USAR: Hickory: Race report

Huffman Wins Aaron's 250 Hickory, NC-After winning five races this season, one would think Shane Huffman could keep his emotions in check in victory lane. But win No. 6 nearly brought Huffman to tears. Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's ...

Huffman Wins Aaron's 250

Hickory, NC-After winning five races this season, one would think Shane Huffman could keep his emotions in check in victory lane. But win No. 6 nearly brought Huffman to tears.

Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford, took the lead on Lap 173 of the Aaron's 250 presented by Tucson at Hickory Motor Speedway and held off hard-charging Jody Lavender to take the victory at the track where he began his racing career.

"I can't believe how the fans responded tonight; I haven't been home," said an emotional Huffman, who moved from Hickory to Summerville, S.C., earlier this year to take the helm of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford for the 2005 season. "When you get that kind of support, it just makes the win that much more special."

For the first part of the night, it looked like Huffman was going to need some extra help to take his sixth win of the year.

Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford, started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole and led the first 146 laps of race. Huffman, who started sixth in the 32-car field, was able to pull even with Rogers several times around the halfway mark, but Rogers was able to fend him off in the outside lane.

But on Lap 147, Rogers cut a right-front tire down and had to make an unscheduled stop. While making his way to pit road with the cut tire, Rogers ground off the sway bar. It took 11 laps for Rogers to return to the race.

"It wasn't a tire failure. There was a cut in the tire," said Rogers. "I tried to get to pit road when it went down in [Turn] 3, but I couldn't get it straight, and by the time I got back to pit road, it drug through the sway bar and that was it. It's tough because we had the best car tonight."

Even without Rogers in the field, Huffman wasn't faced with a cake-walk to his series-leading sixth win of the season.

Shane Wallace rumbled into contention late in the race. On Lap 211, Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Ford, tracked down Huffman and began to look for a way to take the point.

After several attempts to wrangle the lead from Huffman, Wallace began to grow smaller in Huffman's mirror in the final laps.

"Shane [Huffman] was just better than us on the long runs," said Wallace. "I was hoping for a caution there at the end. If his tires would have gone through a heat cycle, I think we would have been better than him at the end."

While Wallace didn't have anything for Huffman, Lavender, driver of the No. 84 H&R Block Ford, looked like he did.

Lavender moved past Wallace on Lap 245 and set his sights on Huffman, but the Hartsville, S.C., driver ran short on time.

"Shane was good, and it hard to say that we could've beat him," said Lavender. "Shane was good on the top, and I was good on the bottom. If we would have had about 20 more laps, we would have put on a hell of a show."

But for the partisan crowd, the finish was what they wanted. And Huffman offered up an old-school celebration in appreciation.

"This was a special win," said Huffman. "I remember when I came to Hickory when I was a kid about 20 years ago. It was just like tonight. That's why I went back to the flag stand, got the flag and drove around. That's how they used to do it here, and I always remembered that."

Now, another generation of fans will remember it too.

Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy, picked up his fifth consecutive top-five finish by coming home fourth.

Joey Logono, driver of the No. 51 Logano Motorsports Ford, rounded out the top five and won the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award.

Billy Bigley Jr., Bobby Gill, Andrew Rogers, Mike Herman and Wayne Willard completed the top 10.

Skeeter Godbee, driver of the No. 82 Hampton Gin Company Chevy, picked up the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award for advancing 15 positions during the Aaron's 250.

The Aaron's 250 featured seven lead changes among five drivers and was slowed 11 times for 68 laps of caution.

Aaron's 250 Notebook

New Rides
Matt Carter and Jay Fogleman were in new rides for the running of the Aaron's 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway. Carter, driver of the No. 03 LCT Ford, started second and led six laps before losing an engine on lap 186. Fogleman, driver of the No. 22 Lucas Oil Ford, finished 12th after starting 23rd.

First Laps
Gabi DiCarlo made her first Pro Cup start in the Aaron's 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway. DiCarlo, a former Star Mazda Series and Akins Motorsports Developmental driver, started 31st and finished 18th.

"I learned so much out there tonight," said DiCarlo. "That was my first time racing head-to-head for 250 laps. In sports cars, you're pretty much racing by yourself half of the time. The biggest adjustment I had to make was driving bumper-to-bumper for 250 laps. But I made it, and I exceeded my expectations."

Brett Butler, driver of the No. 00n Aaron's Dream Machine, and Kevin Leicht, driver of the No. 15 Bullets Construction Ford, also made their first Pro Cup starts. Bulter finished 21st, while Leicht finished 11th.

Bonus Points and Bucks
Clay Rogers was visibly disappointed after the Aaron's 250. Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford, appeared to have the car to beat, leading the first 145 laps. But on Lap 146, Rogers cut a tire and fell from contention.

While his frustration was warranted, Rogers did pick up five bonus points for leading a lap, five points for leading the most laps and five points for leading the halfway lap.

Rogers grabbed $1,000 for being the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader and $500 from Greased Lightning for winning the "Blast the Pack" award for leading the most laps.

Rogers also pocketed the $200 put up by the local Miller Lite distributor for leading Lap 55 of the Aaron's 250 as a part of Hickory Motor Speedway's 55th birthday.

Southern Debut
Joey Logano, driver of the No. 51n Ford, made his first Southern Division start in the Aaron's 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway. And he wasn't intimidated by the Southern stars.

Logano, who became the youngest winner in Pro Cup history earlier this season, finished fifth after starting eighth and picked up $1,000 for winning his second Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award.

"When I was at Mansfield, most of the heavy hitters were up there, so it was about the same," said Logano. "It's going to be really cool in the Championship Series when we get all us together. We've got some good drivers in the Northern Division, and the Southern Division has some good drivers too. The guys that finish up front keep their noses clean and drive smart. That's what we're trying to do. You've got to be in one piece at the end to go for the win."

Please, Reverse the Curse
George Brunnhoelzl III, driver of the No. 20 Tucson Ford, can't seem to rid himself of the bad luck that has plagued his season. Brunnhoelzl III was en route to a top-10 finish late in the Aaron's 250, but a cut tire dropped him to 13th at the finish.

"We got up to fourth," said Brunnhoelzl. "We wouldn't have been fourth had the crew not put us up there. They did a great job tonight. On that restart [on Lap 194], the right-front tire went down. I must have run over something. I just hate it for my team and sponsors. For whatever reason, we can't shake this bad luck."

-usar-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Billy Bigley , Jody Lavender , Mark McFarland , Joey Logano , Brett Butler , Gabi DiCarlo , George Brunnhoelzl III