Bristol Motor Speedway experience a plus for Huffman, other Raybestos Rookies DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2004) -- The television camera doesn't do justice to the steep 36-degree banked concrete turns of Bristol Motor Speedway. Few are...
Bristol Motor Speedway experience a plus for Huffman, other Raybestos Rookies
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2004) -- The television camera doesn't do justice to the steep 36-degree banked concrete turns of Bristol Motor Speedway. Few are prepared for the enormity of what they see.
Imagine, then, what passes through the mind of a rookie competitor gazing upon the .533-mile track for the very first time.
Robert Huffman (No. 12 Toyota Tundra Toyota) recalls his first visit to the unique east Tennessee track.
"I remember walking through the gate and across the track and thinking, 'This is the most intimidating place I've ever been to,'" said Huffman, a former NASCAR Dash Series champion who made his Bristol debut in that series in 1995.
"I drove around the place for 100 laps and I'm beat. I remember thinking after the race, 'How do the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup guys do this for 500 laps?' I was worn out -- and pretty sore for days after that."
Huffman, one of nearly a dozen Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders hoping to compete in Wednesday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly 200 presented by Valvoline MaxLife, will have a bit of an edge on some of his freshman rivals.
Huffman has some Bristol experience in a truck as well as a car. The 36-year-old Claremont, N.C. driver finished 33rd in the 1997 event and a year later, drove as relief for an injured Bob Keselowski.
"I think we got lapped once when we made the driver change and another time during the race, but I was pretty happy," said Huffman of that 18th-place effort.
That race -- along with Huffman's five Dash titles -- factored into his hiring by George deBidart's Innovative Motorsports, one of four teams fielding Toyota trucks in 2004. Huffman qualified on the outside front row in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but only recently has been finishing near his and the team's potential.
Huffman finished eighth at Nashville Superspeedway, his series best. That followed a ninth at Michigan International Speedway and 10th at Kentucky Speedway. Huffman has finished on the lead lap in three of his past five starts.
"We've run pretty decent all year; we just haven't had the results," said Huffman, whose teammate is Hank Parker Jr. (No. 21 Z Max Toyota). "Now, in the last few races, we've been running with the leaders and running in the top 10 and getting results. You can't get better if you don't get the experience and now we're getting it."
Huffman isn't alone among Raybestos Rookie contenders who've competed at Bristol. Others include Chase Montgomery (No. 8 Herbalife International Dodge), who finished 22nd in the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series Channellock 250. David Reutimann (No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota) won the Bud Pole for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series' 2001 visit to the track. Kelly Sutton (No. 02 Team Copaxone Chevrolet) also competed at the track in several NASCAR Dash races.
Any experience -- especially at Bristol -- is helpful, according to Huffman.
"I think my Dash Series experience will definitely help me, especially when figuring out the best way to get through the corners," he said. "Things I learned at Nashville in the series proved to be helpful last weekend. I'm sure the same will be true at Bristol."