DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 9, 2002) - Robert Huffman, of Claremont, NC, used lady luck to score the win in the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring season opening DAYTONA USA "150" at Daytona International Speedway. "We did not have the car to...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 9, 2002) - Robert Huffman, of Claremont, NC, used lady luck to score the win in the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring season opening DAYTONA USA "150" at Daytona International Speedway.
"We did not have the car to win this race," stated an elated Huffman. "We did not qualify well and I had trouble sticking with the lead draft throughout the race." Huffman's engine guru, Don Miller, made the point that Rob literally robbed the show.
Larry Caudill, from N. Wilkesboro, NC, was perhaps the favored driver to win the race. His Crenshaw Motorsports entry was fastest in winter testing and he backed that up by sitting on the Bud Pole for the race. Caudill finished in 8th place and was clearly disappointed. "I am not happy with the way things turned out. I am not really sure what happened with all of the confusion there at the end. We really had the car to win today," said Caudill.
On the initial start and throughout the early stages of the event, the field lived up to its billing as perhaps the most experienced group of drivers in recent Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring competition at Daytona. The top 30 cars stayed side-by-side, and sometimes three-wide for the first 6 laps or so. Some of the media in attendance were awed by how well the drivers handled the intensity of such racing. "This is the best Dash race I have ever seen," was the common statement in the press box.
The drivers had some of their own comments to add about those opening laps. Wayne Edwards said, "It was kind of hairy out there, but most kept their cool." Eric Wilson said, "It was quite intense." Others agreed that it was a lot of fun and a few were nervous about running so close for so many laps.
The first of three cautions came on lap 21 when Keith Roggen, Wayne Edwards, and Dan Shaver got together in turn one. "My car just turned on me as if the wind was taken off my spoiler," stated Edwards. Several cars sustained damage trying to avoid the incident, namely Danny Bagwell, Ned Combs, and Jimmy Foster.
On lap 48 the leaders decided to make their gas-n-go stops. After the leaders entered the pits Steven Christian decided at the last minute to duck on to pit road as well. Unfortunately Mike Gaines was coming along side of Christian and the two cars touched causing them to slide onto the tri-oval grass.
This latest incident became one of the key factors in the outcome of the event. Since the leaders had already entered the pits they had to continue back onto the track in order not be caught on pit road under the caution, and thus losing a lap. After making another lap the Hobgoods re-entered the pits. However, race control had not yet opened the pit lane. So they were penalized for entering a closed pit. This would mean that they would have to restart at the end of the longest line. With one lap to go they pulled down to fall to the tail end of the field and this confused some of the drivers, who then started to fall back with them. The pace car entered the pits and the green flag waved. Huffman was one of the drivers who stayed in line and was able to take advantage of the confusion of the other drivers. "I wasn't sure what those guys were doing. I just knew I was supposed to stay caught up with the pace car, " said Huffman.
David Hutto and Huffman swapped the lead twice over the next few laps. While working lap 56, Zach Brewer's machine was tapped and it sent him spinning through the chicane on the Daytona Superstretch. This brought out the final caution period setting up the standard green-white-checkered finish. Series' Rookie Contender, Brandon Ward was leading when the yellow-flag was displayed.
On the final restart the pack went after Ward exiting the tri-oval. "I was concerned about being in the lead at that point," said Ward. "I really wanted to be in second or third and have a chance to draft by at the end." Huffman went low and Wilson went to the high-side of Ward. Huffman entered turn one with a slight advantage over Wilson as the rest of the lead pack jockeyed for position. Series' defending Champion, Cam Strader, made a dashing move on the outside coming through three and four to put himself in contention. Jake Hobgood made his move to the inside and fought his way to second place. Eric Wilson held on to third and Strader finished in fourth. Rounding out the top ten were: Justin Hobgood, David Hutto, Brandon Ward, Larry Caudill, Brian Loftin, and David Heitzhaus.
Top 10 in Points:
1. Robert Huffman 180; 2. Jake Hobgood 170; 3. Eric Wilson 165; 4. Cam Strader 160; 5. Justin Hobgood 155; 6. David Hutto 150; 7. Brandon Ward 146; 8. Larry Caudill 142; 9. Brian Loftin 138; 10. David Heitzhaus 134.
Gatorade Front Runner Award Standings:
1. Justin Hobgood 3; 2. Larry Caudill, 1; 3. David Hutto 1; 4. Robert Huffman 1; 5. Brandon Ward 1; 6. Jake Hobgood 1.
MAG CLIP Rookie of the Year Standings:
1. Brandon Ward 10
2. Brian Loftin 9
3. Kelly Sutton 8
4. Chuck Gafrarar 7
5. James Trout 6
You have to tip your hat to this year's MAG-CLIP Rookie of the Year Contenders! Brandon Ward and Brian Loftin finished 7th and 9th respectively. Kelly "Girl" Sutton and Chuck Gafrarar finished in 11th and 12th. Ward was the highest finishing rookie and claimed the MAG-CLIP Rookie of the Race honors.
Justin Hobgood led the most laps (34) and took home the Gatorade Front Runner Award.
Huffman's victory gave Toyota back-to-back wins at Daytona. Huffman also won the July event. He is the first driver to win back-to-back at Daytona since Larry Caudill accomplished the fete in 1987 and 1988.
B. J. Mackey and Junior Miller gained the most spots in the event (24).
Mickey York is the only driver to have started every Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring event at Daytona (24 races).
31 of 42 cars were running at the end.
Next race: Hardeeville Motor Speedway in Hardeeville, South Carolina on April 6, 2002.