Huffman Muscles His Way to Victory New Smyrna Beach, Fla.--The "Bump-and-Run" is tried and true way to win races, but it is not a way to win friends. Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers found that out in the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by KRO ...
Huffman Muscles His Way to Victory
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.--The "Bump-and-Run" is tried and true way to win races, but it is not a way to win friends. Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers found that out in the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by KRO Country 93.1 FM at New Smyrna Speedway on Saturday night.
Rogers led the pack to the green-white-checkered finish, but the Hickory, N.C., driver nudged Rogers out of the low groove coming to the white flag, completed the pass in the first turn and went on to victory.
"I wanted to race Clay as clean as I could," said Huffman, who took home an extra $1,000 for winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award. "Everybody behind Clay gassed up at the same time and it was chain-reaction deal. I hate it for Clay. He has raced us clean in the past. He's probably mad, but there ain't anything I can do about it now."
"Mad" could be an understatement.
"He hit me in the back," said a heated Rogers. "He wasn't man enough to get a run and pass me. We'll go on to the next race. I'm not going to wreck him, but he's out of chances."
Rogers' ire was fueled by the fact that he dominated much of the second half of the race.
The Mooresville, N.C., driver started second and ran there for the first half of the event. But when the lead cars hit pit lane on Lap 111, Rogers' TOFF Sprayed-On Bedliners crew put their driver back on the track ahead of all the cars that pitted.
"The crew did an excellent job," said Rogers. "We made some adjustments on our stop and the car took off."
Rogers lined up third for the restart on Lap 117 and quickly passed Jeremy Rice and Keith Roggen to take the lead on Lap 132. However, Roggen, who led for the first time in his ProCup career, stayed out front for 19 laps and picked $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader before Rogers made it past.
Once in front, Rogers was able to distance himself from Huffman during the next 50 laps. Meanwhile, Gill, who went from first to 13th during the pit stop, was charging from the back of the pack. The three-time ProCup champion picked his way into third by Lap 183. Gill moved around Huffman for the runner-up spot 10 laps later, but he was still 1.5 seconds behind Rogers.
The race's 15th caution waved on lap 196, bringing Gill to the bumper of Rogers for the restart. Rogers got some breathing room, however, when Gill spun avoiding the car of Michelle Theriault, who spun and was sitting in Turn 1. But the caution would end up costing Rogers the race.
With the coarse surface at NSS, teams were given the option of using 10 tires during the race. And many teams made the choice to use them all. Huffman, running fourth at the time of the caution, elected to come to pit lane for right-side tires with 25 laps remaining. Fortunately, for Huffman, the rest of the lead-lap cars followed.
"I felt like if somebody went [to the pits], everybody else would follow," said Huffman. "We would have probably been a third-place car if we didn't come in."
The fresh rubber quickly paid dividends as the 2003 Hooters ProCup champion charged to Rogers' bumper in the final laps, but two late-race cautions hampered Huffman's lead bid.
On the final restart at Lap 249, Huffman got a run down the backstretch, nudged Rogers up the track at the exit of Turn 4 and pulled to the inside heading into first turn on the final lap. Rogers and Huffman banged doors in Turn 1, but Huffman, who led 80 laps, had the preferred line and went on to capture the 13th win of his career.
Gill, who was the defending champion of the race, rallied from the spin to finish third.
"I feel pretty good about where we finished, considering what happened tonight," said Gill. "That pit stop put us behind. Our car was a little tight on new tires, but it started to come around at the end."
Former Southeast Series driver Randy Gentry finished fourth and won $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award winner in his first race of the season. George Brunnhoelzl III finished fifth.
The race was slowed for 94 laps for 18 cautions.