Caleb Holman came into the final race of the CARS X-1R Pro Cup season Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway needing to only start the feature to win the 2014 championship. Holman left no doubt that the title was his after he swept both practice rounds, sat on the pole and won the Bojangles 250 for his sixth win of the season.
Despite all this success his biggest pleasure was the field he got to race against in the season finale.
The Pro Cup Series has struggled this year with car counts and getting drivers to make a full field. Recently the series allowed for Late Model Stock Cars as well as NASCAR K&N Pro Series and ARCA cars to race with the series. The first real test came on Saturday night with Holman out running Todd Gilliland, who was piloting a Late Model Stock Car. The Pro Cup regulars had to fight tooth and nail as Steve Wallace and Alex Yontz, both in Late Models, bookended the top five with Pro Cup driver Clay Rogers finishing third.
“My position is if this series doesn’t put on a good show and produce cars then we are not going to have a series,” said the 2014 champion Holman. “I could not get upset if a Late Model out-ran me tonight. We ended up putting on a good show, with several lead changes. I am not sure what will happen next year, but we as a series can built on this.”
The combination was nearly flawless as Late Model drivers took three of the top five spots in the final rundown. Todd Gilliland who finished second said it was great racing and a challenge to try and outsmart the other types of cars.
“Even with a caution we finished where we would have,” said Gilliland. “I would pull up under a Pro Cup car at times and they would just power me of the straightaway. It made passing tough, but overall I think it was very fair.”
While Gilliland gained lots of experience in a long race, Holman padded his stats with his sixth win by leading the most laps. That was great for the Virginia driver, but the fact that the series left 2014 on a good note with promise for the future was the real victory.
“I am not PC about it,” said Holman. “The fact is I want a place to race that pays good money. I do this for a living. If the purse sucks then I don’t pay the house payment. This is by far the best-paying series. If this one goes under then what am I going to do?”
Some might have thought the Late Models had the advantage, but the worn-out surface of Hickory and the different power plants under the hoods left some great side-by-side racing for the fans to see.
“The truth of the matter is this combination will not work well all the time,” added Holman. “Had it been 90 degrees tonight we would have been killed by the Late Models.”
For the time being, Holman and the rest of the Pro Cup teams will have to see what series owner Jack McNelly decides to do in the off season. McNelly told the drivers in the drivers meeting the series will be racing in 2015, but what the series will look like and what the car type or mix will be is not yet determined.
Despite his wanting for the series to grow, Holman is proud to be the champion.
“I used to look at guys like Bobby Gill and Clay Rogers and think they really put in the time and effort to win championship,” added Holman. “We did the same and once you get in that rhythm it just becomes routine. Even when you’re running good and winning you want to be just as good at the next one. I can’t imagine another season like this one.”
– By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Operations Manager – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
– Photo credit: Speed51.com