PROCUP LEFTOVERS: MYRTLE BEACH CHAMPIONSHIP by Jeremy Troiano
Gill & Huffman Drop From The Top, Gaita Goes Good & More
HUFFMAN, GILL FALL OUT OF THE POINT LEAD
Heading into the Myrtle Beach event, the third of five Championship Series events, Shane Huffman and Bobby Gill were tied for the championship point lead. Leaving Myrtle Beach, they now sit second and fourth respectively.
Huffman had just a miserable night at Myrtle Beach on Saturday. After starting fourth, Huffman used a two tire strategy for track position. It worked and Huffman took the lead on lap 83 and held it for seven laps.
However, a long green flag run, matched with the two tires, meant the demise for Huffman. By the time Huffman was able to pit for his other four tires, he was already a couple of laps down.
“It was not a fun night to say the least,” said Huffman, the defending ProCup Series champion. “We had an apparently stupid call and put just two tires on the car and it got us two laps down. I don't know what happened after that. There
was a tire miscue somewhere I guess. I'm not sure what happened so I'm not pointing any fingers. We are a team. We win as a team and we lose as a team. It is just one of those deals.
“I guess we figured we could get by with putting two tires on it and it would be fine. That long green run killed us. I figured we'd catch another caution but we didn't. Not to come in during one caution period was my call. I can't blame anyone for that other than myself.”
To add insult to injury, Huffman was collected up in a late race accident between Michelle Theriault and Jay Fogleman, which caused extensive damage to the front of his #84 Chevrolet. He finished 17th.
On the other hand, Gill had one of the strongest cars on the track on all night long. Gill came from the back of the pack and an early spin on lap 59 to run in the top three and lead a total of 52 laps along the way.
However, while running on the top three, Gill made a run for the pit lane and pulled his #06 behind the wall, suffering from a broken axle. Gill and the team got the car back out on the track, but several laps down. He finished 24th, 11 laps off the pace.
ROOKIE POINTS TIGHTEN UP
Shane Huffman talks with a crew member before the race Saturday. (51 Photos)
Bobby Gill (#06) was one of the cars to beat before an axle problem dropped him out.
The overall point standings weren’t the only shake-up following the race on Saturday night at Myrtle Beach.
While the order stayed the same, the rookie points standings shook up as well, with Matt Carter using a strong top-five finish to close in on leader Gary St. Amant, who fell out of the race with engine problems while running in sixth-place.
“I don't know, something happened with the engine,” said St. Amant. “That really hurts us, but at least we still have the points lead. This sucks though. We had a great car. I mean a great car.”
St. Amant, along with Joe Gaita, stayed out when many came in for tires and fell a lap off the pace. However, when St. Amant and Gaita came out of the pits with new tires following a caution period and everyone else stayed out, the stormed through the field, making up their lap under green by passing the leaders and then racing all the way around the track, back through the lead lap cars and nearly into the top five.
“That car was awesome. I mean, that was a hot rod,” said St. Amant. “If we just wouldn't have gotten caught a lap down, I don't know if anyone could have touched us because he would have had fresher tires and might had been able to put some really good cars laps down. Oh well.”
St. Amant's rookie points lead of 89 points heading into Myrtle Beach shrunk to just 21 following Carter's fourth-place finish.
"I don't wish any bad luck on anyone, but we knew St. Amant was going to have to have some bad luck for us to get back into the rookie race," Carter said. "I thought we had a car that could have won the race, but it was great to
run good in front of all of Ricky's (Benton, Carter's car owner) friends."
LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE
Clay Rogers, the regular season Southern Division points champion, made a big jump from fifth to second (he is tied for second with Shane Huffman) in the point standings, but even after finishing fifth at Myrtle Beach on Saturday night, he still wasn't very happy.
“I told myself coming down here that I would be happy with a top-five. Now that we have a top five I'm not very happy. I guess I lied to myself,” said Rogers.
“It was a good car tonight. Probably one of the best cars I've ever had here. I made a bad call on the last pit stop though to change the tires that were on the car and the car too tight there at the end. We were really good on the long runs. Before we pitted, we were probably the fastest car on the track.
“I made a call of changing the left front tire out with the left rear that came off on our first stop because the left front been on the whole race. I screwed up.
“I figured a cool tire would be better than one that had been on there all race, but the car wouldn't turn in a 40 acre field.”
While Rogers beat himself up, the big picture now shows that instead of sitting in fifth-place in the standings, he is now second.
“This place hasn't been very good to me in the past. We gained points on everyone but Benny. We have two really strong tracks coming up. I'm looking forward to it.”
TWO FORMS OF DRIVING
Race winner Benny Gordon said that he used an aggressive, hard-charging style to win the Myrtle Beach event on Saturday night.
Second-place finisher Michael Ritch said he did the exact opposite.
"I've never drove a car so easy," said Ritch, who finished second for the second time this season (the other coming at Southern National Speedway earlier this season). "I just can believe how much finesse you use at this racetrack. It felt like I was driving the car about 15 miles per hour."
Ritch used that finesse to work his way to the front from a 12th starting position.
“This is pretty awesome. We had a pretty god car on a very, very long run. During some of the long runs, everyone’s cars really started sliding around but our car stayed pretty good. The cautions fell our way when we needed to come in and do something to the car and come in and put some tires on.”
It was a welcome relief to a season that has been tough to say the least.
“It feels good to be in the top-three It feels good to do it here and in front of so many people. I think we can run like this every week. I know we can. We are almost there.”
GAITA HAS INTERESTING STRATEGY
Joe Gaita used an interesting strategy to finish in the top three on Saturday night. Go a lap down.
Gaita, along with Gary St. Amant, stayed out when most of the leaders pitted. That, in turn left him out on the track with much older tires and a long green flag run to follow. Gatia eventually fell a lap down to the leaders before a caution came out.
However, when that caution did come out and Gaita suddenly had the freshest tires, he stormed his way back towards the front... even from a lap down.
Clay Rogers called himself a liar.
Gary St. Amant (left) talks with Jeff Agnew at Myrtle Beach on Saturday.
Gaita made up his lap, made up almost an entire lap on the field after that and moved into the top three all under the same green flag run in the race to come home with his best finish of the year since winning at Peach State Speedway when he still drove for the #06 team that currently fields a car for Bobby Gill.
“Odle Motorsports really needed this,” said Gaita of his new car owner. “We've waned to do good for our sponsors, I just wish we could have won it for them. I'm pretty happy
with a third place so hopefully we can keep the momentum up.
“We had just as god of car as anyone out there. Our pit strategy just didn’t work out for us today. We were hoping that we could get a caution before we went a lap down and it just didn't happen. That got us behind We got it back and got to battle for the lead.
“At least we got to battle for the lead.”
PROBLEMS STILL PLAGUE KAUFFMAN
Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. And that rain cloud has just been lingering over the head of Joel Kauffman for quite some time now.
It looked like things were finally going to change for Kauffman at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday. Kauffman lead the 40-plus drivers in practice through three of the four sessions and was second-quick in the final session.
went to work, changed the battery, and got Kauffman back out, but many laps down.
“The battery went dead. We didn’t really know what it was for a while. We thought it was the ignition,” said Kauffman. “We switched everything around and found out it was the battery. I don’t know what took so long to change it. They got it changed and we went back out. We put new tires on it then and after that I was pretty quick. Once we got going, we were good. I think we came all the way through the field.”
The fast car left little for Kauffman to be happy about following his 29th place finish.
“I don’t know, we still got this cloud over us. We came and tested for three days and it showed. Everyone worked so hard. I guess stuff like that just happens. It is a new car and maybe we are still just getting all of the bugs out of it. We are going to go to the shop and diagnose everything and make sure we get everything checked over."
However, the #44 LA West Vehicles Pontiac qualified just 22nd, but no fears, Kauffman knew the car was better for the long runs.
Well, Kauffman never got the chance for too much of a long run.
Joel fell off the pace on lap 47 and finally came into the pits during green flag conditions. After an extended stay, the team diagnosed the problem as a dead battery. The crew
TWO MORE FOR PLETCHER
After going through two engine problems during practice, it seemed David Pletcher, driver of the No. 51 RaceFansDating.com Ford, was going to need Randy Humphrey's backup car for the third race in a row.
But after making a last-minute engine swap and taking a provisional starting spot, Pletcher started his own car shotgun on the field. Pletcher rallied to finished 14th after starting 38th and picked up $500 for being the Hard Charger.
MOVERS AND LOSERS
There were a lot of shakeups in the point standings at Myrtle Beach. Joe Gaita jumped from 21st to 12th with his third-place finish, and Michael Ritch went from 28th to 19th after finishing second.
D.J. Kennington dropped from 15th to 23rd after a crash relegated the Canadian to a 36th-place finish. Johnny Rumley dropped from eighth to 15th after falling out of the race on Lap 197 and finishing 32nd.
Joe Gaita's #42
The two engines on Saturday were the fourth and fifth Pletcher has went through during the championship series.