PRO CUP SEASON LEFTOVERS by Jeremy Troiano
Major Money For Huffman, Gordon Rookie Winner, Pit Crews & More
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY ON 2004 SCHEDULE
Without a major announcement or much hoopla, the Pro Cup Series added a 2004 race date at Bristol Motor Speedway. The date, Wednesday, August 25, is the same week the NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Busch and Nextel Cup Series races at the half-mile oval.
“This is big for us. Really big,” said team owner Ricky Benton, who’s 2004 driver will be rookie Matt Carter. “We expect that this will be the biggest race the Pro Cup Series has ever run. Not only will a lot of the Northern guys show up for the race (it is a Southern Division race), but I think there will be some big
name drivers from the Truck, Busch or Cup Series in the event. I’ve heard that Jimmy Spencer may even be in the race.”
MAJOR MONEY FOR CHAMPION HUFFMAN
Shane Huffman won $10,000 for winning the season finale Hooters 300 at USA International Raceway, $1,000 for winning the pole, $250,000 for winning the 2003 USAR ProCup Championship and a $25,000 bonus for winning three of the five Championship Series events as a part of the Four Champions Challenge.
If you combine that with his season winnings, Huffman won $412,800 in 2003 and will collect most of that money at this weekend’s banquet in Myrtle Beach (SC).
“It was a pretty good year you can say,” said the always quiet Huffman. “It was just one of those years that you dream about. Sometimes, when things should have went wrong, they just didn’t and normally went our way. It wasn’t the perfect year, but I can’t complain too much. There are plenty of guys out there that would dream of this kind of season.
“Sometimes, you just don’t believe it is real. Sometimes, I still don’t.”
The Pro Cup cars will be under the lights on Wednesday night, August 25.
Huffman was an All American on the track this year. (51 Photos)
VETERAN GORDON WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
When you look at Benny Gordon, you just don’t think “rookie.”
But this year, by name only, Gordon was a rookie with the Pro Cup Series. He wasn’t a rookie as his veteran ability came out and earned him the 2003 Rookie of the Year award.
“This was the best year racing I’d ever had,” said Gordon. “It was a little confusing though, because one week I’m in (the car) and one week I’m out. Then we got to the championship series, which we were just planning to run one at a time because we didn‘t know what our money situation would be. We hit on a couple of things and started winning some races. Before you knew it, we were battling for the championship.”
And that helped earn him the Rookie of the Year honors, which was kind of hard for him to believe.
“They (the crew) got me real excited about it. I have been racing for a long time, but I’m still considered a rookie here, as weird as it seems. Some of these guys have been running this cars for a long time and we whooped up on them in these last few races. I’m pretty proud of it.”
Gordon finished sixth in the Hooters 300 and 99 points behind Shane Huffman in the final standings.
“We started really focusing our program to what I needed and we were getting some good information from some other
people. We were just really focusing on what we needed to do to win and it showed.”
SARVIS ENDS CRAZY 2003 SEASON
That was the first thing muttered by Jason Sarvis after climbing out of his car at Lakeland, wrapping up a crazy 2003 season that saw contract disputes, wins and Ford versus Chevrolet.
“I hit everything but the pace car out there tonight,” said Sarvis of his Lakeland run. “We struggled since we unloaded. We tried a bunch of stuff with the Ford. We made some changes to it and it was just terrible. So we pulled the old car out which we had no intentions of running. We just put a set up on it and went for it. Then, we blew a right front and the night just went downhill from there. We were decent, but once you fall behind the eight-ball, you just struggle trying to get back up there. We probably had a fifth place car.”
It was just how the 2003 season played out for Sarvis, who came into the year as the defending Pro Cup Series
champion. But early in the year, things looked shaky as Sarvis sat out the first race with former car owner Ricky Benton because of a contract dispute. Soon enough though, things were ironed out and Sarvis was back behind the wheel of the #22.
However, partway through the year, after some wins, the car switched from a white Chevrolet to a black Ford. Sarvis was fast in both, but things just never panned out for the team, especially in the championship series, where Sarvis finished ninth in the overall standings.
PIT CREW CHAMPIONSHIP
Never underestimate the power of a great pit stop. That is a well known fact in motorsports. Kertus Davis can now attest to that.
Davis’ number 68 Trim Spa crew pulled off a great stop and seized $4,000 for winning the 2003 Goodyear Pit Crew Challenge at USA International Speedway.
“These guys pulled it off,” said Davis of his crew. “They deserve all the credit for this. They were up against some tough teams and they stepped up to the plate. I proud of everyone of these guys and I know they worked hard for this.”
The crew of Mardy Lindley finished second, while the 2002 Goodyear Pit Crew champion team of Shane Huffman finished third. Jay Fogleman’s team was fourth while Benny Gordon’s team finished fifth.
RADIAL TIRES TEST DATES SET
USAR Competition Director Fritz Augustine has released information concerning two test dates for the USAR Hooters ProCup Series. The special offseason test dates are being scheduled to allow competitors to test the new BF Goodrich Traction T/A radial tire that will be used in the Series next season.
It was a tough year for Jason Sarvis.
Benny Gordon (left) was the only real challenger Shane Huffman (right) had in the Championship Series.
Kertus Davis' team shocked everyone with their win in the annual Pit Crew Challenge.
The tests dates allow drivers, crew chiefs, USAR officials, and BF Goodrich engineers time to work together testing the tire. Tires will be available from East Coast Race Tire, Inc. around mid-January. The fee for the test is $100 per car with no charge for crew members. All competitors from both Northern and Southern Divisions are allowed to compete in both tests. The track gates will open at 9 am and close at 5 pm.
The first test will take place on February 14 at Peach State Speedway from 11 am to 4 pm. The second test will be at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway on March 27 from 11 am - 4 pm.
GILL FINISHES TOUGH SEASON ON A HIGH NOTE
Bobby Gill’s year wasn’t what anyone was really expecting. With only two wins (he had 14 in 2002) and the loss of longtime crew chief Steve (Duz) Dluzniewski, Gill’s season was looking for a bright spot. Gill’s second-place finish in the season finale at Lakeland was as much of a bright spot as he could look for.
“It was a good run for us,” said the legendary short track racer. “It was just a tough season. Things don’t always go your way in racing and it seemed to happen to us a lot this year. There were lots of times we were running good but some lapped car would hurt us in some way.
“I guess this is all you can really ask for. I don't know.”
Gill finished seventh in the final point standings.
NESBIT GETS A BIG TEAMMATE… FOR ONE RACE... FOR NOW
Mart Nesbitt and Shane Huffman became teammates at the Hooters 300. The one-race deal was put together to ensure the Xtra Motorsports Team had a car in victory lane and that Nesbitt could advance in the points. It worked on both accounts.
Nesbitt finished third and picked up three spots in the points, while Huffman claimed his eighth win of the year and locked up the points title.
Ironically, the car that Nesbitt drove was the same one Huffman used to dominate at Lakeland earlier this year.
"I didn't qualify well, but we fought our way up to second. This is an awesome racecar," said Nesbitt. "We thought we had a shot at winning the race, but the power steering went out on us. I was just hanging on at the end.
Joe Gatia (#06) and Hal Goodson (#50) are two drivers who will likely take advantage of the open tire test dates.
Mart Nesbitt's #92 was a old and very successful Shane Huffman car.
“I really appreciate the fact that Shane and everyone gave me the opportunity. It really helped us in the end. It was a great car and I can see why Shane wins as much as he does.”
LUCAS OIL STAYS WITH USAR
USAR is pleased to announce that Lucas Oil Products will return as a leading sponsor in the Hooters ProCup Series for the 2004 season. Lucas Oil Products, a world leader in heavy-duty and high-performance lubricants, has been a sponsor of USAR for the last four seasons and will return as the "Official Lubricant of the Hooters ProCup Series" next season.
"We are very excited to continue our relationship with the USAR organization," said Bob Patison, Executive Vice President of Lucas Oil Products. "This is more than a sponsorship for Lucas Oil; it is a marketing partnership that continues to grow each year. Lucas Oil, along with USAR, has experienced tremendous growth over the past few seasons, and we look forward to that same success in 2004."
In addition to being the "Official Lubricant of the Hooters ProCup Series", Lucas Oil Products will also continue to sponsor the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award, which pays $1,000 to the driver leading the midpoint of each race during the 2004 season.
MORE MONEY FOR THE ROOKIES
At season’s end, Benny Gordon picked up a $10,000 check for winning the 2003 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award. Though Gordon will obviously be ecstatic with his award, he may wish the yellow stripe could stay on his bumper for another season.
The Pro Cup Series has said that the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award winner would take home $25,000 at the end of the 2004 season. The $15,000 increase in the final payout, however, is only one part of the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year program.
In addition to the opportunity to win a $25,000 check for being crowned Miller Lite Rookie of the Year, first-year drivers will also compete for $10,000 during the regular season in their respective divisions. Miller Lite will again award $1,000 per race to the highest finishing rookie, bringing the total rookie purse to $75,000 for 2004.