Clay Debuts With New Team, Leads 230 of 250 laps    by Jeremy Troiano
It was a Rogers family reunion at USA International Speedway on Saturday night.  And everyone took notice.

Clay opened the year with a new team while brother Brad made his series debut with the team Clay drove for in 2002.  And both drivers, along with the rest of the field, got its first taste of the new BFGoodrich radial rubber.  All three came out with flying colors.
Clay made his debut with the #44 Baird Motorsports team, the ride occupied by 2003 Rookie of the Year Benny Gordon.  Despite the deal coming together only a month ago, Rogers made it look like the team had been together for 10 years, with a performance that will be tough to top in 2004.

“What an outstanding job by the crew,” said Rogers.  “We put this deal together less than a month ago.  These cars look like the cars that Benny Gordon drove a year ago, but I can guarantee you that they are not.   Up underneath them, we’ve changed almost everything.
“I’d say this is the best deal I’ve had in my racing career.  My dad has pulled gobs and gobs of money out of his pocket to help support my racing.  We got into the Busch Series in 2001 then the economy took a spill.  Sponsorship money wasn’t there to do what we needed to be able to do.  At the end of the year, September 11 (2001) came and the sponsorship money was gone.

“I’m just ecstatic about the whole situation I’m in.  We’ve got three weeks now until the next race, so we’ll be real prepared for that.”

Clay picked up the win, dominating the evening, leading 230 of the 250 laps, after setting a new track record in qualifying.  Brad ran second to his older brother much of the night and battled back from a bad late-race pitstop and finished an impressive third.  And the BFGoodrich Radial Tire got a passing “A” grade from almost all of the drivers.

“The first half of the race the car was just a little tight so we came in and made some very minor adjustments on the BFGoodrich Radials there, just a small air pressure adjustment, and it really helped the car,” said Rogers.  “I think these tires are just awesome.  They are going to add a lot to this series.

“You always seem to fight the center of the corner and off here,” said Rogers on why the .75-mile track always leads to dominating runs by its winners.  “The longer you run, the worse the car gets.  If you got a car that will turn, your problems are pretty much solved.  This car turned excellent all night long.  That just makes you that much better than everyone else.”
Clay Rogers made winning look easy on Saturday night. (51 Photos)
The #44 looks like the same car Benny Gordon drover in 2003, but isn't underneath.
Rogers was followed much of the evening by his younger brother Brad, who made his debut with the Pro Cup Series on Saturday night.  And what a debut it was.
Clay.  “But then I told them to tell me how dynamite his car was because I was getting worried that he might try to blow past me too!

Bobby Gill finished second on the night, but didn’t have anything for Clay.  He did have a lot for the rest of the field, as Gill had to start in the back of the field after qualifying second when he worked on his car after qualifying.”

“We had so many problems this weekend, but I guess it was a decent finish for that then,” said Gill, who had a new look to his #5.  “We really used the car up coming up through the field.”

Brad, who has followed Clay up through the ranks at Concord (NC) Motorsport Park, qualified an impressive seventh and quickly worked his was up to second behind Clay for much of the early part of the race. 

A bad pit stop during the late part of the even made Brad play catch up for most of the second half of the event, but he eventually worked his way up to third at the checkered flag.

“If I wouldn’t have had to start in the back during that last restart, I could have got around Bobby (Gill) and we could have had a Rogers one-two finish,” said Brad.  “I am really kind of disappointed, even though I know I shouldn’t be with a third-place finish in my first race.  I guess I expect too much of myself sometimes.”

“My crew told me that Brad passed Shane (for third early in the race) and I was like ‘woohoo, he must have a dynamite car then,’” said
Clay and Brad talk just before the start of Saturday's race.