USAR: Lakeland III: South champion crowned, race notes

Gill Wins Lucas Oil 250; Huffman, Faulk Take Titles Lakeland, FL--The Lucas Oil 250 presented by Advance Discount Auto Parts was everything a season finale should be. The drama-laden conclusion of the Southern Division season featured veteran...

Gill Wins Lucas Oil 250; Huffman, Faulk Take Titles

Lakeland, FL--The Lucas Oil 250 presented by Advance Discount Auto Parts was everything a season finale should be.

The drama-laden conclusion of the Southern Division season featured veteran Bobby Gill and 15-year-old Joey Logano battling for the win.

Mark McFarland, Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers were fighting for the Southern Division title into the waning stages, while Michael Faulk, Chase Pistone and Wayne Willard trying to take the Southern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award.

The Race
If Yankee Stadium is the "The House That Ruth Built," then USA Int'l Speedway in Lakeland, Fla., is definitely "Bobby's Place."

Coming into the Lucas Oil 250 at USA Int'l Speedway, Bobby Gill had picked up 10 of his 40 Pro Cup wins at the Florida facility. His wins at the .75-mile track alone would place him in sixth on the all-time Pro Cup win list. At the conclusion of the event, Gill pushed his win total to 11 at USA Int'l Speedway.

Taking the lead away from 15-year-old Joey Logano on a restart at Lap 166 of the Lucas Oil 250, Gill led the final 84 laps to capture his second win of the season.

"I don't know what it is about this place, but we always seem to run well here," said Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford. "The car wasn't that good in the beginning. It was real tight. I played with the air pressures to get the car better. Once I got around [Logano] on that restart, the car started to come around. In the last 40 laps, it seemed like the harder I ran, the better car was."

Gill was able to break free of the Logano, driver of the No. 51n Joe Gibbs Performance Racing Oil Ford, over the final laps, beating the youngster to the line by 1.553 seconds.

"Our car ended up being a lot better than we thought it was going to be," said Logano, who grabbed the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award for advancing 15 positions. "I started near the back, and I just tried to stay out of trouble."

Logano, who short-pitted on Lap 99, inherited the lead when the rest of the lead lap cars came to pit road on Lap 112. Logano led five laps until Shane Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Ford, blasted into the lead on Lap 119 after a restart.

Wallace paced the field for 43 laps, including the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Lap, but Shane Huffman, who led 96 of the first 112 laps, was marching back to the front after his pit stop.

Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford, pulled underneath Wallace heading into Turn 1 on Lap 161 in an attempt to move back to the point, but the twosome tangled.

The contact cut down the right-front tire of Huffman and sent Wallace into the wall. Huffman chased his car up the track and made light contact with the wall, nearly ending his shot at the Southern Division title.

"Shane Wallace about cost us the title," said Huffman, who picked up the Greased Lightning "Blast the Pack" Award for leading the most laps. "He just cut down on me. I don't know what he was thinking."

Huffman was able to limp to pit road and change the tire before losing a lap and finished eighth, clinching the Southern Division title. Wallace continued on as well, but his chance at a top-10 finish was gone.

"I knew [Huffman] had the dominant car all day," said Wallace, who finished 13th. "I really don't know what happened. At the last second, my spotter said, 'inside.' I don't know if I chopped him off or if he got into me."

Regardless of fault, the contact by the leaders allowed Logano and Gill to move into first and second, respectively, for the restart on Lap 166. Gill slid to the inside heading into Turn 1 and cleared Logano down the backstretch en route to his 41st win.

Michael Faulk, driver of the No. 53 LiftOff Ford, crossed under the checkered flag in third.

Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 84 Heritage Bank Ford, rebounded from his lackluster effort at Bristol to finish fourth in the Lucas Oil 250.

Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Lucas Oil Ford, rounded out the top five.

The Lucas Oil 250 featured six lead changes among five drivers and was slowed nine times for 62 laps of caution.

The Championship

At the conclusion of the Lucas Oil 250, Shane Huffman emerged from his No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford as the Southern Division Champion. When he climbed from his car, he wasn't quite ready to celebrate, however.

Huffman, who led a race-high 96 laps, was looking for some answers from Shane Wallace about the mid-race incident that nearly took Huffman out of title contention.

"That's two weeks in row he's done something like that," said Huffman. "I guess I need to pay for a spotter for him. I wasn't even thinking about something like that happening when we went into the corner. He just cut down."

Huffman's tire went down as a result of the contact, forcing the Southern Division point leader to pit road on Lap 162 and dropping him to 15th for the restart. The incident was the second of the night amongst the three drivers in title contention.

Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford, was swept into an accident triggered by rookie drivers Wayne Willard and John Sarppraicone on Lap 120. Rogers returned to action on Lap 157, but his bid to repeat as Southern Division Champion was over. Rogers finished 23rd.

Though Rogers, who was second in points going into the Southern finale, was out of championship hunt, Huffman was still in jeopardy of losing the top seed for the Championship Series.

Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy, lined up third for the restart on Lap 166. With Huffman running 15th at the time, McFarland trailed Huffman by just 20 points.

With 15 cars still on the lead lap, McFarland would have needed to win the event if Huffman stayed in 15th. But that wouldn't happen for the JR Motorsports driver.

Once the green waved, Huffman rumbled into the top 10, found a hole between Brad Rogers and Steve Wallace in ninth spot and rode.

"We knew what we had," said Huffman. "We'd already picked up 10-bonus points, and Mark hadn't led a lap yet."

McFarland held down third until his engine began to sputter on Lap 235. The WINFUEL driver limped around on five cylinders for the remainder of the event and finished 15th, but he did bypass Clay Rogers in points, moving to second in the Southern Division standings.

With McFarland out of contention, Huffman just needed to finish the race to grab his second Southern Division title in three years. And he did just that, coming home eighth.

"I'm disappointed because we should have won the damn race," said Huffman. "But at the same time, I'm really happy for our team for what we've accomplished so far this season. The Championship Series is going to be tough with all the competition, but the 25-bonus points are going to help us."

The $25,000 Huffman took for being the regular-season champ won't hurt either.

The Rookie Race
At the conclusion of the Lucas Oil 250, Michael Faulk's No. 53 LiftOff Ford sat against the inside-retaining wall at USA Int'l Speedway buried in mud. The scene wasn't the result of a last-lap crash, rather the result of an over-exuberant driver.

"That's pretty embarrassing," said Faulk, who stuck his ride in the mud while doing burnouts after clinching the Southern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year. "I don't care. I just won the Southern Division Rookie of the Year."

Faulk's failed burnout was about the only thing he did wrong in the Lucas Oil 250.

After laying down the sixth-fastest time in Advance Auto Parts Pole Qualifying, Faulk marched into the top three by Lap 20. For the remainder of the night, Faulk was a fixture in the top five, while the rest of the rookie contenders fell by the wayside.

Rookie point leader Chase Pistone, driver of the No. 40 Metrolina Expo Center Ford, started 13th and moved into the top 10 early in the Lucas Oil 250. But he fell from the pace on Lap 50 and finished 29th.

Wayne Willard, driver of the No. 01 Bowen Homes Chevy, was the only other rookie on the track that could catch Faulk in the rookie battle. But his night ended on Lap 120.

While battling for seventh, Willard made contact with John Sarppraicone going into Turn 1. Willard pounded the outside wall and retired from the event in 26th position.

Despite his competition falling from the event, it wasn't like Faulk backed into the title.

Faulk posted his best result of the year by finishing third. Pistone would have needed to finish fourth to beat Faulk in the rookie race.

"We had our best run of the season when we needed it the most," said Faulk. "I can't thank everybody on this team enough. Michael and Michelle Burton [Faulk's car owners] have been behind me all season."

Lucas Oil 250 Notebook

Record Setter
Shane Huffman not only walked away with the Southern Division title at USA Int'l Speedway, he made a little history beforehand.

Huffman grabbed the 23rd pole of his career in Advance Auto Parts Qualifying. His pole pushed him past Mario Gosselin for the all-time lead in Pro Cup poles.

New Digs
Brad Rogers made his return to the Hooters Pro Cup Series in the Lucas Oil 250 at USA Int'l Speedway. Rogers took over for Jay Fogleman, who returned to his own team, in the Ricky Benton Racing No. 22 Black's Tire Service Ford.

Rogers posted a sixth-place finish and qualified for the Championship Series.

"This is a helluva a race team," said Rogers. "Not downing my boys from last year, but this deal is definitely a winning combination."

Silent Statement
With all the hoopla over the season-ending battles, Joey Logano's second-place finish may have been a silent statement for the Championship Series. Logano had to miss the first three races of the Northern Division season until he turned 15-years-old, negating any chance the Joe Gibbs Development driver had a taking the regular-season rookie award.

Logano's second-place finish gave him his fourth Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award in just his eighth start in the series. Logano is the only rookie to win the award outside his designated division. Logano has won two rookie-of-the-race awards in both divisions this season.

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Jody Lavender , Mark McFarland , Mario Gosselin , Michael Faulk , Shane Huffman , Joey Logano , Steve Wallace
Teams JR Motorsports