Sears Auto Center Northern Division Preview: Tight Spaces, Big Faces
Gordon, Rogers and Agnew to compete in same division
Myrtle Beach, S.C.—What Pro Cup division features four overall Hooters Pro Cup titles, six regular-season titles and over 50 Pro Cup wins?
Well, if your answer was the Aaron's Southern Division of the Hooters Pro Cup Series, you were wrong. Actually, this season, the answer is the Sears Auto Center Northern Division.
Most Pro Cup fans already knew that several of the top Southern Division drivers from last year were jumping to the Northern Division, but the addition of the defending Southern Division and overall Pro Cup Champion Clay Rogers just upped the ante.
"DMT Motorsports called and asked if I'd be interested in running some Northern races, and I said, 'Sure!'" Rogers said. "I've been at the first two Southern Division races, kinda sitting on my thumbs. With the new body and air box, those guys look like they're having a lot of fun out there. I've got the itch, and I can't wait for South Boston."
Joining Rogers in the Northern Division this season will be former Southern Division regulars Jody Lavender, Shane Wallace and Matt Carter. And they all will be trying to break Benny Gordon's stranglehold on the Northern Division title.
"We're all going to be gunning for Benny," said Rogers, who will drive the No. 29 Bowen Family Homes Chevrolet.
And that's a fact that Gordon knows.
"Those guys are going to be good, but that doesn't scare me," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Samuel Metals Ford. "We've been in contention to win the overall title every year, so it's not like we haven't raced against tough competition."
But the aforementioned drivers aren't the only ones that will be looking to end Gordon's three-year stint as Northern Division champion.
Eight of the top 10 in points from last season are returning to the Sears Auto Center Northern Division. The only losses are Shelby Howard and Woody Howard, who both moved to the Southern Division.
Jeff Agnew, the 1998 Pro Cup champion, will be back and is a threat to win on any weekend. Agnew visited victory lane two times last year and finished second in points in the Northern Division.
Jack Bailey, who finished fourth in Northern Division points, is slated to return to Randy Humphrey Racing this season. In his first season of Pro Cup competition, Bailey led 163 laps, grabbed five top-five and eight top-10 finishes and had two poles in 12 starts.
A.J. Frank, who finished sixth in points, returns to the Northern Division this season with a new team, Mac Hill Motorsports. The addition of a major sponsor and a championship-caliber team will bode well for Frank's chances at picking up his first Pro Cup win and challenging for the divisional title. Last year, Frank led 40 laps and notched five top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 12 starts.
After driving for JR Motorsports in the Championship Series, Johnny Rumley, who finished seventh in points last year, will return to the Northern Division this season with the Mark Huff-led M&M Motorsports team. Rumley picked up one win, six top-five and eight top-10 finishes last season driving for Huff.
Eric Corbett, who finished eighth in points last season, will be returning for his sixth season of Pro Cup competition. Corbett had a solid season in 2006, racking up three top-five and eight top-10 finishes.
Short-track legend Gary St. Amant will also be back in action, looking to better his ninth-place finish in points a year ago. And it looks like that shouldn't be a tough task. St. Amant got off to a slow start last year working with his new team, but the two-time ASA Champion caught fire late in the year. This season, St. Amant returns with two sponsors and in the familiar No. 7. St. Amant should challenge for the title this year.
Rounding out the top-10 returning drivers is Lonnie Rush Jr. Rush showed the ability to be fast last season, but his inability to be consistent hurt him throughout the season. After averaging an 11th-place finish in the first three races and sitting sixth in points, Rush averaged a 16.4 finish the remainder of the season and fell to 10th.
But those are just known variables.
Over 10 rookies have registered for the $66,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year program, over 50 drivers have registered for competition in the Sears Auto Center Northern Division and nearly 45 teams are expected to descend on South Boston for opening race of the season.
"All I can say is that it's going to be awful interesting in the Northern Division this year," said Gordon.
For more information about South Boston Speedway's 50th anniversary season, phone the speedway at 434-572-4947 or 1-877-440-1540.
South Boston Speedway
Director of Media Operations
Office Phone: (336) 599-0162, extension 111
Speedway Office Phone: (434) 572-4947