Series continues brawl at Bristol

"Brawl at Bristol" DAYTONA BEACH, FL (August 12, 2003) Nearing the complex known as Bristol Motor Speedway, you feel overwhelmed by its stadium appearance. Once inside you realize you are looking at a stage where the gladiators of stock car ...

"Brawl at Bristol"

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (August 12, 2003) Nearing the complex known as Bristol Motor Speedway, you feel overwhelmed by its stadium appearance. Once inside you realize you are looking at a stage where the gladiators of stock car racing perform some of their greatest feats of bravery. Sitting high atop the massive grandstands or in one of the many suites offers the viewer a perspective of peering into a bowl.

The bowl consists of an oval cement surface that is home to some of the fastest and most furious short track racing seen anywhere in the world.

And it doesn't really matter which racing series is on the track. They all put on a great show. It is hard not to at Bristol. Fans flock from far and near to see the ultimate in bumping and grinding on the high banks at Bristol.

August is known as the dog days of summer. My familiarity with that comes from my earlier years in life, when during August one could observe wildlife in its tendency to act a little more on edge.

Looking down from above, with cars going round and round, it would appear that Bristol is like a large mixing bowl such as would be found in their grandmother's kitchen. Taking notice of the obvious steam rising from the stove, one might be tempted to ponder the brew that is being mixed in the bowl.

Whether driver, crew chief, official, cameraman, or spectator, each sit on the edge waiting for the action to turn to mayhem. Accidents happen fast at Bristol. Your trained eye learns to watch the pack that is dancing the hardest. You wait in breath taking fashion for the next incident to take place.

It has become commonplace to see the brew come to a boil as the final lap approaches. Drivers are now fatigued, worn by the constant g-forces and their stamina is challenged by the competitive beast within, to go harder and deeper into each corner as they near the checkered flag.

A win a Bristol is something to brag about. The fans are vocal and you will to hear them cheer one driver's accomplishment and boo just as loud for something they do not agree with.

One thing everyone agrees with, however, is that racing at Bristol leaves you wanting more. What you just witnessed only fuels the need for more of the same.

This brings us to talk about what happened at Bristol in August 2002. It was the annual serving of the Goody's Dash Series. A full field of competitors mixed together with their competitive juices to make a brew that would leave fans and competitors alike talking for an entire year, eagerly anticipating the next batch of Bristol Brew.

Jake Hobgood, of Winnsboro, SC was leading during the final laps of the 2002 edition of the Pabst Blue Ribbon 150. Claremont, NC's Robert Huffman was in pursuit, of not only the race win, but another Championship Title. He wanted the title to add to his impressive list of accomplishments in the series, including four previous championships. Hobgood was gunning for his first ever Series Championship.

Jake's dad, and former Series Champion (1994) Will Hobgood, had never won at Bristol. Jake wanted that piece of history for himself and his family.

Huffman was in third behind Johnny Chapman. Huffman was faster than Chapman but could not get by him. Each time he would get a nose underneath, Chapman would cut down on him to protect his position. Huffman was running out of time. The two touched more than once and Huffman would back off and try again. Finally, with his patience wearing thin, heading into turn Huffman dove low to take the position. Chapman tried in vain to block the bold move, but a determined Huffman had already positioned his car far enough underneath that there was no turning back, sending Chapman down off of the 36 degree banking. The yellow flag waved evaporating Hobgood's lead and bringing Huffman and the rest of the lead lap cars back into contention.

With just a couple laps to go, Huffman calculated Hobgood's every move. Gas on, gas off, braking points, and Jake's racing line. Coming to the final turn, he had only one chance. Huffman drove in harder and picked up the gas sooner, it was his only hope. This time Hobgood let off earlier than before hoping to throw off Huffman's momentum. The two cars touched and Hobgood's machine bobbled. Huffman thinking that Hobgood would slide up the track, he nailed the throttle to move underneath him. Hobgood made an incredible save and was able to stay in the racing groove and block Huffman. The two touched again, sending Hobgood's car into a spin.

Huffman went to victory lane only to have the win stripped from him. Hobgood made the final lap and then parked his car on turn four and exited it to the cheers of the fans. They had seen a last lap duel that was reminiscent of the Earnhardt/Labonte final lap from a few years prior. Scott Weaver would later be named the winner. Huffman would be put on probation along with losing several points all but eliminating him from contention for the championship.

This was not the only incident, as there were a lot of issues to be settled. Racing at Bristol pushes competitor and machine to the limit. After the race drivers and teams were seen confronting each other throughout the garage area.

The outcome was interesting to say the least. There is always more that goes on behind the scenes that the spectators never see. Jake Hobgood was the first to come to Robert Huffman's defense at an ensuing hearing held by NASCAR officials. The two drivers are frequenting seen jesting each other and swapping race stories.

Hobgood went on to claim the Series Championship. Huffman was the runner-up. On August 20, 2003 the Goody's Dash Series returns to Bristol for the next go around of exciting competition.

We have with tongue in cheek designated this year's edition as, "Brawl at Bristol."

Jake Hobgood and Robert Huffman recently squared off in fighting form as a humorous gesture to depict their friendly competitive spirit.

"I have enjoyed racing against the Hobgoods for a number of years," says Huffman. "Seems like almost every lap of every race, there is a Hobgood to contend with. They are fierce competitors and often the one to beat."

"Bristol is one of the most competitive and quick thinking places we go. I didn't enjoy racing there years ago, but I have become more comfortable with the track," continues Huffman.

"After what happened last year, I told Will Hobgood that it would probably happen again. And maybe next time the shoe would be on the other foot. Hopefully I will be man enough to take it as they did. I have had people run into me since that race last year and I have tried to handle it differently. It sure changed my perspective."

Jake Hobgood added his thoughts, "We know that Bristol is a fierce track and you have to challenge the track more than the other drivers. I have raced Rob wheel to wheel many times and he is a tough competitor."

"Robert Huffman makes you bring your best game to every race. This takes the competition to a higher level. Every series that races at Bristol has had to deal with those last lap situations. I expect that it shouldn't be any different for the Dash Series," said Hobgood.

There you have it. One hundred and fifty laps around the bowl at Bristol. The brew is stirring. The air is filled with anticipation as the aroma of all-out, pedal to the metal, wheel to wheel, fierce competition rises from the mixing bowl of Bristol Motor Speedway. Don't miss the Brawl at Bristol 2003!

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Robert Huffman , Johnny Chapman