USAR: Hickory: Race report

Huffman celebrates long-awaited win HICKORY, NC--If you don't see Shane Huffman around Hickory over the next few days, you may want to check Victory Lane at Hickory Motor Speedway because he may still be there shaking hands, signing ...

Huffman celebrates long-awaited win

HICKORY, NC--If you don't see Shane Huffman around Hickory over the next few days, you may want to check Victory Lane at Hickory Motor Speedway because he may still be there shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures. And the fanfare comes with good reason.

The 1999 HMS Late Model Stock champion made a triumphant homecoming on Saturday night by winning the Galaxy Foods 250 presented by PEPSI. Huffman led all but nine laps en route to his fifth win of the 2003 season in front of a huge hometown contingent.

``Words can't describe the feeling I have right now. It's just a real special moment for us,'' Huffman said of the gaggle of fans surrounding him in the winners circle. ``It's something we've been trying to achieve for a while now. It wasn't time for us before, but the Lord worked it out for us tonight.''

For the most of the night, Huffman looked to have the help of a higher power. Huffman, who started from the pole, was able to hold off an early charge from Jason Sarvis. The 2002 USAR Hooters ProCup champion made several bids for the lead in opening laps, but the Myrtle Beach native was unable to make his way around Huffman.

After Sarvis began to fade, Rogers joined the fray. Rogers, who started third, shadowed Huffman over the next 50 laps. But Rogers wasn't just following, he was learning.

``He taught me a lot out there tonight about getting around this race track The whole first half of the race I couldn't allow myself to turn in the middle (of the corner) because I was hauling it off in there,'' said Rogers. ``I finally got that threw my thick head, and we started to pull him in. I tried to make some pretty wild moves in lapped traffic, but there's no way I could have passed him racing clean.''

One such move paid off for Rogers on lap 112.

Rogers and Huffman were battling in heavy lapped traffic when Rogers made a three-wide bid for the top spot. The move worked as Rogers led lap 112, but Huffman was able to pinch Rogers off in turn one on the ensuing lap and retake the lead.

The caution flag waved just laps later, bringing the leaders to pit lane. Mart Nesbitt decided to stay on the track and pick up $1,000 for the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award, however, the move would backfire. Nesbitt was overhauled by Huffman on lap 127 and lost a lap during the ensuing green-flag run.

Once Huffman was back in front, dodging lap traffic was his biggest obstacle in pursuit of his fifth win of 2003.

``I was kind of hard getting threw traffic,'' said Huffman. ``Sometimes when you're second, they let you go a little better.''

Huffman navigated the lapped traffic flawlessly over the next 100 laps, keeping Rogers safely behind. The Southern Division points leader, however, would have to deal with a plethora of late-race restarts.

The 12th caution of the night set up a green-white-checkered finish, but Huffman was up to the task.

``I really felt like Clay was going to try me on the high side in one and two,'' said Huffman. ``I moved up to kind of take his grove away. He'd been at tick better than we were. I've got a lot of respect for Clay. He might have bumped me, but he wouldn't take me out.''

Rogers did neither.

Rogers was unable to mount a charge in the final laps, finishing .397 seconds behind Huffman at the checkered.

Bobby Gill rebounded from poor qualifying effort to finish third. Michael Ritch had to use a provisional to get into the race, but was able to rally for a fourth-place finish. Ritch's strong run also nabbed him $500 the Hard Charger Award.

Rookie Danny O'Quinn, who picked up $1,000 for winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race, rounded out the top five.

Huffman, who finished the 250-lap event in a time 1:42:48, added $1,000 for to his $10,000 check for winning by taking the Advanced Auto Parts Pole Award.

The race was slowed 12 times for 75-caution laps.

Galaxy Foods 250 presented by Pepsi Notebook

Bad Nights

After making strong runs into the top four in points, Mardy Lindley and Jason Sarvis had lackluster performances at Hickory. Lindley, who started fifth in the event, saw his night end on lap 225 due to mechanical failure. Lindley finished 27th. Sarvis was able to complete the event, but a stop-and-go penalty for pit-road infraction cost him a lap. Sarvis finished in 11th.

Rookie Return

Danny O'Quinn returned to form with a top-5 finish. O'Quinn, who lost an engine at Nashville, strapped an Automotive Specialist's powerplant into his Homesteader Trailers Monte Carlo and reaped the benefits.

``I have to thank Automotive Specialist. I can't thank them enough for fitting us into their schedule,'' said O'Quinn. ``That motor was awesome. It really turned our program around.''

Getting Closer

Bobby Gill finished the night 20 spots better than he started. After starting 23, Gill raced into 12th by lap 65. Gill continued to climb threw the pack, but the 3-time USAR Hooters ProCup champion had to settle for third.

``There's something we're just missing, and I don't know what it is,'' said Gill. ``We're about middle ways, but we're not all the way up.''

Hectic Hickory

The caution flag waived for 12 times on Saturday, making the Galaxy 250 a battle of attrition. With 32 cars taking the green flag, the 363-mile track made for some tight quarters on Saturday night.

``You try to make a pass and you run up a lap car then you have to duck back in line,'' said Shane Wallace, who finished seventh. ``I don't know that's there's a car without a scratch on it, but I know mine's got a big scratch on it.''

Tough Luck

Don Satterfield finished in the final spot in the final rundown for the second week in a row in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series Southern Division. Satterfield suffered motor problems at Nashville two weeks ago and was collected in an accident on lap 9 when J.P. Morgan spun in front of his car to end his night early.

Top Five- Finally

Michael Ritch had to take a provisional to make the race but he was able to finish in fourth to collect his first top-five finish of the season. Ritch also collected the Hard Charger Award for advancing 25 positions during the race.

-usar-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Danny O'Quinn , Shane Huffman