ROGERS PROVES HE’S THE MAN TO BEAT by Jeremy Troiano
Only Dirt Modifieds Might Be Able To Stop The #44 Team
The USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series is not the NEXTEL Cup world. Heck, it’s not the Busch Series either. But when you look at things as a whole, there are a lot of similarities between the best Short Track series in the country and the biggest form of oval track racing in the world.
some of the top teams in NASCAR. I used to drive in the Busch Series and know what it is like in that garage area. When we come in to change a spring here, they get it done and that makes the most of your practice time. That allows Blake to try things and do things that otherwise we might not have a chance to do because we don’t have the time to do it. Very seldom do we screw anything up.
“Things are just working perfect for us right now. There is noting more you can say about it really. The cars are great and they look good too. We are not putting scratches on them. I was actually nervous because we want to take that car to Bristol to test with on Wednesday and we brought it here. Thankfully, we are leaving without hardly any dents in it.”
Clay Rogers celebrates his fourth win of the year. (51 photos)
Rogers’ biggest competitor all year long has been one of those drivers with NASCAR ties. Shane Huffman, the former Pro Cup champ and current driver for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team, has been the other driver to beat this year. But lately, he’s just been another one of those drivers chasing Rogers.
“Congrats to Clay and those guys,” said Huffman, who made the pass of Michael Ritch on the last lap to grab second. “They have a good team and they are tough. We just needed to give ourselves a better shot.
“I’m just aggravated. We had an awesome car. We had the best car the second-half of the race for sure. I don’t think anyone here passed more cars than we did.”
The first half of the race belonged to Rogers, Huffman, Ritch and pole sitter Shane Wallace. All four drivers led at some point, but it was after the pit stops that Rogers really took command. After that, it was all about Rogers winning and Huffman and the rest of the field trying to catch him.
Huffman might have had the best shot to catch Rogers, but early in the run, he nearly got into the wall. The lost track position kept Huffman from making a serious shot.
“Randy Gentry made it three wide on Andrew Rogers and
Shane Huffman (#88, right bottom photo) and Rogers (#44, left bottom photo) have formed a friendship they haven't had in years past. (bottom - Kathy Bond photo)
Competition is the name of the game in both forms of racing. Just as in NEXTEL Cup, the Pro Cup Series is one of the most competitive in all of motorsports. At Hickory, the top 28 qualifiers were separated by just over three-tenths of a second.
The professionalism is there, as well as a plethora of sponsors and televised races. The comparison lines can in drawn in several areas.
The Pro Cup Series also has several NASCAR-backed teams. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has his JR Motorsports team. Michael Waltrip has a team as well, as does Doug Stringer.
But its not one of those NASCAR-backed teams that has the rest of the Pro Cup world scratching their heads; it’s a little, home-grown team that now has the Southern Division up in arms.
Clay Rogers won his second-straight and third race of the Southern Division season Saturday night in the Lowes Foods 250. It was his fourth win overall, including one which came in the Northern Division at South Boston earlier in the year.
“Our team is just working good together right now,” said Rogers, who extended his points lead over Shane Huffman win the win. “Blake Bainbridge (Clay’s crew chief) is leading us. Everyone has gelled and everyone knows how Blake wants things done.
“One of the biggest things comes down to how well and how efficiently we work together. We made a lot of changes today in practice and we made those very fast. We are right there with
I was on the outside and I went in there just a little hard and it shot straight up the racetrack. I went in there a little too hard for some low air pressures on the car. We just got up in the marbles and didn’t get in the wall. It’s just part of it.
“The adjustments were dead on. It was awesome on the bottom. If I could have had some track position, we would have been on. I just couldn’t get there. It just took too long to get there. Our car was better on long runs. It’s frustrating, but my guys do a hell of a job.”
Even with a late green-white-checkered finish, no one had a thing for Rogers, who cruised to the win and delighted the crowd with a burnout that went from the entrance of turn one all the way down the frontstretch backwards and through turns three and four.
It was the exclamation point to a “new” Clay Rogers.
“My attitude is a lot different now than it was in the years past,” said Rogers. “Blake and all of the guys in the shop have taken a huge weight off my shoulders. In 2004 and 2005, I had to make all the decisions. Bill (Boger) was always there to help me, but Bill’s main job was to run the race team. When it came time to decide what shocks or springs to run, that was on my shoulders. That is a lot of pressure to have when you are racing for a championship whether you are racing in go-karts or NEXTEL Cup. You just can’t do it. You have to have that guy to lean on. Right now, Blake is that guy.
“We won four races in 2004 and we were up front and
Once Rogers (#44) got out front, that was it.
competitive every week, but the competition level between now and then is so different. So we didn’t really have had a streak like this before. Shane (Huffman) and those guys are there every week. We just need to keep our focus and keep running and keep the points in mind every race from now on out.
“I’m just pumped about the whole thing. The owners are behind us and everyone is excited, including our sponsors and everyone. Right now, I feel that it doesn’t matter what series you put us in with the right equipment, except for maybe some dirt modifieds, that we could be competitive and have a shot at winning races."