"Robert Huffman Wins Goody's Dash Series, Nascar Touring Season Finale" LEBANON, TN (November 25, 2001) - Robert Huffman started the 2001 season with the same goal as any defending NASCAR Champion, to win another title. However, Huffman made the...
"Robert Huffman Wins Goody's Dash Series, Nascar Touring Season Finale"
LEBANON, TN (November 25, 2001) - Robert Huffman started the 2001 season with the same goal as any defending NASCAR Champion, to win another title. However, Huffman made the jump to the unproven Toyota Celica. Though TRD began in the series in 2000, they had yet to win an event. Huffman entered the 2001 season with four Series Championships to his credit. He needed a new challenge, and his Research and Development agreement with TRD gave him that challenge. Early in the season he had more disappointments than successes. This yielded his dominance to the young guns in the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring. Cam Strader, 2000 Rookie of the Year, stepped up to the plate. Sunday's event at Nashville Superspeedway was the culmination of an exciting 2001 Championship chase.
Bud Pole Qualifying was cancelled due to heavy rains. The starting line-up was determined per the NASCAR rulebook. This placed Cam Strader on the pole and Justin Hobgood on the outside of the front row. On the initial start Strader jumped out to the lead and Huffman quickly passed Justin Hobgood. Huffman wanted to get out front and keep Strader from leading the most laps in order to hold on to his lead in the Gatorade Front Runner Award Standings. Huffman was clearly faster but Strader refused to yield. After a few laps Strader was able to distance himself and Huffman and the rest of the leaders so they settled in for a few laps.
This was the Series' first visit to the new superspeedway. The facility is laid out nicely and offers the teams a comfortable working environment. The cement surface offers a slick and tight racing groove. Though there were two cautions, neither was for an accident.
Up for grabs was the Mag-Klip Rookie of the Year title. Tim Nichols came into the event with a two point lead over Shane Hmiel. To win, Hmiel needed to finish ahead of both Wayne Edwards and Tim Nichols, with Nichols last among the three. Hmiel stayed among the top five for the duration of the event. Nichols lost a cylinder early on and limped to the end. Nichols nearly saw daylight when Edwards was blackflagged to repair an oil leak. Edwards was in the pits for two laps while his crew remedied the rearend leak. But he was able to get back into the race and overcome his deficit placing him ahead of Nichols. The final standings showed Nichols and Hmiel both tied. Mag-Klip Rookie of the Year rules state that in the event of a tie, the position the drivers stand in the Championship Points will determine the winner of the title. Hmiel ended the season higher in the points and also scored two wins. "Being the Mag-Klip Rookie of the Year is a great honor, And then to follow in the footsteps of our champion, makes it even more so. (Cam Strader was the Rookie of the Year last year.) I loved being a part of the Goody's Dash Series. We go to some of the big tracks where my dad races and it provides great exposure. People are familiar with the top five guys in this series and they are probably the best in short track racing," commented Hmiel.
In the middle stages of the race Huffman and Jake Hobgood were racing hard to catch up to Strader while also working lapped traffic. Huffman went three wide and got hung up with some lapped cars. This caused some damage on the left front of his White House Apple Juice/TRD Toyota Celica. He made a pit stop on lap 38 for fuel and some quick repair work. Strader and both Hobgoods came into the pits on lap 40. Strader was able to get in and out of the pits quickly enough to hold on to the lead. The first caution came out on lap 47 for debris on the track.
On the restart, the top five cars were able to stay with Strader. Another caution came on lap 65 for oil on the track. With each restart it became apparent that Strader's handling was going away. Huffman moved into position to pursue Strader and did so with a vengeance. Entering turn three Huffman pulled up on Strader's rear bumper. As they exited turn four Huffman dove underneath Strader to take the lead. Said Strader, "the Gatorade deal was on my mind from the start of the race. I knew he wanted to get by me and I also knew he had a faster car. At the start I just tried to keep my cool and get away from him. I was hoping he would not be able to pass me; but with each caution the worse the car got. It started pushing real bad coming off turn four. Rob had the better car today. I am proud to win the championship. This was a team effort. They put forth a one hundred percent effort all season long."
Huffman's win was his fourth of the 2001 season and the 35th of his career. That positioned him in sole possession of second place on the all-time win list behind Dean Combs (60) and ahead of Larry Caudill (34). "We had a awesome car today. It was really strong in the corners. I am happy with the year we have had. Next year we will be back to win Toyota the Championship," stated Huffman. Rounding out the top five were Jake Hobgood, Cam Strader, Shane Hmiel, and Justin Hobgood.