- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
Everything fell into place for Clay Rogers Saturday at South Boston Speedway in the USARacing Pro Cup Series Strutmasters.com 250, with the Mooresville, N.C., driver and defending series champion winning his fourth Pro Cup race in six starts this year. Rogers, who now has 27 Pro Cup wins, led the last 118 laps of the race to beat Roxboro driver Matt Lofton to the line by 2.708 seconds, with Winston-Salem driver Brandon Ward, a winner last year at South Boston, finishing third.
Logan Ruffin of Memphis, Tennessee, finished fourth and Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, finished fifth.
J.P. Morgan of Ether, N.C., Billy Bigley Jr. of Naples, Florida, Tyler Young of Midland, Texas, Stephen Nasse of Pinella Park, Florida and Ryan Heavner of Lincolntown, N.C., rounded out the top-ten finishers in a race delayed by four cautions for a total of 23 laps, and in a race with four lead changes among four drivers.
Pit strategy played a key role in Rogers’ win, and, that combined with a strong racecar turned out to be more than the rest of the field could handle.
All but Floyd, Va., driver Jeff Agnew, who according to Rogers had the strongest car all night, but who has suffered with bad luck all year.
Agnew qualified on the pole with a time of 16.096 and led twice for 91 laps, including the first 90, and was running second when he went behind the wall with mechanical problems on lap 180.
“That’s the third time Jeff Agnew’s been bitten this year, and we’ve been able to capitalize on other people’s misfortunes,” said Rogers.
“Jeff had the best car and even with the adjustments we made to get our car better he did the same thing. “He was faster than we were and we held him off for a little while…but he was coming.
“I just have to say that thanks to my pit crew for getting me out in front, because it was so hard to pass out there. It was slick and almost slicker at night than during the day.”
Rogers noted his crew’s pit stop during the third caution as pivotal toward his win, with Rogers being the first lead-lap driver off pit road during the yellow flag.
He was second to Lofton (who didn’t pit) following the restart, but Rogers passed him after two laps and led for good thereafter.
“Our cars have been great all year but our pit stops have been nothing to write home about,” he explained.
“Tonight we got lucky and were able to make some adjustments, have some good pit stops and put us in position to win the race.”
Lofton, as did a number of contenders, had mechanical issues Saturday night but overcame them for his best finish of the year.
“I actually had to come down pit road twice earlier,” he explained.
“We started to lose voltage, and we came down pit road on the first caution after it stalled out to change the battery.
“The guys did a good job and we lost only one lap. We raced our way back to the lead lap and had to stay out to remain on the lead lap when everybody else came in and got fuel.
“We knew that was going to hurt us a little bit but it was more important to get our lap back, and we came in and took fuel on the next caution and we were the only ones who came in and took tires at the end of the race, so we had to come from the back three times.”
“We made it hard on ourselves and we just had to come from too far back to run down the No. 16 (Rogers),” added Lofton, who considers South Boston Speedway his home track.
“It’s my home track. I know probably 50 percent of the people in the stands here and it’s always nice when you can come back to your home track and have a good run.”
Lofton gives a lot of credit to Rogers and his crew for what they’ve accomplished thus far.
“Clay is an awesome driver and one of the best I’ve seen race on Saturday night outside of a Nationwide or Cup driver,” noted Lofton.
“He’s a great driver and they have really nice equipment, and you have to give them a lot of credit for what they do but I don’t think they’re unbeatable.
“He’s won some races he probably shouldn’t have won, but they put themselves in position to do that.
“Tonight was one of those races where like a couple of other times a couple of other times he snuck in there and managed to put himself in good position, capitalized on it and won the race.”
Lofton noted his race team has had really fast cars this year but haven’t been able to put the whole process together.
Things are looking up after a third-place finish at Rockingham and a fourth-place finish at Langley, he added.
“We’re making up ground on it, but we’re just starting a little too late in the year.
Ward is running a limited schedule this season, and results thus far have been mixed.
“We’re definitely not as good as we were here last year, but all in all it was a good run,” said Ward.
“This is the first pro cup race we’ve finished this year. We were running third at new Smyrna and got crashed early, and got 90 laps down.
“We went to Rockingham and broke a left front tire rod in practice, so these guys with me driving haven’t had the chance to work on this car that much.”
Ward said his team has been sharing some race notes with teammate A.J. Frank this season, and that has produced a few dividends.
“I feel we’re making some gains, be we have a little ways to go to run with Clay,” said Ward.
“The car was fairly decent early but it was still tight, and we made three adjustments, but it really it didn’t do what it was supposed to do.”
“We started out tight here last year and made pretty much the same adjustments, for whatever the reason, the track tonight didn’t respond,” Ward continued.
Except for Hickory where he had a dominant racecar that experienced a motor problem out of anyone’s control, Rogers has experienced very few rough spots.
“We’ve been fast wherever we’ve been,” said Rogers.
“The key to the year so far is not having any failures, and we had a car at Hickory that was a dominant race car but we had a motor problem that was out of everyone’s control.”
With the win, Rogers now has 773 points, 110 ahead of Caleb Holman who completed only 155 laps and finished in 15th-place.
The USARacing Pro Cup Series returns to South Boston Speedway Nov. 6 for the Pro Cup Series Championship race, the second time in two years that the track has hosted the event.