Rogers Claims Strutmasters.com 250 and Championship; Willis Jr. takes Limited 100 lapper
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (October 31, 2009) – Clay Rogers and his Jimmy Craig-owned team secured all of the treats on Halloween weekend at South Boston Speedway, earning the pole, the pit crew championship, a victory in the Strutmasters.com 250 and the 2009 USARacing Pro Cup Series championship.
It was the third series title for Rogers, who also claimed all of the $20,000 WIX Challenge Award bonus available during the Championship Series. A $5,000 bonus was available to the driver who won the race from the pole. If no one claimed the bonus, it rolled over to the next race. No one accomplished the feat through the first two races, making the bonus worth $15,000 at Rockingham [N.C.] Speedway. The Troutman, N.C., resident earned the pole and won the race at Rockingham, then repeated his performance in the season finale at South Boston.
Rogers won three of the four Championship Series events with J.P. Morgan being the only driver to break Rogers' victory streak. Morgan acquired his first career Pro Cup Series victory at Iowa Speedway in September. Morgan finished second in the standings, 93 points behind Rogers. Morgan trailed Rogers by 43 points entering the event, but had to settle for sixth in the 250-lap race.
"What a great season!" Rogers said. "I've got to win one more. I've got to get tied with Bob (Gill). Bobby Gill tells me all the time, 'Yep. You've got half as many championships as I've got.' So now I've got one less than him, so we'll see if we can't work on that for next year. Just to be in the category with Bobby with all the things he's done in his career is really important to me."
Gill leads the Pro Cup Series in victories with 46 and top-5s with 112. His four championships came in 1999-2001 and 2007. Rogers' other two titles came in 2004 and 2006.
Rogers obtained his sixth victory in 14 races this year a day after his team won its fourth pole of the season and the USARacing BFGoodrich Pit Crew Challenge with a time of 22.778 seconds. He started on the front row with Drew Herring and took the lead immediately. However, Herring scooted underneath Rogers on lap eight and maintained the point for the next 53 laps.
Rogers regained the lead on lap 61, diving under Herring as they entered turn one and completing the pass exiting turn four on the 0.4-mile track. With the exception of the 43 laps Derek Kale led in the race's second half, the battle for the lead confined itself to Herring and Rogers.
"We came to South Boston with nothing to lose," Herring said. "We wanted to come out, here, try and dominate and win this race. We got in a wreck in practice yesterday, hit the wall in turn two and it messed up the suspension on the right front. We got it fixed.
"We got in the lead there at the start of the race. I thought we were going to have a good car and we did at the end. We just got off [pit] sequence. We had to come in and get fuel and that put us behind them."
Rogers made his final pit stop during the fifth caution period that consumed laps 159-165. Rogers and Brandon Ward, who eventually finished second in his HessRacing Products Chevrolet Impala, received four tires during the stop. When the race returned to green-flag conditions, Rogers was seventh and Ward, winner of South Boston's August event, sat ninth. Kale was leading in his Heritage Truck Centers Chevrolet Impala SS and Herring was second in his BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors Ford Fusion.
By lap 191, Rogers had advanced to fourth and he took third three laps later, relegating Morgan to third. With 50 laps remaining, Kale was leading, Herring second and Rogers third. Herring then flexed his muscle, taking the lead from Kale on lap 206. Kale's Chevrolet Impala SS eventually developed mechanical problems and exited the race after 237 laps. Despite Herring's efforts, Rogers' C&C Boiler Sales & Service/Cleaver Brooks Chevrolet Impala was just too strong for the Benson, N.C., resident. On lap 211, Rogers took the lead for good and cruised to a 3.284-second victory over Ward.
"We worked on our car all day yesterday to run at the very bottom like we did back in the summer," Ward said. "Today, we just couldn't get down there. We were real tight in the center of the corner and struggled the first half of the race a little bit. We could hang around the top-5, but we couldn't make any runs. Between both pit stops we made three adjustments and got a lot better towards the end.
"Congratulations to Clay and his team. They have really been the team to beat all year. We have all chased them everywhere we've been. They definitely deserved that championship. He was the best car here today. We just couldn't get across the center as good as he could and that made the difference. We kept getting better and better, but we were just never quite good enough."
Rogers led four time for 130 laps in the race that was slowed by eight caution flags for 52 laps. There were seven lead changes among three drivers in the race that posted a green-flag average speed of 85.844 mph.
Lucas Ransone, the 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, finished 19th in his KRG Utilities Ford Fusion, completing 80 laps before he was eliminated in an accident.
The USAR Pro Cup Series kicks off its 16-race 2010 schedule on March 27 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.
Following the USAR Pro Cup Series season finale, Danny Willis Jr. won a 100-lap Limited Sportsman race at the historic South Boston track. Joey Throckmorton finished second and Justin Snow placed third in the event that was halted briefly due to a two-car wreck involving George Spencer and Jeb Burton. The accident occurred when Spencer spun entering turn three and Burton slammed into him. Neither driver was injured.