FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – The 2012 Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series season began on March 10 at Carolina Speedway with the annual running of the Skyler Trull Memorial Race.
Everyone knew that this season would be a season of surprises and change and it certainly 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.
Looking back, since 2002, points races had always been close, particularly among the top two. In 2002, 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 champion 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 series owner 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, 12 drivers starred in a myriad of dramatic finishes in each race, of which the finale made for one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the Carolina Clash series.
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.
During that run, he failed to finish outside of the top 10 only once, a 20th-place finish at Fayetteville in late August. He was the point leader by nine points 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 there before this year. When the Aug. 11 regular season race at 311 was rained out, the make-up date became the first race in the championship chase.
This created 311 Speedway “book-ends” on the championship, as it would begin and end at 311. He ran sixth there in March and began the chase with a modest run at 311 Motor Speedway on Sept. 7, fighting back through the field from mid-race pit stop to finish seventh.
With this, 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 finish, at worst, in 21st 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 care 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 remember for how he finished at 311 Motor Speedway, but for a stellar season of five wins, two second place finishes, and only two races outside of the top 10.
Michael Marlowe, an independent farmer and trucker from Nichols, S.C., is somewhat 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 by one-upping 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 8 times during the next 12 races. However, like the Electoral College in a Presidential Election, Hughes ran out of (states) races and fell short in the battle by seven 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, as Rookie of the Year honorees.
Marlowe also finished three points ahead of Hughes in the chase standings to secure the 10th place point finish.