PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: SOUTHERN NATIONAL by Jeremy Troiano
Fighting In The Pits... Rogers DQed... Ritch's Good Run & More
ROGERS DQed AFTER KENLY
Clay Rogers had a long night at Southern National Speedway. Hours after the race ended, it just got worse.
A protest filed by Jay Fogleman and the #4 team prior to the race on Saturday night resulted in ProCup officials tearing apart Rogers' engine after teching the other cars following the race and looking over the engine's heads. Officials found something in the heads that they did not like, and as a results, disqualified Rogers. That means Rogers received credit for last place points and last place money.
“To tell you the truth, I still don't know what it going on,” said Rogers on Monday afternoon. “There was something in the heads that they didn't like and they laid down their ruling. I'm not a motor man and I don't claim to be one, so it is hard for me to say. Right now, we're just waiting on some more answers.
“They are going to send the head to (ProCup head tech offficial) Fritz (Augustine, who was absent from Kenly recovering from hip
surgery) and see what he says. After that, they will send it a couple of other places. So really, everything is still up in the air right now. If it checks out, we'll see if they will change their ruling.”
ProCup officals have said the ruling was final and will stand and that the heads are being sent around to both Fritz and the original manufacturer so that they can be inspected and things can be changed if need be.
Rogers' last place finish still gives him a 65-point lead over Bobby Gill in the Southern Division standings with three races remaining before the championship series starts.
ROGERS, JOHNSON TRADE WORDS AFTER THE RACE
The late-night teching of Clay Rogers' car was only the capper to what had to have been one one of the most up and down nights of his career.
Rogers, who entered the event with a substantial point lead over Bobby Gill and Shane Huffman, started on a high after quitting practice early and grabbing the pole for the event. However, things turned sour after the team's first pit stop.
“I was told someone's helmet came off during a pit stop and that is what the first penalty was for,” said Rogers of the USAR-imposed one-lap penalty. “They penalized you a lap and I have to work my butt off to go out there and make it up. I did and got back up to sixth or seventh without laying a fender on anybody and then, trying to pass Daniel Johnson, everything goes crazy.”
Rogers and Johnson made contact, resulting in Johnson spinning with just a handful of laps to go. The contact was deemed “rough driving” by the USAR officials and Rogers was black-flagged and held a lap in the pits, resulting in a then 17th-place finish.
Rogers was all alone... in last place following a post race DQ. (51 Photos)
Clay Rogers (left) and Daniel Johnson share some pointers before the race.
However, the action really started when Johnson confronted Rogers on the frontstretch as Clay watched his brother Brad celebrate his race win.
“I'd been trying to pass him for 30 laps. I drove for Haskell Willingham (Motorsports, Johnson's current team) last year and to see their stuff get tore up is the last thing I'd ever want to happen to those guys because I know how hard they work and what kind of a budget they do it on. Both (Daniel and HW Motorsports) have been struggling all year long and we've done all we could do to help Daniel when he was doing his own deal. I don't hold anything back from them. We try to help them as much as we can. They come up to the shop all the time. We've gone out of our way more than anyone to help them with shocks and springs and everything.
“Daniel was just turning down on me I did the best I could to keep from wrecking him and he kept turning down on me. Finally, I got under him after he had lost some momentum and I was actually on the apron, on the brakes, sideways trying and keep from hitting him. Finally, we got together and he turned dead left and spun out. Seems like every time I get around him he is racing me like it is the last lap and we're racing for the win, even when I am leading and we are lapping him. It is an every week thing.
“(USAR officials) penalized me a lap for that. That pretty much screwed up anything we could have salvaged for the night.
“(Daniel) then came down and wanted to whip me. I told him that if that would make him feel better to go ahead and knock my clock off. I wasn't gong to touch him. I got to much to lose. So he said he'd come over to my shop and whip me because he comes over there all the time. I told him that was fine, but he doesn't need to ask me what kind of springs and shocks I'm running any more.”
“I guess I got into the #13 (Bud Kenny) car early,” said Johnson, who joined Haskell Willingham Motorsports at Hickory (NC), after the race. “I thought it was a racing deal, but I got penalized and put to the rear. So we were at the tail end of the longest line and we worked our way back up to fifth. Clay got into me on the back stretch and spun me around. That is it.
“So I had a few words with him. From my point of view, he got into me. It's hard to say sitting in a race car and looking out the front windshield. All you can go by is what you feel. I felt four or five taps and then a big tap. After that big tap, around I went.”
Officials broke up the shouting match (and minor shoving amongst a couple of the crew members) quickly and each competitor returned to their hauler. Johnson finished 12th.
“He probably races me hard because he wants to and I don't blame him for that. But I was trying to make up as many points as I could after coming back from a lap down. If we run in the top four or five and Bobby (Gill) and Shane (Huffman) have problems, we are that much closer to locking up the Southern points title.
“At least the 84 and the 5 had bad nights. But this is all just another prime example why (USAR Race Director) Jimmy Wilson doesn't need to be up there in that booth (race control).”
OTHER NEWS OVERSHADOWS RITCH'S STRONG RUN
Michael Ritch's season-best second-place finish was overshadowed by much of the other news that happened pre- and post-race at Southern National Speedway, but it did not go completely unnoticed.
Ritch once again came from the back (he officially started 21st, but had to start at the tail of the field after working on the car following qualifying) and finished an impressive second.
“We had a decent car,” said Ritch, who has finished in the top-six in each of the last three races. “We struggled in practice pretty hard. This track is tough to get around. You can really over charge the corners here. The car was pushing so we had to go to the high side during the race and we were making up some positions there. It is a hell of a lot easier to run up front than it is in the back, I'll tell you that.
“Some of the big guys had some problems tonight. We had a solid run and got a good finish. It isn't probably exactly where we would have finished, but we are getting better at what we are doing.
“After qualifying, we had something go wrong in the right front. The
crew chief came over and told me and I just walked away. It seems like when I've stayed away, we've run better. That way I don't get to raising cain and I just walk away.”
ROSS HEADS SOUTH WITH NEW TEAM
Brian Ross showed up in Kenly (NC) with his new team, Premier Motorsports, and new sponsor, Nergy Sports Drink, in hopes of continuing to gain a better grasp on the new car and crew before heading into the championship series in a couple of months.
Ross, who took over for Kertus Davis in Premier's Northern Division car, was solid all day long, but fell victim to a flat tire and finished 17th, a couple of laps off of the pace.
“Well, me and Darren (Odle, Ross' former car owner) were having some problems,” said Ross of his new ride. “This opportunity was there for me. So I decided that I ought to try it and see what happens because it is an opportunity that might not have been there later in the year. I hated leaving Darren in the middle of the season but it was something I've felt like I had to do.
“So we came down to run the south to spend some more time together and get to learn the race cars a little more.”
CLICK HERE To View The Second Part Of ProCup Leftovers: Kenly
MIchael Ritch (left) shares a laugh with fellow veteran Bobby Gill.
Rogers (left) and Johnson confront each other and trade words after the race on the front stretch.
Brian Ross and his new team showed up at a Southern Series race with his new team and new sponsor.