News & Media


1on1: Rogers looking for career rebirth in a truck

March 08, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Clay Rogers has yet to race a full season in any of the three national divisions, but that could change this season.

Thirty-year old second in Truck Series points after up-and-down 10-year career

Clay Rogers is far from a household name, but he once shared a Nationwide Series ride with Matt Kenseth and recently helped tutor a teenager by the name of Trevor Bayne.

Rogers also is a four-time champion in the USARacing Pro Cup Series, including back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. Now Rogers sits second in the Camping World Truck Series standings heading into Saturday's Too Tough to Tame 200 at Darlington Raceway. He talked with NASCAR.COM about his season and his exploits with Kenseth, Bayne and his own 16-month-old daughter, Ava.

"I've talked to Trevor a couple of times ... I told him I was racing for 23 years before I finally got a chance to race at Daytona. Then I finish third [in the Truck race], which I thought was pretty good, and he has to go out and top me almost before I can even get back home."

---- CLAY ROGERS

Q: What was it like sharing a Nationwide ride with Matt Kenseth, who now is a Cup veteran and champion, back in 2001?

Rogers: That was with Reiser Enterprises. A lot of people thought that was a Roush car, but it really wasn't. It was actually owned by Robbie and his father, John, who has since passed on.

But I got the opportunity to run some races in that car. We were going to run 13 races, but of course when the planes hit the [Twin Tower] buildings [in New York] that year, sponsorship started dropping left and right. I ended up having to give a few of my races back to Matt in the hopes of the team procuring sponsorship in 2002, which didn't happen anyway. It was a lot of fun and a learning experience. I wish I had gotten to race a little bit more than I had, but I definitely got some experience on a lot of the tracks we're still racing on today.

Q: Such as Darlington Raceway, where you'll compete in the Camping World Truck Series on Saturday night?

Rogers: Somebody asked me if I'd ever raced at Darlington and I said, 'The only time I ever got to drive at Darlington was when I got to drive Matt Kenseth's car from Victory Lane around to the tech area.' He won the [Nationwide] race there at Darlington that year we shared a ride together. They were busy taking pictures, so I just drove the car around to the tech area.

Q: You're sitting second in points right now. What were your plans for this Truck Series season initially, and have they changed at all because of your fast start?

Rogers: Well, our original plan at RBR Enterprises was to come in and run 15 races in the Truck Series this year. Ricky Benton, the owner, got his feet wet in the series last year with Dennis Setzer, and decided to make a little bit more of a run at it this year. Then we decided we needed to run the first five races and kind of see where we stack up. Of course, after being second in the points after the first two races, there seems to be a little bit more sense of urgency to try to procure sponsorship.

Ricky's got a very successful business of his own that's a pretty large tire dealer and distributor in North and South Carolina, but we've leaned on those folks awful hard just to get to this point.

Q: Saturday's race is sort of a home race for you guys, isn't it?

Rogers: The race shop is only about 40 minutes from the track, so yeah, we've got some big things planned for this weekend. We've got a lot of hospitality stuff planned for Darlington, so for us to go out and perform at a high level is important. The other thing to remember is that we're second in points going into the weekend, but we've still got to qualify in on speed and you don't know how many quality trucks are going to show up. I'm sure it'll be another tough crowd.

Q: What do you like to do away from the track?

Rogers: I've lived in the Mooresville [N.C.] and Lake Norman area all my life, so I like to spend time on the water -- in the summertime, especially. I just like to go sit out on the pier or sit on a pontoon boat. That's how a lot of our Sundays are spent: out on a pontoon boat, listening to the Cup races on the radio. But in the last year and a half, things have changed for me quite a bit. I have a 16-month-old daughter [Ava] and she occupies my time. I really enjoy spending time with her and my wife, Cheryl.

I had a really interesting [Monday] morning, in fact. Our daughter has been really healthy since she's been born, but this morning she got up and wasn't acting right. ... I dropped her off at my Mom's house and was just sitting there, and she got sick and threw up all over me. That was the first time that happened. Then it was game on for her; she went about chasing the dogs.

Q: What is your long-term goal in racing?

Rogers: Racing started out as my hobby and turned into my career. It was almost 10 years ago when I got to run my first Nationwide race. I feel lucky to be 30 years old and still racing, to be able to be successful and pay my bills doing it. Four or five years ago, I would have said yeah, I'd still like to make a run at the Cup Series. I don't feel like that's a realistic goal anymore, being 30 years old. ... I'm going to have to get going on it if it's ever going to happen.

Q: Do you keep in touch with Matt Kenseth?

Rogers: Matt's a really good guy, but I haven't been able to keep up with him over the years. The drivers I'm friends with are guys like Steve Wallace, Trevor Bayne and guys I've raced against in the Pro Cup Series. Trevor used to stay at my house some when he had first moved to Mooresville from Knoxville, [Tenn.]

Q: So when did Trevor spend time at your house?

Rogers: When he was about 15, 16. He was running in the Pro Cup Series and his dad decided to move his team from Knoxville to Mooresville, which turned out to be an excellent decision -- especially looking back on it now. ... It sounds ridiculous to say now, but I tried to help him out a little. I went testing with him and we talked a lot. I tried to share a little perspective with him about what I had gone through to try to make it to the big-time. But definitely he's giving me advice now, let's up it that way.

Q: Where did he sleep, on your couch?

Rogers: He never stayed weeks at a time. He would stay with me for a couple days; he'd stay at the house of a former crew chief of mine who was crew chiefing him at the time, Blake Bainbridge, who lived up the street. The guy who is spotting for Trevor now, he'd stay with him. It was kind of a group effort there until he got an apartment. He's just a good kid. Everybody knows that now.

Q: Where did you watch the Daytona 500 this year, and what was your reaction when Bayne won?

Rogers: Actually all of my friends and Blake were up at Blake's house, watching it. Me and a couple of guys who had worked with Trevor in the past, we had a pretty good feeling about it because we knew he had a good car. But when he won it, there was an awful lot of jumping up and down and hugging, and maybe even a few tears shed. When he crossed [the finish line] to take the checkered, it was just an unbelievable feeling for all of us.

I've talked to Trevor a couple of times since then. I told him I was racing for 23 years before I finally got a chance to race at Daytona. Then I finish third [in the Truck race], which I thought was pretty good, and he has to go out and top me almost before I can even get back home.

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