Luke roffers wins 2012 carolina clash championship; michael marlowe is 2012 rookie of the year

Five wins in 2012 highlights a superb championship campaign for Concord, NC, driver

-          Mark Huey, Carolina Clash Press

The 2012 Carolina Clash Super Late Model season began on March 10th, 2012, at the Carolina Speedway with the annual running of the Skyler Trull Memorial Race. Everyone knew that this season would b full of surprises and change and it definitely didn't disappoint. Every driver that ended the 2011 championship chase knew that the regular starters would be in contention for the championship at year's end, but none could have predicted how close this season's chase would actually be due to the new point format implemented for the 2012 season.

Since 2002 Carolina Clash point races had always been close, particularly among the top two. In ‘02 Scott Autry picked up the championship by just nine points over Billy Hicks. In 2003, Ed Basey had the championship wrapped up well before the season had ended. Ricky Weeks won four championships in a row by large margins until the 2008 chase where he held off Dennis Franklin by 17 points. Jeff Smith was the 2009 title by a comfortable margin. Then, for two straight years, the championships went nearly down to the wire for Dennis Franklin, with victories over Dean Bowen in 2010 and Kennie Compton in 2011.

During the off-season, Carolina Clash series officials and Mr. Larry Lee wanted to create a new point format that resembled the point system adopted by NASCAR. This was in hopes of creating a tighter point race among the drivers eligible for the championship. The result was exactly what was hoped for in the 2012 Roush Yates Performance Products and JE Pistons Chase for the Championship. For the most part, twelve drivers starred in a myriad of dramatic finishes in each race. This all led up to the finale — one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the Carolina Clash series.

Concord, NC, driver Luke Roffers started the year looking like a true championship contender. His victory in the season opener at Carolina was the first of his career in Gastonia with the series. In the first eight races (the regular season), Roffers was outstanding in his efforts, posting three victories (Carolina, Fayetteville and I-77). During that run, he failed to finish outside of the top 10 only once — a 20th -place finish at Fayetteville in late August. His average finish was 5.75 and he completed the regular season as the points leader by nine markers over Ricky Weeks.

Historically speaking, 311 Motor Speedway is not a track that has been kind to Roffers, as he had not scored a win going in to the 2012 campaign. When the August 11th regular season race at 311 was rained out, the make-up date became the first race in the championship chase. This created 311 Speedway bookends on the championship, as it would begin and end at 311. Roffers ran sixth at the facility in March and began the chase with a modest run at 311 Motor Speedway on September 7th , fighting back through the field from mid-race pit stop to finish seventh.

With this in mind, Roffers had to be strong at the tracks sandwiched in between the 311s - and he was. He scored his first ever win at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, VA, by being patient and waiting for his chance to take the lead. He was second at Lancaster, a track where he has struggled in the past. Finally, he overcame the odds and survived at Fayetteville for his fifth victory of the season.

So, that left him having to score at worst a 21st place position in the finale at 311 Motor Speedway. After hot laps and during qualifying, everyone knew that something was not quite up to par on his machine, and he was forced to compete in an eight-lap heat race. After finishing second in his heat, he would start 14th in the race. That is where he would stay for most of the race, taking care of his car and sealing the fate of the championship. In a race that featured a full field and very little attrition (only one car exited the race early), Roffers knew that he had to be conservative in order to secure the title. However, the championship run in 2012 will not be remembered for how he finished at 311 Motor Speedway, but for a stellar season of five wins, two second-place finishes, and only two finishes outside of the top ten.

Congratulations to Luke Roffers and the Cal-Les II Transport, Wolfpack Racing, Wayne Roffers Trucking, Wisconsin Lock and Load, Chad Roffers Wildlife Service #21 Rocket powered by Pro Power Race Engines for winning the 2012 Carolina Clash Championship.

 

Jeff Smith of Dallas, NC, entered 2012 with plans to compete in two levels of Late Model competition - the NDRA Crate Late Models and the Carolina Clash Super Late Models. In 2004  Smith began following the Carolina Clash tour as a regular and from 2004 – 200  he finished as a runner-up in the point standings twice, fourth twice, and fifth once. In 2009 he finally won the title. In 2010 and 2011, he was fifth and fourth. Smith finished the 2012 season second, again, for the third time in series history. As close as the points were all year, it would only take one or two races to have an impact on how things would end up. August 18th at Fayetteville and Wythe Raceway on September 22nd would make enough difference. Smith was first to retire from the 26-car field at Fayetteville, costing him a ton of points in the regular-season points race. An 11thplace run at Wythe, coupled with a Roffers win, created a tough scenario for Smith to win his second title. However, Smith actually scored more points in the final five races than Roffers - 159 to 158. Roffers had an 11-point lead to begin with though and it was too much for Smith to overcome. Smith’s average finish in the final five races was 4.4, which was best among all drivers, including Roffers. Thus, Smith ended the 2012 season with a lot of momentum, which could go a long way in preparing for 2013. Smith started the year with a fifth-place finish in the Super Late Model and a big win in the NDRA GM Performance Late Model Road Show as a part of the Skyler Trull Memorial at Carolina Speedway. This was just the type of beginning Smith wanted for the year. The momentum continued at 311 Motor Speedway a few weeks later, as he captured a huge win at the Madison, NC, half-mile. During the 2012 Championship Chase, Jeff Smith picked up another win at Lancaster Speedway in October. Smith had an outside shot at the series title entering the finale on October 27th, but fell just ten points short. Smith has since raced in other regional events following the conclusion of the 2012 season and is very optimistic about a strong 2013 campaign. Smith was second in the final NDRA GM Performance Road Show points with the Crate Late Models and raced in every event in 2012 with Carolina Clash.

2010 & 2011 Carolina Clash Champion "Rambo" Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, SC, had not planned to run for his third series title at the beginning of the 2012 season, but after a late-season surge he was among the top 12 in points and was set to make a bid for the three-peat. Franklin opened the season with a major letdown with mechanical problems in his #37C AES Racing, Barry Wright racer at Carolina Speedway in the Skyler Trull Memorial Race. He fell out of the event while leading, something that would happen twice more to the Cherokee County, SC, veteran during the year. To end the regular season, Franklin captured two checkered flags, one at Carolina Speedway's 40th Annual Shrine 100 and the other during the Shirley Autry Memorial Race at Fayetteville. During the chase season, Franklin took a third win in a row at 311 Motor Speedway to begin the Roush Yates Performance Products & JE Pistons Championship Chase. Then, Franklin was leading at Wythe Raceway and at Lancaster Speedway and experienced mechanical problems at both events, which potentially cost him his third championship. Franklin had the most pole positions in 2012 with six fastest laps during qualifying. 2012 was also a very successful year for Franklin in the NDRA GM Performance Late Model Crate division, where he picked up the Heintz Brothers Performance Road Show Championship after a stellar season around the Carolinas.

Mike Gault of Gaffney, SC, still continues to search for his first ever Carolina Clash win. While his 2012 was winless, he was one of 10 drivers to compete in every event in 2012 and raced his way to a fourth-place finish in the final point standings, just one point from third. Ironically, his best finish of the 2012 season came at Lancaster Motor Speedway in October. That third place finish was a vast improvement from the disastrous "over-the-wall" incident that sidelined his efforts in the 2012 Carolina Crown race that previous April. Gault had eight top-10 finishes in 2012, made up of two top-five efforts. Gault continues to race around the region and looks for a strong campaign in 2013 to get that elusive first win.

2002 Carolina Clash Champion Scott Autry of Fayetteville, NC, made some of the biggest headlines in the southeastern region in 2012. To begin the year, his Cape Fear Motorsports team picked up a monumental win at the Carolina Crown $20,000 event at Lancaster Motor Speedway. Nicknamed "The Awesome One," Autry would go on to pick up seven top-five finishes in the 2012 season, including a huge win at the season finale, the Clash Bash, at 311 Motor Speedway. There he passed Jeff Smith in the final turns on the last lap of the 40-lap event. Like Franklin, Autry experienced problems at the Wythe and Lancaster events during the chase to disrupt what could have been a run at his second series title. Autry did experience one massive crash in 2012 while challenging for the lead at Fayetteville Motor Speedway in June. His car went flipping out of the turn two side of the track, causing extensive damage to his machine. Autry was the fastest qualifier in two events in 2012. After racing in all events in 2012 with the Carolina Clash, Autry should be a major force in the region in 2013.

Five-time series champion Ricky Weeks recently finished his 2012 campaign and would have liked to have had success on both ends of the season like he did in the middle of the year. After struggling with different chassis manufacturers over the course of the season, Weeks did capture two wins in the 2012 Carolina Clash season. The two-in-a-row victories came at Lancaster in April and at Fayetteville in June. He is currently holds the most wins in the series with 37 victories and was the repeating champion of the series from 2004 - 2008. While his "Fix for Six" season did not materialize as he would have hoped, he did manage a sixth-place finish in the final point standings. During the Lancaster event in April, Weeks led flag-to-flag from the pole position. Ricky Weeks attended all Carolina Clash races in 2012 and is thanked for his continued support of the series.

2011 Rookie of the Year, Travis Yow of Fayetteville, NC, competed in every event in 2012 with the Carolina Clash. His family-run team raced to six top-ten finishes and a season-best fifth place finish at Lancaster Motor Speedway in October. For the Yow family, it was a challenge to compete in each and every event, but determination led to each entry and put him in the running for the championship chase at the end of the regular season. Travis wound up seventh in the point standings for the year and is not sure what 2013 has in store. One thing is for sure, like most of the Carolina Clash competitors, he might not have the wins, but his racing family has a ton of heart for the sport and they are to be commended for the level of commitment they demonstrated this year.

Clover, SC, driver Johnny Pursley had two goals for 2012 - win the Carolina Clash title and compete for the championship with the new Battle of the Eastern All-Stars Tour (BEAST), a "cousin series" of the Carolina Clash. He raced with both series exactly as planned, but experienced a few major hurdles along the way. It wasn't because he and his team were not a force to be reckoned with. These hurdles came in the form of several mechanical problems that prevented him from winning a Carolina Clash race in 2012 and caused three DNFs during the championship chase. At each race Pursley would be in the hunt, only to fall by the wayside early to mid-race. While he never could find that elusive win, he scored nine top-10 finishes during the season, including six top-five efforts. Over in the BEAST series, Pursley scored two wins at Gordon Park Speedway against several familiar Carolina Clash competitors. He came up just one win shy of tying the champion, who had three wins. It was a season filled with "what-ifs" for Pursley in many areas of Super Late model Racing in the region. That should only further the drive to succeed in 2013 as Pursley will surely plan to be a major force in each regional series.

Like Franklin, Doug Sanders may not have entered 2012 with plans to compete for the championship. By the end of the regular season though, Sanders had competed in the minimum required events and qualified for the chase. Sanders found himself trying overcome an early point deficit after a mechanical problem at 311 in round one that relegated him to a 21st-place finish. Further problems at Lancaster Speedway led to his falling even farther behind. Sanders was in a battle with Michael Marlowe and Wayne Hughes for the final two spots in the top ten. The best finish in the chase for Sanders of Springwood, NC, a veteran/charter member of the Carolina Clash series who has two career wins all-time on tour, came at Fayetteville Motor Speedway in round four. That good run, ironically, was tainted by a disastrous crash that occurred on the final lap of the event. Sanders was tagged from the rear by an oncoming competitor and spun toward the inside retaining wall. The impact of the car was so tremendous that it flipped the car up and over onto it top, before coming to rest upright. Sanders, who sustained a few minor injuries in the crash, came back to complete the tour in the final event at 311 Motor Speedway, where he finished 11th. That finish was good enough to place him in ninth in the overall points standings.

Michael Marlowe, an independent farmer and trucker from Nichols, SC, is somewhat of a veteran on the Carolina Clash tour, but has never completed a full season. In 2012 Marlowe decided that he would test his skills against the Clash veterans who had completed full seasons and make his case to become recognized as a "Rookie of the Year." Marlowe met the qualifications for this campaign and would wage battle against West Virginia veteran Wayne Hughes. Marlowe started out the year "one-up" on Hughes, who did not compete in the series' first race at Carolina. Having that deficit at the beginning of the season, Hughes had some work to do. Over the course of the season, Hughes would make up some the deficit, finishing ahead of Marlowe eight times during the next 12 races. However, like the Electoral College in a Presidential Election, Hughes ran out of states (or races in this case) and fell short in the battle by sven points. Michael Marlowe joins Travis Yow, Dean Bowen, Chris Ferguson, Scott Neighbors, Brent Robinson, Travis Pennington, Clint Elkins, Roger Pate, Noel Tucker and David Taylor in the class of former "Rookie of the Year" honorees. Marlowe also finished three points ahead of Hughes in the chase standings to secure the 10th place points finish.

Wayne Hughes and Ross Bailes were the other two drivers who were qualified for the Roush Yates Performance Products Championship Chase. Hughes missed 10th place by three points and Ross Bailes began the championship with an engine problem at 311 Motor Speedway. He missed the next two events, before finishing the season at Fayetteville and 311. Hughes did score a second-place finish at Carolina Speedway in the 40th annual Shrine 100 and led early in the event at I-77 Speedway in Richburg, SC. Ross Bailes scored one second-place finish and three third-place finishes during the regular season, but did not complete the full slate of events..

The top ten finishers in the Roush Yates Performance Products Championship Chase will be recognized at the 2012 awards banquet; the date and location will be set very soon. Information about the banquet will be released as soon as it is finalized.

On behalf of Mr. Larry Lee and the entire staff of the Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series, thanks to all of our sponsors, drivers and teams, host tracks and fans for making 2012 a very successful year for racing in the Carolinas and Virginia.

  Luke Roffers outdueled eleven other drivers to capture the 2012 Carolina Clash championship.

The Carolina Clash would like to thank the following sponsors for their contributions to the series in 2012: American Racer Tire, JE Pistons & Roush Yates Performance Products, VP Racing Fuels, COMP Cams, Shafer Enterprises' Cool Shirts, NASCAR Technical Institute, Safety Kleen, R2C Performance, Velocity Racewear, Collins Signs & Trophies,www.lockoutforums.com, Racing Electronics, Mike's Custom Tanks, Lincoln Electric, Ohlins Advanced Suspension Technology, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, RF Composites, Keizer Wheelhouse South, Sisco Fire & Safety, Heintz Brothers Performance, XS Power Racing Batteries, Performance Tee's, ATL Racing Fuel Cells, Keizer Aluminum Wheels, Wylie X Sunglasses, Lee Furniture of Fayetteville, NC and Shell Racing Solutions.