PROCUP LEFTOVERS: HICKORY by Jeremy Troiano
Huffman, Ritch, Pletcher, Carter, Fogleman & More
HUFFMAN BLAMES HIMSELF AT HOME
Shane Huffman knew he was the favorite to win at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday night. And why not? He dominated the track in Late Model Stock competition early in his career.
But Saturday night, he played second fiddle to Clay Rogers, who dominated the event, leading all but 10 laps run.
“In the first part of the race, on the long run, we had something for Clay,” said Huffman, the defending ProCup Series Champion. “But I always want the car to be perfect and I made a call to do so and it got the car too free. I pulled a rubber out of the left rear on pit stop. It cost us time on the stop plus time on the race track.
“If I could have beat him out of the pits, I don't think he would have be able to get around us but hell, that is 20-20. You guess and you guess wrong sometimes.
“I am disappointed in myself. I know what it takes to get around this place. Any other time, second (place) would have been
alright, but to have the car we had and to finish second is disappointing for sure.”
FOGLEMAN PREPPING FOR BUSY MONTH
Jay Fogleman and his #4 team have the biggest test ahead of them, as Fogleman plans to run the next six ProCup races in a row in both the Northern and Southern divisions.
Two of the North Races (Motor Mile Speedway, VA and Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, OH) are tracks that host races during the Four Champions Championship Series.
And following a solid third-place run at Hickory Motor Speedway, Fogleman has the big “mo” on his side.
“To get out of here with a third is OK,” said Fogleman. “We were just a tick tight, but we made big gains and really think we stumbled on something. (Crew chief) Steve (Bird), myself and Joe Burke are really coming into our stride at the end of the year. Going into the Championship races I think we’ll have a legitimate shot at it.
“We’ve made gains in every area. Our whole team’s coming together, and we’re doing it at the right time of year.”
Jay Fogleman will be behind the wheel of his #4 machine for the next six weeks.
THIS TIME, THE SOUTH INVADES THE NORTH
Jay Fogleman isn't the only driver that will be heading to some Northern races in the coming weeks. Several Southern drivers will head to Motor Miler Speedway this coming weekend to gain experience for the Championship Series race that will be held there later in the year.
Along with Fogleman, Clay Rogers,Michael Ritch, George Brunnhoelzl III, Scott Baker, Michelle Theriault, Richard Landreth and Jody Lavender will all head to Motor Mile Speedway (formerly New River Valley Speedway) this coming weekend.
BROKEN REAR END DOESN'T SLOW RITCH
Michael Ritch's season has been anything but good. The racing gods just haven't shined down on the former ProCup dominator this season.
Just laps into practice at Hickory on Saturday, it looked as if things weren't changing at all. After getting just a handful of laps in practice, the rear end broke on the #28 and the team lost out on valuable track time.
However, things took a turnaround in the race as Ritch battled back from his 20th-place starting position to finish a respectable sixth when the rains came and shortened the event after just 193 of 250 laps.
“We had a bad practice,” said Ritch. “We came down here to test and the bottom fell out (rained) that day as well, so we didn't get much practice in that time. Three laps into practice here, we broke a rear end. So what I'm saying is had we been able to have a few more laps here during our test session, we would have had all of these things fixed and behind us.
“So we got no practice today (Saturday) to get ready and get the car dialed it. So once I started racing, six laps into the event, I knew where was going t go. We went to the high groove and started picking them off.
“We didn't have anything for the 44 (Clay Rogers), 84 ( Shane Huffman) or 29 (Brad Rogers), but we were reeling the 22 (Matt Carter) in at the end.
“I got out of rhythm a couple of times. The lapped 25 car (Billy Bigley Jr.) just ran me up into the wall. I don't know if his spotter fell asleep or what. We gathered the composure and the rain came. That was all she wrote.”
ANOTHER HOMETOWN HERO HAS STRONG RUN
Shane Huffman isn't the only hometown hero in Hickory running with the ProCup Series. So is Matt Carter, the 2003 Hickory Motor Speedway Track Champion.
Ironically, the two hometown boys coming together may have been what caused Carter, who is locked in a torrid Rookie of the Year battle with Brad Rogers, to miss out on a shot at the win at Hickory.
“We fell off a little at the start, but the track started coming to us,” said Carter, son of Nextel Cup owner Travis Carter. “We had a good pit stop, but I got together with Shane (Huffman) when I left my stall. We had to come back in to get the left front fender pulled off of the tire.
The contact resulted in Carter having to restart 14th, the he made little time working his way back through the traffic.
“It was fun coming back through the field,” said Carter. “We had a good car. It went anywhere I wanted it to go. We needed
that last caution to make up track position on the leaders, but I’m not sure we could’ve passed Clay (Rogers) or Shane.”
Carter came home fifth.
HAPPY LAUGHLIN A LITTLE BUMMED AT HICKORY
Mike Laughlin Jr, known for his trademark smiley face t-shirt that he always wears under his driving suit, but on Saturday night in Hickory, Laughlin wasn't walking around with a smile following his eighth-place finish.
“On our pit stop, we decided to just take two tires,” said Laughlin. “We had to make so many adjustments to the car that we couldn't get it all done without going a lap down. So we came back in to get left side tires and do the adjustments that we needed to on that side but they were getting ready to go back green, so we didn't have time and just had to drive through the pits. That happened to us twice.”
That caused Laughlin to come back out and start at the tail of the field on two different occasions. Both time, Laughlin made his way through the pack with general ease.
“I hated to see the rain. I'll tell you my luck... if it ain't one thing it is another. I don't know if I could have run with Shane and Clayton, but I could have run third for sure.”
BAKER BREAKS AWAY FROM THE ASA LATE MODELS
Veteran Scott Baker currently finds himself third in the ASA Late Model Series point standings. But on Saturday night, he returned to the seat of a ProCup Series car, where he drove for some time before being replaced in 2004 by Gary St. Amant at Bullet Racing.
In just his first start of the season, Baker finished a disappointing 20th, but you would never tell after the race.
“I miss the ProCup Series,” said Baker. “We were looking to put something together this year, but it just didn’t happen. We qualified well, but we were just way too tight during the race. When it cooled off, it felt like I was driving the car with the emergency brake on.
“I’m glad I came here tonight. If we come back next year, I’ll know more about the racetrack. We’re going to play it by ear the rest of the year, and we may make some more starts.”
RUN OF GOOD LUCK ENDS
David Pletcher's #51 has had some pretty good runs this year. Both Concord (NC) and Myrtle Beach (SC) resulted in top-five finishes.
The same can not be said for Hickory. Plecher finished dead last, 29th, at the historic North Carolina short track.
“Something bounced up off of the race track and knocked the oil pump belt off,” said Pletcher, who completed just 104 laps. “That is the first time anything like that has ever happened to me. I believe once we would have made a pit stop things would have gotten a lot better. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to do it. I think we would have had a top-five car.”
PART-TIMER HERMAN STILL RIDING BAD LUCK SWING AS WELL
Michael Ritch finally got back on the right track at Hickory.
Mike Herman Jr. had a miserable Saturday night at Hickory. It was more of dog-day miserable.
"Believe it or not, we had a pretty good car in the last part of practice, and if I hadn't hit the rev limiter halfway down the backstretch, we probably would have qualified solidly in the top ten," said Herman. "I don't know what happened to the car, when the race started we were way to tight, but I felt like it would have worked its way out when the pressures came up and then we got spun out."
When he was spun out, Herman felt the car wasn't the same for the rest of the race.
"I don't know what happened; something must have broken on
the car, possibly a ratchet. I finally decided to park because I couldn't take it no more. To be in front of my local fans, we were planning on bettering our seventh-place finish from last year, but it wasn't meant to be.
"We will go back to Kenly (NC) with our heads up. This is also the place that owes me one. I had a throttle to stick in practice back in 2002. That had to be one of the hardest shots in the wall I have taken."
Mike Laughlin Jr. (left) is known for his trademark smiley face short that he always wears under his fire suit.
Mike Herman Jr.'s day was anything but a happy homecoming.
Shane Huffman blamed himself for his second-place run at Hickory. (51 Photos)