Big Guns Out Early, Clay Rogers Confused, Gatia Loses It & More

The DNF list of Saturday night's Myrtle Beach race read like what normally would have been a top-five rundown at any other race.
Veterans Bobby Gill, Shane Huffman, Michael Ritch, Mike Laughlin and Mardy Lindley, along with rookie standouts Matt Carter and Tom Buzze, were all victims of accidents or mechanical problems during the evening.  In fact, Gill and Ritch spent many laps at the front of the field during the course of the night.

Huffman, the defending ProCup Series champion and the evening's pole sitter, had a strong car, but was invovled in an accident near the race's midpoint, which eventually knocked him out of competition.

“Matt (Carter) jumped up on the outside of me coming out of turn four and I had already committed to coming off of the
corner high because Jay (Fogleman) was below me,” said Huffman, who finished 30th.  “It all happened so fast.  Me and Matt just got together and both of us got into the wall.  It was an unfotunate and frustrating situation to say the least.

“We had a good car.  We took only two tires during the first stop when almost everyone else took four, so we had four fresh tires waiting for us on the last stop.  I think that would have played in out favor, but I guess we'll never know now.”
Huffman returned to the track after the accident, but just for a few laps before the drive shaft came out of the car, puncturing the oil pan and putting the car out for the evening.  Carter finished 31st.

Ritch led 48 laps in what was looking to be his best outing of the season before electrical problems sidelined him in the 33rd spot.  Gill had taken the lead and looked to be puling away when engine problems slowed his bright number 5 and eventually put him out.  Gill finished 34th.

Laughlin (32nd) and Lindley (27th) were both victims of mechanical failure during the night.


The Myrtle Beach fans came out in droves Saturday night in what
Shane Huffman's car slides through turn one at Concord during practice.  (51 Photos)
Shane Huffman was one of several veterans that had DNFs Saturday.
was easily one of the most impressive Short Track crowds of the year in any series.  Police, track officials and ProCup officials estimated that the crowded exceeded 9,000.


With an extra two tires given to the teams on Saturday night by BFGoodrich, pit strategy was more previlant than normal.  Eventual race winner Benny Gordon took three tires on each of his two pit stops, while most took four on their first stop and two on their second.
Joe Gatia, who arguably had one of the best cars on the track Saturday night, took three on his final stop of the night.  But it wasn't three new tires.  It wasn't three old ties.  It was just three tires period.

Forced to make a quick pit stop and get out in front of Benny Gordon and Stuart Ricks, a miscommunication between team members resulted in Gatia taking off from his pit box before the lug nuts had been tightened on the right rear tire.  The tire fell off as Gatia took off from the pit.  The car limped to a stop at the end of pit road and the team lost two laps in the process.
“I don't know what happened,” said Gatia.  “I started going down the pits and the tire came off.  I still don't know what happened.  Them things happen I guess.  Its just tough to deal with when you had as good of a car as we did.”

Looking at a replay of the incident, as the right rear tire was coming off, the tire changer laid the air gun on the ground to take off the old tire.  When he did the, someone on the other side of the wall yanked the air hose and the guy back to the other side of the car and Gatia took off.

“All I could think was 'hey,hurry up and get the tire back on the thing.'  If we go a lap down, maybe we could get it back.  After all that though, the car wasn't as good.  It was an awesome race car before that.”

Gatia led a total of 43 laps before eventually coming home 10th.


The Rogers brothers have been two of the strongest competitors all year long in the ProCup Series.  And even though the two look somewhat similar, they have their own personalities.   And on Saturday night, they had totally different looks.
With his second-place finish, Brad Rogers took over the lead in the Southern Division Rookie of the Year points standings.  Rogers’ second-place finish was the highest finish by a rookie this season in the Southern Division.  Rogers now holds a one-point lead over Matt Carter.

“Man, it was warm out there,” said a worn out Brad Rogers after the race.  “Tires are so important here.  Our car was good on old tires.  It felt like you had new tires on it because it stuck like it would at the beginning of the run.  But everyone else was flat out better on new tires.  After about 50 laps, everyone came to us and we were faster than them.

“It was a fun race.  Everyone did a awesome job.  Whoever is the best on wore out tires is going to win the race at Myrtle Beach.  You can't come to this race track and look at your times.  As long as the thing cuts to the bottom and you can get back on the gas, that is all that matters.”

However, brother Clay, the ProCup points leader, had a different kind of night.  Clay was running in the top-five much of the night, but bad luck sent him to a 11th place finish at the end. 
Clay's car fell off dramatically during a long, green flag run and the team decided to pit under green after going a lap down.  However, just after the team pitted, going two laps down in the process, the caution came out, locking Rogers several laps down.

“We were holding on,” said Clay.  “The race has a green flag look, so we pit as soon as (race leader) Stuart (Ricks) lapped us because the tires have cords and threads hanging out.  We figured as soon as we got lapped, we would pit and go out there and make some time up on new tires.  Then, the caution comes out.  I don't know.  That is how it goes.

“That is what I hate about this place.  It doesn't matter what your car does in practice.  It doesn't matter what your car does in testing.  It never does the same thing when you come here to race.  It has got me totally baffled.  I can't fix loose-tight, loose-tight, tight-loose.  The car was loose the first set (of tires).  We came in and put more tires on and it pushed so bad I wore them down to the cords.  That just confuses me.

“This is probably my worst track on the face of the planet.”


Just as brother Justin is doing in the ARCA Series, former Dash Series driver Jake Hobgood  is attempting to make a name for himself in the USAR ProCup Series.  He debuted Saturday night at Myrtle Beach and ran the first of seven scheduled races in 2004 in preparation for running full-time in 2005.
“We missed the set up a bit,” said Hobgood, who finished 20th.  “The driver messed up.  I outpaced myself at the start.  I tired a little to hard.  We burnt the tires up and that made for a long night.  We learned a lot though.  We really used this as school.

“The biggest thing about these cars I have to learn compared to the Dash cars isn't the horsepower, it is just the cornering speed.  You have to slow these cars down a lot more.  That is what I struggled with.  I had to roll that thing off down in there.  I thought I was using enough brake, but it wasn't enough.  I could never get in the throttle up off the corner.”
Hobgood said he will head to Kil-Kare Speedway this coming weekend and will also run later during the season at Hickory (NC), Kenly (NC), Mansfield (OH), Bristol (TN) and Lakeland (FL).


Jason Patison had some pressure on him Saturday night.  But he's used to the pressure. 

The Carona (CA) native spends his days working as a tattoo artist.  On the side, he races Super Late Models at Irwindale Speedway.
The Rogers brothers, Clay (#44) and Brad (#29) had different nights at "the Beach."
Joe Gatia (#06) appeared to have the best car on Saturday night, but a mistake by the pit crew cost him a shot at the win.
But the pressure he faced Saturday night at the beach was big.  In making only his third career start, Patison drove a very familiar Lucas Oil #8... the same car that Johnny Rumley drives in the ProCup Northern Division.  But this car wasn't a Rumely look-a-like or or Rumely's backup.   It was the actual car that Rumely, the Northern Series points leader, was planning to drive this coming weekend at Kil-Kare Speedway. 

“It went well and the crew did a great job,” said Patison, the son of the CEO of Lucas Oil.  “Right before we pitted the car was on a rail.  Everyone did a good job.

“This is Johnny's regular car.  It was originally going to be the backup car, but that got wrecked at Salem, so this is the car he will run this weekend in Ohio.  A couple of times during the race guys were getting to racing me hard in the corner, so I just backed out.  I needed to save the car.  I am not points racing
“I just wanted to gain experience.  I'd like to move up here full time when I get ready."


Forty-six cars showed up for 36 spots in the Hooters Air 250 presented by Black’s Tire Service, meaning 10 drivers failed to qualify.

Chad Mullis, Vince Fanello, Mikie Stafford, Scott Seither, Larry Barrett, Michelle Theriault, Mark Whitaker, Randy Humphrey, Free Pennington and Bill Manfull were unable to make the starting field due to the largest turnout of the season.

Jake Hobgood made his ProCup debut.
Jason Patison drove Johnny Rumley's primary car to an eighth place finish.
Matt Carter had a rough night and even lost the rookie points lead.  (51 Photos)