Huffman Gives JR Motorsports Second Pro Cup Win Montgomery, AL-Dale Earnhardt Jr. hired Shane Huffman for a reason; he's a winner. And the 2003 Hooters Pro Cup Series champion came through at Montgomery Motor Speedway on Saturday...
Huffman Gives JR Motorsports Second Pro Cup Win
Montgomery, AL-Dale Earnhardt Jr. hired Shane Huffman for a reason; he's a winner. And the 2003 Hooters Pro Cup Series champion came through at Montgomery Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Huffman, driver of the No. 88 Champion/US NAVY/ Snap-On Chevy, took the lead from Bobby Gill on Lap 231 and survived two green-white-checkered restarts en route to victory in the Manfull Investment Corporation 250 presented by TOWco The Towing Company.
"I can't thank Dale Jr., Kelly [Earnhardt] Elledge and Steve Crisp enough for this opportunity," said Huffman after his 25th Hooters Pro Cup win. "This is what they hired me for, and I finally came through for JR Motorsports."
It wasn't easy for Huffman, however.
The JR Motorsports driver had to knife his way from the back of the pack after his scorer was late to the scorers' meeting.
"I understand they've got rules," said Huffman, "but I had some closes calls coming through the field."
While Huffman was navigating his way towards the front, four drivers routinely exchanged the lead in the first 100 laps.
At the start of the race, Clay Rogers took the early lead, but Shane Wallace, the current Southern Division point leader, overtook Rogers on Lap 7.
Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Shane Wallace Motorsports Ford, was able to keep the field at bay for 26 laps. But nobody could distance themselves from the field on the ultra-abrasive track.
Bobby Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Ford, overtook Wallace on Lap 33 and paced the pack for 10 laps before Mardy Lindley stuck the No. 03 Titan Industrial Ford out front on Lap 44.
Lindley, who won the season-opener at USA (Fla.) Int'l Speedway, picked the pace up in the first 100 laps, moving out to a comfortable lead. As the race neared Lap 75, Lindley's pace began to slow, however, allowing Rogers to reclaim the lead. But Lindley regrouped and moved back to the point on Lap 92.
When the caution flag waved on Lap 97, most of the lead-lap cars elected to pit, but Rogers stayed on the track and assumed the lead on Lap 98.
By the time the first round stops were made, Huffman had moved from 33rd into the top 10. After the first round of pit stops, Huffman quickly resumed his charge from worst-to-first.
Huffman ducked under Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Ford, coming off Turn 4 on Lap 125, but he was unable to slip past at the line. Ritch picked up the $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award, but he wouldn't lead again as Huffman assumed control of the race in the middle stages.
Huffman led 40 laps, but Bobby Gill tracked down then No. 88 Chevrolet and retook the lead on Lap 167.
"I really didn't want to go that hard," said Gill, "but Shane and Clay really wanted to go." . Huffman dropped to third after losing the lead, but Rogers and Gill put on a show up front for the fans, beating, banging and splitting lapped traffic.
"Bobby said he wasn't driving hard; whatever," said Rogers. "That old man has still got it. He was pulling off some crazy moves in traffic."
Gill finally gave way to Rogers' relentless pressure on Lap 184.
Michael Ritch spun to bring out the caution just as Rogers took the lead, and the lead-lap cars took the opportunity to make their final stops of the night.
Gill led the cars off pit road, but he lined up behind Chase Pistone, driver of the No. 83 SpeeedVue Ford, and Andrew Rogers, driver of the No. 81 Aaron's/Termidor Ford, who elected to pit under a later caution.
Gill retook the lead on Lap 190, but Rogers and Huffman were right in his tire tracks. Rogers and Gill continued to battle for the lead over the next 20 laps before Huffman slipped past with 19 laps remaining.
"My car was tight after a restart, and they could get away from me," said Huffman. "Once we got going, we could run them down pretty easy. Our car was great on long runs."
But it would be a couple of short runs that gave Huffman a scare late in the race.
The Manfull Investment Corporation 250 had two green-white-checkered finishes, and it nearly cost Huffman. Gill was almost alongside Huffman on the first restart, but Huffman held him off.
"Bobby timed that first restart perfect," said Huffman. "I saw what he was doing, so I got him back on the second one."
Huffman pulled away to win his 25th Pro Cup Series win by .525 seconds over Gill.
Chase Pistone kept up his solid start to the season by coming home third. Shane Wallace, who led 26 laps, finished fourth. Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lightning/RMI Ford, rounded out the top five.
The Manfull Investment Corporation 250 was slowed 22 times for 109 laps of caution and featured 16 lead changes among eight drivers.
Manfull Investment Corporation 250 Notebook
Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lightning Ford, car looked a little beat up after the Manfull Investment Corporation 250, but the "Short Track Shark" picked up his first top-five finish of the season.
"We had a pit stop problem tonight," said Fogleman. "I made a mistake and dropped down too early, and then we had problems in the pits. I had to go to the tail end of the longest line. I had four tires and the car was good, but the caution hurt us late in the race. It was better than a fifth-place car."
The Next Level
With each race, Shane Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Shane Wallace Motorsports Ford, is starting to be noticed just a touch more. Well, it's hard not to if you run up front. And that's what Wallace keeps doing.
"I said I'd take a season of top-5's," said Wallace, who finished fourth and held on to the point lead. "We'd like to get a win, but this is a good way to start the season. Now, we're headed to a track [Peach State] that I've always been good at, so we're excited."
Hmm, What to Do?
With 10 tires allotted to Pro Cup teams during the running of the Manfull Investment Corporation 250, there was plenty of strategizing going on in the pit area. Some drivers opted to run the entire event with the same left front and change three tires each twice during the event. Other drivers changed two on the first stop and saved four tires for the final stop.
More interesting is the fact that some drivers changed two rear tires on the first stop and four tires on the last stop. What strategy won?
"I can't remember what I did," said Huffman with a sly smile. But later Huffman did say, "My car just wouldn't turn with one old tire on it."
Chasing up the Charts
Chase Pistone made a splash last year when he won the pole in his first Pro Cup start, but his start to the 2006 season has been even more impressive.
Pistone has posted back-to-back top-five finishes to move into second in the points.
"We had a different pit strategy tonight, and I was kind of scared because we were running fourth and came out about 20th," said Pistone, driver of the No. 83 Speed Vue Window Tearoffs. "I've got to thank [my crew chief], Buggy Pletcher, for the pit strategy tonight. Everybody thought it was fluke we were that high in points, but we're proving to everyone that we're for real."
Pistone finished third at Montgomery Motor Speedway.
Big Daddy Don
Don Satterfield, driver of the No. 1 Hawk Saw Blades Pontiac, had a stellar run at MMS. Satterfield moved from 23rd to seventh at the finish of the Manfull Investment Corporation 250 to pick up his best finish of the season.
With 22 cautions, the Manfull Investment Corporation 250 featured plenty of booting. But many drivers thought that it was just the nature of the beast.
"On a track that's worn out and abrasive, you're going to have that," said Shane Wallace. "You go into the turn and car just wants to slide around, and you bounce off people. The closing speeds are so different on new tires versus old tires, too. It just adds up to lots of .lots of beating and banging."