Huffman wins Barnburner Last Lap Pass Pushes JR Motorsports Driver to Greased Lightning 250 Crown Concord, NC-The allure of short track racing is simple: the outcome is truly never known until the checkered flag waves. And there was no better...
Huffman wins Barnburner
Last Lap Pass Pushes JR Motorsports Driver to Greased Lightning 250 Crown
Concord, NC-The allure of short track racing is simple: the outcome is truly never known until the checkered flag waves. And there was no better example of that than in the Greased Lightning 250 presented by Naturally Fresh ® at Concord Motorsport Park on Saturday, April 29.
The final lap took less than 18 seconds. But for the packed house at CMP, the memories will last forever.
Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Automotive Development Group Ford, held a half-car length advantage over Shane Huffman as he swept under the white flag, but Huffman tracked Rogers down the backstretch, pulled underneath at the exit of the final turn and beat Rogers to the finish line by a bumper to pick up his second win of the season.
"I didn't know if I could get by Clay on that last lap," said Huffman, driver of the No. 88 Champion/US Navy/Snap-On Chevy. "I got a good run on him down the backstretch and into the final turn. I wasn't going to wreck him, but I was going to do what I had to do to win the race."
What Huffman did was duck under Rogers and lean on him just a bit coming to the stripe. The contact was enough to get Rogers loose and allow Huffman to beat him to the checkered flag by .041 seconds.
"Shane did what he gets paid to do: win races," said Rogers. "He was driving mad and he was looking to prove a point."
Huffman's ire was raised by a rough-driving penalty doled out to him on lap 137 for his involvement in rookie Trevor Bayne's spin.
"We're dealing with inches out there, not feet," said Huffman. "I wouldn't ever wreck Trevor; he's a good kid, and I help him out anytime I can. I dug myself a hole, but I was going to drive my [butt] off for the guys on this team."
After dropping to the tail end of the longest line on the restart, Huffman, who led the first 107 laps after starting from the Advance Auto Parts Pole, was a man on a mission, working his way from 19th to 10th in just 25 laps.
While Huffman was knifing his way towards the front, Rogers used an out-of-sequence stop to put himself up near the front and went around Andrew Rogers, driver of the No. 81 Termidor/Aaron's Ford, on lap 122.
"When we started the race, we didn't have a winning car at all," said Rogers, who pitted on lap 79. "Blake Bainbridge [Rogers' crew chief] made a great call for us to come in and get that race car better. When we were out front, we turned some of the fastest laps of the night."
With choice track position and a fast car, Rogers pulled away from Bobby Gill, driver of the No. 06 Tidewater Interior Ford, by 1.16 seconds by lap 187. But as the race neared the 200-lap mark, Rogers' mirror was filled with a familiar foe.
Gill, who made a late-race pass to beat Rogers at CMP last year, began to unmercifully hound Rogers for the top spot. Gill nearly cleared Rogers, but a debris caution thwarted his effort on Lap 200. After the restart, Gill continued to badger Rogers, pulling alongside on several occasions.
"If I could have cleared him, I think we'd been able to pull away," said Gill. "But we sat there and let Logano and Huffman catch us. I needed that middle groove, but he was running where I was running."
Behind them, Huffman was running everywhere.
On lap 216, Huffman nudged Logano out of the preferred groove heading into the dogleg and moved into third. But his next pass wouldn't be as easy.
After the restart on lap 223, Huffman went door-to-door with Gill for the second spot for nearly 10 laps. Finally, on lap 232, Huffman cleared Gill, but Rogers had built a 1.5-second lead by then.
While he was two tenths of a second quicker, time was running out, and it appeared Huffman may come up short at the finish. However, a caution on lap 240 gave him one last shot at Rogers. And he made the most of it, turning to the inside of Rogers on the final turn of the final lap, bouncing off Rogers coming to the stripe and picking up his 26tth Pro Cup win by two feet at the finish line.
"I knew my only shot at him was to move," said Huffman. "I drove in harder than I wanted to, and I didn't want to spin him out. I wouldn't have wrecked Clay for nothing in the world; he's always raced me clean. If we didn't have the best car here, I would not have done that. But we did, and I did. Fortunately, we won the race."
Unfortunately for Rogers, his fate was the same as last year.
"You think as much as I've raced here I'd realize how much this track tightens up at night," said a dejected Rogers. "Dog gone, we we're stroking them. Then we got a caution, went back to green and car wouldn't turn. I have to congratulate Shane and his team; they had an excellent car."
Gill, driver of the No. 06 Tidewater Interiors Ford, held off a pesky Joey Logano, driver of the No. 51 Joe Gibbs Racing Oil Ford, to finish third.
Logano, in his first start at CMP, came home fourth.
"My car was just too tight going through the dogleg," said Logano. "My car was good through [Turns] three and four, but I'd get tight in [Turn 1] and real tight in the dogleg. Track position was key. I think if we had gotten in front of them I could have held them off. But I think we really had a fourth-place car."
Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lightning Ford, made a nice charge from his 18th-starting spot to finish fifth.
"We missed just a touch on the gear, and it made it hard to pass," said Fogleman. "Those things happen. We've had good cars the last three races, but we had some bad luck and haven't been able to show it. When our luck turns around, we're going to be good."
Mike Mason, driver of the No. 75 Watkins Engine Development Ford, picked up his best finish of the year by coming home sixth. Mason, who led the rookie points coming into CMP, picked up his first Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award and an extra $1,000.
Dange Hanniford, driver of the No. 22 BTS Tire & Wheel Distributor Ford, finished seventh. Wayne Willard, driver of the No. 01 Bowen Family Homes Ford, finished eighth. Shane Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Shane Wallace Motorsports Ford, was ninth at the finish, and Andrew Rogers completed the top 10.
The Greased Lightning 250 was slowed 14 times for 86 laps of caution and featured four lead changes among four drivers.
Greased Lightning 250 Notebook
Growing up racing at Concord Motorsport Park, Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Automotive Development Group Ford, has countless good memories. He's won in everything he's raced there. But in the last two years, Rogers' paradise has lost its luster. Rogers led the most laps in both races only to fall short at the finish line.
"It's tough," said Rogers. "ADG was here, and we put on a good show for them, but I hate I lost the race right in front of them. Maybe, we'll have to go test Hickory, so we can demoralize Huffman in front of his hometown fans."
Thanks for the Opportunity
Mike Mason, driver of the No. 75 Watkins Engine Development Ford, was a fan in the stands at CMP a year ago. Now, after his sixth-place finish at CMP, he's moved into the top 10 in points.
"I've got to thank my parents and grandparents for the opportunity they're giving me," said Mason. "They moved me from California to [Charlotte], and I'm trying to make the best of it. We're still looking for a major marketing partner, but the family and friends are helping me chase the dream right now."
The most important part of a good lap at Concord Motorsport Park is getting through the dogleg wide open. It's hard for the best of drivers do it. But for a rookie, it can be nearly impossible.
"I'm just trying to convince myself that I can get through there without lifting. You almost have to trick yourself into doing it," said rookie Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29 McDonalds Ford. "Down the backstretch, it feels like a rollercoaster that is just waiting to be derailed. All a driver can do is hold on and hope for the best."
Dange Hanniford and Joey Logano both had to unload backup cars at Concord Motorsport Park after suffering engine problems during the practice session. While not their primary choice, the backup plan worked out okay.
"For only having five laps of practice on this car, I'm pretty happy how the night went," said Logano, who finished fourth.
Hanniford wound up seventh after pulling out his backup.
"It was a long day," said Hanniford. "The motor messed up on the primary car. We got limited practice on our backup, but we qualified 10th. All in all, we stayed out of trouble and had good night."
On Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Sr. would have been 55. At Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove a black No. 8. Martin Truex Jr. drove a similar paint-schemed car to victory in the Busch Series race, and Mark McFarland, a former Pro Cup driver and current driver of the No. 88 US Navy Chevrolet in the Busch Series, finished a career-high seventh in JR Motorsports entry. Though hundreds of miles away from Talladega, the memories were just as strong at CMP for Shane Huffman, driver No. 88 Champion Chevrolet for the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports team.
"This is a big weekend for Junior, Kelley and the entire Earnhardt family, and I'm proud to be a part of it," said Huffman. "Mark [McFarland] did a great job with this team last year. I've got my shot now, and I just want to the best job I can for them."
See You in June
Longtime Hooters Pro Cup car owner Steve Husketh underwent surgery last week and was unable to attend the Greased Lightning 250 at CMP. His team unveiled a banner during prerace wishing him well, but driver C.E. Falk believes it won't be long before Husketh is back.
"He wanted to be here tonight," said Falk, who finished 12th. "It's killing him not to be at the track, but he'll be back at Lakeland."