USAR: Peach State II: Race report

Huffman Wins Aaron's 250 Rogers comes up just short on green-white-checkered finish Jefferson, Ga.-With the recent announcement of his mid-season promotion to the Busch Series by JR Motorsports, Shane Huffman knows his days in the Hooters Pro...

Huffman Wins Aaron's 250
Rogers comes up just short on green-white-checkered finish

Jefferson, Ga.-With the recent announcement of his mid-season promotion to the Busch Series by JR Motorsports, Shane Huffman knows his days in the Hooters Pro Cup Series are numbered.

With no time to waste, Huffman added yet another number to his Pro Cup win total, grabbing victory No. 28 on Saturday night.

Huffman, driver of the No. 88 Champion Spark Plugs Chevrolet, slipped past Michael Ritch on Lap 219 and held off a fierce, last-lap charge by Clay Rogers to win the Aaron's 250 presented by Greased Lightning at Peach State Speedway.

"These guys work hard on this thing, and I just drive the car," Huffman said of his JR Motorsports teammates. "They make my job easy. I told them before the race I had plan. I said, 'Just work with me and trust me.'"

Huffman's gutsy strategy needed some trusting.

Huffman chose to ride mid-pack and pamper his tires, rather than run with the leaders for the first half of the event. Then with 75 laps remaining, Huffman made his last pit stop and showed his hand. The strategy worked, but just barely.

Rogers came to pit road for fresh tires on Lap 205 and rocketed back to second place with eight laps to go. And, when a late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish, Rogers' late-stop strategy looked to be the right move.

But when the green waved for the final time on Lap 250, Huffman was able to sneak away just enough to keep Rogers at bay and finished .125 seconds ahead of the No. 44 Automotive Development Group Ford.

"Clay had a great car," said Huffman, who will take over the helm of the No. 88 NAVY Chevrolet after Bristol. "I told Clay he was going to have to knock me out of the way to beat, luckily he didn't."

But it wasn't for lack of trying.

Rogers made last-ditch effort to catch Huffman in the final corner, but he couldn't get to the rear bumper of the No. 88 Champion Spark Plugs Chevrolet.

"For whatever reason, our car was tight on the last run," said Rogers. "[Shane] was fast through the center of the corner, but he couldn't get up off [the corners]. I was power driving getting in the corners, trying to make up the distance.

"I didn't get a very good restart; that's my fault. And I didn't do what I needed to do getting into Turn 3 on the last lap."

As for his pit strategy, Rogers believes his East Coast Motorsports team made the right call.

"We absolutely, 100 percent had the right strategy," said Rogers, who led a race-high 99 laps. "Blake Bainbridge [crew chief] made perfect calls all night, and the team did a heck of a job. We had by far the best car here, but the driver didn't get it done tonight."

Had the lead battle erupted on the final lap, Justin Hobgood, driver of the No. 16 Naturally Fresh Ford, was in the best position.

After starting fifth in the race, Hobgood made a late-race charge around Michael Ritch to take third. Hobgood posted his career-best finish by coming home third. Hobgood also picked up his second Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award in as many races.

"I was waiting for them to make a mistake so I could capitalize on it," said Hobgood, who has posted three top-10 finishes in the last three races. "We came up third, but it's just good to be running up front. Haskell Willingham, the team and Naturally Fresh do everything they can, but we're still under-funded compared to some of these other teams. We've got all volunteer help that comes over and works on these cars after their day jobs, so this is almost like a win for us."

Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Sauces Ford, continued his recent upswing with a fourth-place finish in the Aaron's 250. But Ritch, who led 25 laps, didn't feel quite as upbeat about his run as Hobgood did.

"We had a good top-five finish, but here I am again disappointed," said Ritch, who has three top-five finishes in a row. "I just wish people could feel the emotion of this team as hard as we've worked to get back to running up front. We went from running 20th and parking race cars to battling for the lead and leading laps in the last few months. I've got to hand it to my guys. They do what it takes to make this team and me run up front. These top-five finishes are dedicated to those guys."

Shane Wallace, driver of the No. 38 EM Wallace Contractors Ford, rounded out the top five.

After picking up the Advance Auto Parts Pole, Bobby Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, led 41 laps during the race, but the veteran driver fell to sixth at the finish.

Matt Carter, driver of the No. 26 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Ford, rebounded from an early-race spin to finish seventh.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 51 Joe Gibbs Racing Oil Chevrolet, also rebounded from a spin to post a top-10 finish. Logano, who led 23 laps, came home eighth.

Ricky Turner, driver of the No. 27 Williams Bros. Lumber Chevrolet, picked up his best finish of the season by crossing the finish line in ninth. Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lightning Ford, rounded out the top 10.

The Aaron's 250 was slowed 13 times for 69 laps of caution and featured 11 lead changes among eight drivers.

Aaron's 250 Notebook

Prolonging the Inevitable

Shane Huffman is elated to be moving to the Busch Series, but he's hoping a good performance at Bristol may keep around for at least one more Pro Cup race-and a shot at one more title.

"I can't believe the opportunity that I've got coming to me, but there would be no better way to go out than to win two in a row," said Huffman, who now sits only 77 points behind Rogers in the Southern Division standings. "I think we've got a better car for Bristol than we had here. Who knows, if we win up there, I can't race California so I might be able to go to Lakeland and go for the Southern Division championship."

Feeling Frustrated

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 51 Joe Gibbs Racing Oil Chevrolet, started second in the Aaron's 250 at Peach State Speedway and led 23 laps in the early going. Logano was never far from the lead all night, but a late-race tangle with Don Satterfield killed his chances at victory.

"We had the fastest car at the end of the race, even with it beat up like it is," said Logano, pointing to the bent No. 51 Chevy. "Every time we come here, we have the winning car, but something stupid happens. It's frustrating."

Big Picture

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29 McDonald's Ford, has a 120-point lead over Mike Mason in the Southern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year battle, but the 15-year-old driver is keeping his eyes on the big picture.

"My goal right now is to move into the top five in points," said Bayne, who finished 12th in the Aaron's 250 and is 74 points behind fifth-place Joey Logano. "I think if we are in the top 10 [overall] going into the Championship Series, we can have a good shot at finishing in the top five in points at the end of the year."

Along for the Ride

Andrew Rogers had a vicious incident during the Aaron's 250. On Lap 169, Rogers' No. 18 Aaron's/Termidor Pontiac slammed the Turn 3 wall and burst into flames. The accident also collected Dange Hanniford, but Rogers had no control of the outcome.

"Everyone was stacked up in front of me when we went down into the corner and I backed out of the gas like I normally do," said Rogers who finished 27th. "The throttle hung wide open and I immediately pumped it with my foot to get it up off the floorboard. The car just kept driving and driving and there was nothing I could do. I slammed into Dange Hanniford and drove through the back of his car into the wall at full speed. It was big. I hate it I took Dange out with me, but at that point, I was just along for the ride."

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Trevor Bayne , Justin Hobgood , Shane Huffman , Joey Logano
Teams Williams , Joe Gibbs Racing , JR Motorsports