Rogers Picks Up $270,000 in Bonuses; Kale Takes $51,000 Home From Rookie Purse
The Hooters Pro Cup Series put the final touches on the 2006 season at the annual Awards Banquet in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Saturday night. It was a moving ceremony that paid homage to the founder of the Hooters Pro Cup Series, Robert H. Brooks, who passed away on July 15.
The 26-year-old driver picked up his second championship trophy in three seasons after an impressive season. Rogers drove his No. 44s Automotive Development Group Ford to seven wins, grabbed five poles, 15 top-5’s, 17 top-10’s and led 1481 during 2006. His stellar season was awarded with more than $400,000 in winnings.
"I wouldn’t be standing here tonight if it wasn’t for my team and my owners," said Rogers. "A lot of people are responsible for this, not just me. I’m not sure what my future holds, but I’m proud of the time I spent with this team and in the Hooters Pro Cup Series."
While Rogers took home the top prize of the evening, there were many other drivers that took home post-season awards.
Derek Kale, driver of the No. 22n Heritage Equipment Chevrolet, was crowned as the overall Miller Lite Rookie of the Year. Kale, who won the Northern Division ROTY as well, finished the season two points ahead of Dange Hanniford in the Championship Series to take home the $40,000 check from Miller Brewing. Combined with his regular-season bonuses, Kale pocketed $51,000 in rookie awards.
"The 2006 season was probably one of the best we’ve ever had on the racetrack, but it was a tough one off the racetrack," said Gene Cox, USAR President. "Mr. Brooks had a passion for this series. He wanted this series to be good for the sport of auto racing, and I’m proud of the fact that he got to see that happen.
"His long-term plan was to have four divisions and one champion crowned during the Championship Series. I don’t know how long that will take, but we’re going to work hard to make sure it happens."
Clay Rogers was the one champion on Saturday night.
"I never thought I’d be standing here," said Kale. "My team is the only reason I’m up here right now. The work they did to get my car fixed in the last race so I could get back on the track is what won this award. We’re all going to be back together next year and we’re going to be stronger."
The crowning of Rogers and Kale was a mere formality, but there were several surprise awards given out during the proceedings.
In what has become one of the most coveted awards in Pro Cup, Sam Fullone picked up the Four Champions Award, given in the memory of Alan Kulwicki, Mark Brooks, Dan Duncan and Charlie Campbell to the driver that exudes a winning spirit at all cost.
Jeff Agnew’s car owner, Eddie Asbury, was recognized as the Humanitarian of the Year for his work in McDowell County, West Virginia. Asbury works diligently with the "Toys for Tots" program, supports any Little League program and the football team in War, West Virginia. Not one to mince words, Asbury has a simple philosophy on his philanthropic efforts.
"Take care of the little ones and the old ones, and the rest of us can take care of ourselves," said Asbury.
Ken Butler III, driver of the No. 00n Aaron’s Dream Machine, picked up the SPEED51.com Most Popular Driver Award. Butler edged out over 40 drivers in the fan poll hosted by SPEED51.com.
Johnny Dangerfield, co-owner of East Coast Motorsports, picked up his second Car Owner of the Year award in the past three seasons with Clay Rogers as his driver. Rogers’ teammates also picked up their BFGoodrich Tires Pit Crew Challenge title, and Blake Bainbridge, Rogers’ crew chief, was named Crew Chief of the Year.
Benny Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Predator Performance Ford, accepted his third Northern Division title in a row. Though Gordon suffered misfortune in the Championship Series, his six-win season pushed him over the $200,000 mark in winnings for the year.
Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29s McDonald’s Ford, became the youngest divisional rookie of the year in the Southern Division.
Bayne, 15, picked up three rookie of the race awards and finished seventh in the Southern Division standings.
Though most of the night was spent recognizing last year’s accomplishments, several announcements focused on the 2007 season.
In a landmark agreement, Sears Auto Center will become the "Official Tire Supplier" and "Title Sponsor" of the Northern Division of the Hooters Pro Cup Series next year. In addition, Shane Wallace was announced as the driver of the Sears Auto Center Ford for the upcoming season.
Rogers at the Pro Cup podium (Kathy Bond Photos)
Rogers poses by his winning #44 ride before the start of the festivities.
Ken Butler, III recieves the 51 Designs Most Popular Driver Award from 51's Amy Hayes.