USAR: WInchester CS: Race report

Huffman sends message Winchester, IN -- Domination. That would sum up the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Naturally Fresh Foods 250 presented by Astral Industries at Winchester Speedway on Saturday night. Shane Huffman bypassed Hal Goodson on the ...

Huffman sends message

Winchester, IN -- Domination. That would sum up the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Naturally Fresh Foods 250 presented by Astral Industries at Winchester Speedway on Saturday night.

Shane Huffman bypassed Hal Goodson on the opening lap of the race and never looked back. Huffman led every lap and beat Mardy Lindley to the finish by 4.998 seconds.

"I can't believe the fashion that we won it,'' said Huffman. "I believe we led every lap, and that's pretty amazing to me. Everything was just rolling our way."

And the fortuitous breaks started early for the Southern Division champion.

Huffman, who qualified second, started to the inside pole-sitter Hal Goodson, who elected to start in the outside lane, and was able to beat the Darlington, SC driver off of the second turn to lead the first--and every--lap.

Goodson, who won a $1,000 for winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, soon came under fire from Jeff Agnew for the second spot and lost the position on the 10th lap to the Northern Division champion.

After moving into second, Agnew was already a second behind Huffman, who caught the tail end of the field by lap 12. Huffman's advantage evaporated on the next circuit, however, when 10-car melee brought out the red flag. Several contenders saw their night end early in the accident.

Clay Rogers, who won last year's event, spun down the frontstretch, blocking the track and taking the many contenders with him. Mario Gosselin, Glenn Gault, Joel Kauffman, Michael Ritch, Stacy Puryear, David Pletcher and Danny O'Quinn all received heavy damage in the crash and fell from contention.

"I really don't know what happened. Everything was going good, and the next thing you know I was going backwards," said Rogers. "I don't know what happened. I don't know if I got into oil or something broke or I got hit from behind."

Whatever the cause, the end result ruined the chances of victory for all involved. When the red flag was lifted 7:02 minutes later, Huffman continued where he left off, blistering the track and the competition.

By lap 78, Huffman had put a lap on some formidable foes. The Hickory, NC driver put Bobby Gill, Mart Nesbitt and Kertus Davis a lap down.

While Huffman was knifing through lapped cars, he began to stretch his lead over Agnew and Goodson.

"Some people moved the right ways at times, and we were able to open a substantial lead," said Huffman. "Lapped traffic was really bad, but we were good enough to get down to the bottom and go."

And go Huffman did.

Huffman lapped all the way up to the seventh position when the caution flag waved for the third time at lap 90. Agnew and Goodson weren't as fortunate. The two were involved into the third caution. Agnew received damage trying to avoid the carnage, and Goodson tagged Agnew doing the same.

Huffman, and the rest of the lead-lap cars, came down pit road for service on lap 91. The Jennie-O Turkey Store crew sent Huffman back on the track with the lead. But for the first time all night, he would have some company when the green waved on lap 97.

Mardy Lindley, who started fifth, was able to stay with Huffman and pressured the leader for 10 laps. But as the race progressed, so did Huffman's lead.

By lap 146, Huffman again had clear sailing, but Lindley had company for the second spot. Jason Sarvis, who started 15th, moved to the bumper of the Lindley and began to look for a way around. Lindley held off Sarvis for the next 79 laps until the 2002 Hooters ProCup champion finally took over second on lap 225. But it was too little to late as Huffman held a 3.5-second lead over Sarvis with just 20 laps remaining.

Sarvis appeared to be en route to a second-place finish but tangled with the lapped car of Derrick Kelley on the last lap and lost the position.

"Lapped cars really did a pretty good job all night. With five laps to go, [Derrick Kelley] decided he wanted to race," said Sarvis. "I was just going to follow him, and he slammed on brakes going into [turn] 3 and tore my car up. I didn't have anything for Shane, but we had a second-place car and came home third."

Despite losing the second spot at the end, Sarvis did move into second in the point standings with his third-place finish.

Lindley took advantage of Sarvis' misfortune and finished second, 4.998 seconds behind Huffman.

Jason McLellan had the highest finish of the Northern Division drivers, coming home in fourth spot. Benny Gordon picked up the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award for his fifth-place finish. After starting in 30th, Jay Fogleman rallied to a 6th-place finish and pocketed $500 for the Hard Charger Award.

Huffman added $1,000 to his $10,000 winner's check for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award. The race was slowed seven times for 42 caution laps.

The Big One -- Winchester Speedway is known for its high banks, speed and, unfortunately, big wrecks. The historic, half-mile track lived up to its reputation on Saturday night. On lap 13, the frontstretch became a salvage yard as 10 cars collided and blocked the track, bringing out the red flag. David Pletcher's 21st-place finish was the highest of any driver that was involved in the accident.

Baby Steps -- After being involved in the 10-car crash, Joel Kauffman rolled across the stripe in 33rd position. Although disappointed, the rookie driver was still upbeat about the situation.

"I had it cleared on the low side, and I just got hit from the back. The guys worked hard and got us back out to make some laps," said Kauffman. "It's tough because this is our home track, but I've run six races here and this is the first time I've finished.''

Benny is Back -- Benny Gordon had an up-and-down regular season, finishing in the top-10 in the first five events before suffering three finishes outside the top-10 to end the season. At Winchester, Gordon's 5th-place finish was the highest finish of any rookie.

"We've been really studying what we've been doing wrong over the last few weeks," said Gordon, who took Hickory off to prepare for Winchester. "Late in the season, we tried to go faster and went in the wrong direction. We got our cars back together and hit on some stuff. We had a good racecar tonight."

Rough Night for Rookies -- Besides Benny Gordon, the 2003 USAR Hooters ProCup rookie class had a tough night. Kauffman, who finished 33rd, and O'Quinn, who finished 24th, suffered damage in the 13th-lap accident. Scott Baker pulled the wrong gear in qualifying and had to take a provisional. Things didn't get better during the race as Baker hit the wall later as did and limped home in 30th.

"It was just on of those days at Winchester. We unloaded and the car wasn't fast. We tried to work on it and make it faster," said Baker. "I found out the right-rear chain was too short and it caused the rear end to lift up. It was just one thing after another."

Keith Roggen found the wall as well and finished 31st. Gerald Davis experienced mechanical problems and finished 37th.

Smiling Fogleman -- Jay Fogleman got three laps of practice, hit the wall in qualifying and started 30th. He didn't win. He didn't lead a lap, but you couldn't tell by Jay Fogleman's mannerisms following the race.

"It started out to be a terrible day. The car was so good during the race I was able get up front," said Fogleman. "We had a legitimate top-10 car. I really feel good about the rest of the Championship Series."

Fogleman's previous best finish at Winchester was 12th.

Flag Waving, ProCup and Winchester Speedway - Lynn St. James has done many things at racetracks around the country, but the 7-time Indianapolis 500 competitor added several more feats to her racing resume at Winchester Speedway.

St. James toured the high-banked track in Kertus Davis' backup car after qualifying. It was the first time that St. James had seen the track and her first time in a ProCup machine. St. James experienced another first by waving the green flag for the start of the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Naturally Fresh Foods 250.

-usar-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Kertus Davis , Joel Kauffman , Danny O'Quinn , Shane Huffman , Jeff Agnew , Alan Kulwicki