USAR: Lakeland II: Race report

Huffman Wins Naturally Fresh 250 Lakeland, FL - What a difference a month can make. After having nearly one full month off the Hooters Pro Cup Series Southern Division returned to USA International Speedway, and it couldn't have come at a...

Huffman Wins Naturally Fresh 250

Lakeland, FL - What a difference a month can make. After having nearly one full month off the Hooters Pro Cup Series Southern Division returned to USA International Speedway, and it couldn't have come at a better time for Shane Huffman.

After starting the season on fire with two consecutive wins, one of which included the season opener at USA in February, Huffman had compiled back-to- back finishes of 27th and 19th, respectively, his last time out to lose his points lead.

Sunday afternoon, Huffman returned to his winning ways by holding off Toby Porter to capture the rain-delayed Naturally Fresh 250 presented by Advance Discount Auto Parts and take his series-high fourth win of the year.

Huffman was happy to get the bad luck he had experienced off of his shoulders and happy it came Sunday.

"We needed to do that," said Huffman. "These guys have worked so hard and that is a good sign. We only had six laps of practice on this car and it shows the character they have to put out the quality of cars they do for me. It shows how dedicated Bud and Pete Knight are with Knights Companies, and I can't thank those guys enough."

It seemed Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knights Companies Ford, was going to be able to cruise to his fourth victory of the season as he built leads by as much a 15-car lengths only to see those dwindle due to late cautions.

The final caution of the day was given to the field on Lap 243 when Bill Manfull spun in Turn 2, setting up a three-lap dash to the finish.

Toby Porter tried to make several passes, but he couldn't get his Titan Industrial Ford around Huffman despite having several chances to move Huffman.

"Toby is a class act," added Huffman. "It was some good, hard racing there are the end and he could have took me out, but he didn't, and that shows you what kind of guy he is. I thank him for that."

Porter, who has one career win in the Series, started sixth, remained in the top 10 throughout the day and thought he could have had a chance for the win.

"The (No. 13) Titan Industrial Ford was tight at the beginning of the race, but it loosened up on long runs and the guys gave me a good car," said Porter. "We about had [Huffman]. I drove into the corner and got up beside him, but I couldn't get off the corner as good as he could. It is a plus to have a good finish."

Mark McFarland increased his string of top-five finishes to three as he brought the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevrolet home in third after leading 54 laps midway through the race, including halfway mark, which netted him $1,000 from the Lucas Oil Halfway Leader Award.

"I think we are knocking at the door to getting our first win," said McFarland. "I thought we had a good shot after our pit stop, but the car went away at the end. The guys have been working hard on pit stops and it showed today."

McFarland did enjoy a solid performance by his WINFUEL crew as he entered the pits sixth and came out with the lead as the lead laps cars all pitted for tires during a caution just before halfway.

Bobby Gill and Jay Fogleman completed the top five. Gill later received treatment for some minor burns to his feet.

Fogleman, driver of No. 4 Lucas Oil Ford, captured his second top-five finish in as many races.

"This is the kind of finish we needed," said Fogleman. "We didn't have a great car, but Jo Jo [Burke] and the guys did a great job all day long working on the car. And when we get to the Championship Series, this win could help us in our seeding."

The Naturally Fresh 250 was slowed 15 times by caution and one of those involved Wayne Willard.

Willard was running in the top-five when his No. 01 Bowen Family Homes Chevrolet spun in Turn 2 on Lap 208. Willard was able to rebound to score his first career top-10 finish in the Series and also garner Miller Lite Rookie of the Race honors.

"We were strong in practice yesterday, and we were good in the race today," said Willard. "We picked up a push and then it got tight. The guys did a heck of a job on our pit stop, picking up about five spots, and we made some good adjustments. We took time off [after Ace], and we didn't test any. We wanted to revamp the team, and it worked. We have this program turned around."

Despite his accident on Lap 179, Michael Kile finished 19th in his first Hooters Pro Cup Series start and collected Mr. Gasket Hard Charger honors, while Huffman led 177 laps to win the Greased Lightning "Blast the Pack" Award.

By entering the weekend as the points leader, Clay Rogers collected the $1,000 Advance Auto Parts Pole Award after the starting field was determined by points on Saturday. Although he rebounded from hitting the wall late in the race to finish 12th and on the lead lap, Rogers wasn't too happy with his finish.

"The car was junk from the start of the race," said Rogers. "We have to go back and do our homework if we are going to win this championship again. [USA Int'l] is a totally different place during the day."

With his fourth win of the year, Huffman was able to regain the top spot in the Southern Division standings by nine points over Rogers (915-906). Fogleman is third with Toby Porter and Bobby Gill completing the top five. The Southern Division returns to action on Saturday, June 25 at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Naturally Fresh 250 Notebook

Move Over Mario

While Huffman tied Mario Gosselin for second place in career wins Sunday afternoon with his 19 victory, he was able to claim second-place away from Gosselin in another record during his winning run. Huffman led 177 laps to give him 4,611 for his career passing Gosselin who has led 4,440 laps during his career in the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

Hot Foot

The race was the first this season where the temperature approached 90 degrees and it affected several drivers. Michael Faulk and Matt Carter are two drivers who had to be treated for heat related problems during the day. Both were treated and released at the track.

Pistone leading ROTY Race

Chase Pistone has served notice he is the man to beat in the chase for the $10,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award for the Southern Division. Pistone finished seventh on Sunday to give him his fourth consecutive top- 10 finish, and he sits 59 points ahead of Faulk (749-690) in the ROTY race at the midpoint of the season.

Giving Back

Bobby Joe Woodley finished a disappointing 32nd after mechanical problems ended his day on Lap 25. However, the Palm Bay, Fla., driver made some children in Florida's summer a whole lot brighter as his team raised over $10,138 for the International Child Development Resource Center and the summer program they hold for Autistic Children.

Race stats:

Time of Race: 2:24:45

Margin of Victory: .137 Sec.

Caution Flags: 15 for 81 Laps

Lead Changes: 6 Lead Changes Among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders: Pole Clay Rogers (3); 1-14 Jay Fogleman (14); 15-17 Clay Rogers; 18-119 Shane Huffman (177); 120-121 Daniel Johnson (2); 122-175 Mark McFarland (54); 176-250 Shane Huffman.

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Mark McFarland , Mario Gosselin , Michael Faulk , Shane Huffman