Rain Works For Clay Rogers at Peachstate by Elgin Traylor
Veteran Driver Wins 1st Pro Cup Race Of 2007
Clay Rogers burned down his BFG tires on Sunday afternoon at Peachstate Speedway. (Kathy Bond photos)
Last week, Clay Rogers tried to race in two places on the same day. Mother Nature had other ideas and Rogers was rained on in Mansfield, Ohio, forcing him to miss the Pro Cup event in Madison, Wisconsin. This week, the rain helped Rogers out by holding off till after qualifying before moving the Aaron’s 199 to Sunday at Peachstate Speedway.
With all the rain behind him, Rogers took the lead after the final set of pit stops and held off Michael Ritch to score his first Pro Cup win of 2007.
“If it had rained, we would have gone home with a race car that was capable of winning the race,” said Rogers. “It seams like everywhere I go, the rain follows. But this was a great win for this team. All the guys live around here, so it’s like a home race for all of us.”
Rogers timed in ninth fastest as every one of the cars that made it in on time broke the track record with rookie Dusty Williams winning the pole award.
Then, the rains came. Had the rains come before or during qualifying, the series would have fell back onto points and Rogers would have been sent home, considering this year, Rogers has been running in the Northern Division.
After 18 hours of waiting, Williams finally got to lead the field down on Sunday afternoon for the green flag.
Bobby Gill moved from his fourth-place starting spot to take the lead on the second lap. He looked to have the best car until it was clear the Ritch was the fastest car on the racetrack. Ritch started on the rear after un-approved adjustments were made to his car, but it didn’t slow him down as he cracked the top 10 by the 28th lap.
By lap 50, Ritch had moved to second, hoping to run down Gill. A caution on lap 56 brought several cars down pit road for fuel, including Ritch and Rogers.
Leader Gill chose not to pit, a decision that may have cost him the race. On lap 108, while trying to lap points leader Woody Howard, the two ran up on Carl Long. As Gill tried to clear Long, the two made contact sending Gill into the wall and out of contention for the win.
Rogers took the lead from Bill Plemons Jr. after the green flag and drove away with Ritch in second. The second groove was no longer an advantage for Ritch, as most of the field had moved up in search of grip on the old asphalt.
Rogers would tangle with the lap car of Jody Lavender on lap 160, ending the day for his fellow northern competitor.
With no major damage, Rogers had to hold off Ritch in a pair of late restarts to score win number 16 in Hooters Pro Cup action.
“I have raced here enough times to know what the car needs to feel like on long runs and we had that today,” said Rogers in victory lane.
“I wish Clay would have let us lead a lap,” said Ritch who missed out on the five bonus points. “Nobody can run the bottom here. The track’s worn out. I went to the outside and, after a while, everyone followed me. The first time I ever ran up there I felt like Superman, but we just went too soon.”
Rogers (#29) went three wide some times to get his way to the front.
North Drivers Tangle On South Track
Both Jody Lavender and Clay Rogers were looking for one thing at Peachstate; a win. The two north competitors didn’t plan on having the run in that they had. On lap 160, Lavender was in front of the leaders looking to stay on the lead lap. Clay Rogers had been trying to lap the #4 car for several circuits. With pressure from second place Michael Ritch, Rogers had to push the issue and dove to the bottom of Lavender. The two made contact, sending Lavender into the wall. Rogers went on and Lavender was on the hook.
Jody Lavender's wrecked #4
“Jody and I are good friends,” said Rogers. “When we got to him, he went right to the groove we were running. I got underneath him and I turned sideways and the #28 (Ritch) got beside me. The only way to pass someone at that point was to give them a slide job. I drove in under him and when he hit the gas, our wheels touched and he went into the wall. I hate for it to happen it could have been avoided.”
“The only way you can get by someone here is wreck them,” said Ritch, who saw the wreck in front of him. “It’s kind of like what Clay had to do to the #4 car. It’s a bad deal because I like Jody and Clay is a hard driver. But he tore up a man’s racecar; he did what he thought he had to do. That’s the only way you can get around someone here.”
Lavender, who was upset after the race, denied request for comment on the situation.
Leone Scores Top Ten
It’s hard work scoring a top ten in Hooters Pro Cup action. But imagine doing while having to run a racetrack in your spare time. Journeymen driver Kirk Leone races Pro Cup in the southern division. In his spare time away from Hooters Pro Cup action, he owns Southern National Raceway Park.
Qualifying Leaves Many Biting Their Nails
A total of 49 cars entered the Aaron’s 199 at Peach State, the largest field this season. With qualifying speeds up this season, it was no surprise that all 28 cars that timed in broke the track record held by Chad Chaffin. The old mark of 18.635 had been untouched for close to nine years. It was the oldest track record among the active tracks.
How hard was it to make the show? Jay Fogleman and Brett Butler were both in the top 35 in points and missed the race. Fogleman had not missed and event since 2003.
Hawkins Top Rookie Again
It was no surprise to see rookie Matt Hawkins run well at Peachstate. He has two career GAS wins at the half mile and he likes the older racetracks. Hawkins used some solid work on pit road to post a top-five finish.
“This is what we needed,” said Hawkins. “We had a good run going at Valdosta and a decent run at Concord, but bad luck found us both times. Just knowing how to get the car to grip is what I needed here; we’ll be a whole lot better next year when I have raced all of these tracks.”
The top five run marks the second time this season that Hawkins has been the top rookie.
Matt Hawkins (#2) raced his way to a top-10 finish, while Chase Pistone (#54) took over the points lead.
Pistone Takes Points Lead
Things are really starting to come together for Chase Pistone. His third place run at Peachstate helped him take the Southern Division points lead. It also marked his third-straight top five finish.
“We had a new crew chief this week. All-in-all, everybody pulled together and it was great team effort,” said Pistone. “We got a little hung up in the pits and I used my stuff up getting back up to third, but it was a great points day.”
Bobby Gill wrecked while racing for the lead.
Gill Snake Bit Again In Georgia
Bobby Gill is not a big fan of Georgia racetracks, at least not this season. For the second time in as many races, Gill has been involved in a wreck while leading. Earlier in the season, at South Georgia Motorsports Park, he ran into a lap car that spun in front of him.
“To tell you the truth I really don’t know what happened,” said Gill. “This was the best car we have had all year long. I thought I pinched him off, but I really didn’t. Some people said he glanced off the wall and caught my right rear. We’ll have to wait and see what the video says.”
Gill lost two laps in the pits but managed to get one of them back as he finished 18th.
Hanniford Runs Well after Provisional
Dange Hanniford started the Aaron’s 199 in 33rd. The long event allowed the team to get his orange number 65 to the front before finally settling for 11th.
“It was a long day,” said Hanniford. “My pit crew guys gained me a bunch of spots on pit road. That put us up near the front. I was hoping we could get a top ten. We’ll go to Myrtle Beach. That’s my home track, so we’re looking forward to that.”