We are the only car this year to finish every lap. We are doing well and it’s been a good season so far. We head to Concord next week, my home track, and I am looking to win this one.”
BUTLER GETTING BETTER AND BETTER
To start the year, Ken Butler III was drawing the ire of several of the top stars in the Pro Cup ranks. Was the kid ready? Was he making too many mistakes? They all wondered.
Fact is, Butler hasn’t had much experience in Pro Cup style cars" after jumping from the Aaron’s Pro Challenge Series to the Hooters Pro Cup Series this year, minus a little stint in ASA to end 2005.
Shane Wallace’s Peach State Speedway finish will show up in the record books as eighth. But he really had a much better car than that. In fact, he led a total of 69 laps, more than anyone other than Clay Rogers, and looked to have the car to beat.
However, he might have just used all of his stuff up before the end of the race.
“Well our race didn’t start out so good, we got spun out on lap-30 and I charged back through the field and made
But the Michael Waltrip Racing driver is making steady gains and it is showing, especially at Peach State Speedway, where Butler picked up his best finish of the season by coming home 13th.
"I kind of skipped a grade by moving up to the Hooters Pro Cup Series, but I think my comfort level is better now," said Butler. "I’ve learned so much by following the fast cars. Johnny Allen [Crew Chief] has preached that to me, and he’s the reason I’m getting better.
“My biggest thing in getting better has had been seat time and getting used to this car. The more laps I am
able to make, the more I am able to learn from people. I am learning something new every day and I learned a lot tonight. The more laps I run the more I am learning from other drivers and I am looking to going to Concord and running well again.”
FORMER CHAMP SARVIS FRUSTRATED
A lot of people including, Jason Sarvis himself, expected some big things out of the 2005 year when he partnered back up with Haskil-Willingham Motorsports.
However, that hasn’t quite been the case. After a 12th-palce finish in Peach State, he sits just 15th in the overall point standings.
“It’s been a tough season so far and it’s not from lack of effort,” said Sarvis, the 2002 Pro Cup Champion. “We just can not seem to get our car to were it needs to be. We just keep having problems that are biting us and it almost like we are not learning from our mistakes.
“All I can say at this point we are just not getting it done. We have just not been able to figure this car out so far this year. I am looking forward to Concord but who knows what is going to happen.”
Wayne Willard (#01) got together with Jody Lavender (#84) on Saturday. (51 Photo)