Mooresville, NC 9/16/13- If anyone within an hour drive of Orange County Speedway didn’t know who Clay Rogers was before, they sure do now, as the veteran put on a hell of show with fellow veteran JP Morgan to kick off the X-1R Pro Cup Champion Series in style Saturday night at the Rougemont, North Carolina track. For Rogers, who was the championship leader heading into the night’s event; it was his fourth victory of the season after winning the first three races to kick off the 2013 season.
“We struggled during practice today; hell I even spun out on my own once, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve done that. But my guys kept working on it and we made some good adjustments at the halfway break that allowed us to have a good car in the second half,” stated Rogers in Edlebrock Victory Lane. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to even going to get a chance at the win tonight because the #2 car (Brady Boswell) was checked out, but luckily we got a caution to bunch us back up and make a race out of it. I got into him on that restart, which I really didn’t mean to, but it was time to go and I knew I had a pretty good piece if I could get out front.”
It was Morgan who had the advantage starting the 200 lap race from the pole position after setting fast time in MAHLE pole qualifying and then jumping out to the lead on the initial start. Morgan sailed out to the lead early on before Rogers took advantage of a lap fifty-seven restart to take over the top position. It was newcomer CJ Faison, making his first career Pro Cup start, who turned the heads of many as he made his run on Rogers for the lead position on lap ninety. Rogers #16 machine was just strong enough to hold off Faison at the event’s halfway break on lap 100 to gain five bonus points for leading at halfway.
Lap 101 brought the excitement in hurry when two time Orange County Speedway late model champion pulled out from pit road in front of the field on the restart shuffling the field. Several front runners checked up giving rookie Brady Boswell a shot at the lead which he took full advantage of. With Boswell leading the field several intense battles formed between Rich Gould and rookie Reid Wilson for fourth, as well as, Andrew Smith and Faison for sixth.
Battles like those throughout the field came to a head on several occasions through the final thirty-five laps. A multi-car incident on lap 180 was the biggest of the night when Andrew Smith’s #62 ride spun coming off turn four collecting several drivers in the field including Gus Dean and Faison. Smith was able to continue, however; Faison and championship contender Dean were done for the night.
The incident wasn’t want Boswell needed as it erased his ten car length lead setting up a shootout for the finish. With Boswell up high and Rogers down low a side-by-side battle between the rookie and veteran was a show the fans came to see. The two made contact in turns three and four sending Rogers to the lead, and Boswell doing his best to save his #2 machine with just fourteen to go. Morgan and Gould both took advantage of Boswell’s mishaps just as the yellow waived again settling up a green-white-checker finish to decide a winner.
With Rogers on the outside and his championship rival JP Morgan to the inside, a tight race between the two ensued with Rogers taking full advantage on the white flag. Morgan sailed his #23 machine in hard on the final lap to have a shot at Rogers but it wasn’t enough as Clay Rogers powered through the final turns picking up the win. Morgan crossed the line second with Gould rounding out the podium in a career best night.
X-1R Pro Cup Series
Championship Series Kickoff 200
Orange County Speedway-Rougemont, NC
1. #16 Clay Rogers
2. #23 JP Morgan
3. #58 Rich Gould
4. #21 Eric Gerchak
5. #2 Brady Boswell
6. #17 Stacy Puryear
7. #62 Andrew Smith
8. #1 Dalton Hopkins
9. #66 Reid Wilson
10. #56 Gus Dean
11. #6 CJ Faison
12. #33 Joey Jones
13. #00 Lucas Ransone