USAR: Peach State II: Race report

Huffman Wins Up The Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 Jefferson, GA-After the Up The Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 presented by Tucson at Peach State Speedway, Mark McFarland stepped from his car and said, "That was the best race I've ever been a part...

Huffman Wins Up The Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250

Jefferson, GA-After the Up The Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 presented by Tucson at Peach State Speedway, Mark McFarland stepped from his car and said, "That was the best race I've ever been a part of."

With those comments, one would think that McFarland won his second race in row. But that wasn't the case. McFarland finished second to Shane Huffman in a race that featured 18 lead changes among eight drivers. And the final lead change took about 20 laps to make.

After jousting for the lead from Lap 229 to 244, Huffman used a slide-job on Mark McFarland with five laps remaining and held on to win his seventh race of the season.

"That's the most fun I've had racing in a longtime; that's what racing is all about," said Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford. "I got up to second, and I knew Mark had an awesome fast car. I got into him going down into [Turn] 1. I didn't mean to. I just got in the corner too hard. I backed off and got in behind him, and we both settled down. I bounced it off the wall a few times trying to catch him, and, finally, he bounced off the wall real hard and lost some momentum. I drove real hard down into Turn 1, slid under him and cleared him."

Once Huffman cleared McFarland, the JR Motorsports driver tried a cross-over move, but was unable to get back in the gas in time.

"Racing with Shane and banging on him was a lot of fun," said McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy. "I just made one mistake coming off [Turn] 4, and that's what cost us the race. I thought I was going to be able to turn back under him, but the car wasn't good on the bottom. We're not going to let that get us down. We're going to go to Bristol next with a new car and try to get them there."

Though Huffman pulled away from McFarland by 1.6 seconds over the final four laps, McFarland's night of swapping paint wasn't finished.

After leading several times during the middle stages of the race, Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Ford, was closing on the lead duo in the waning stages. Ritch tried the high side of McFarland, but the gap closed and Ritch finished third.

"I'm glad there wasn't anymore room on the high side. If there would have been more asphalt, we'd both been in trouble," said Ritch. "[McFarland] was doing what he was supposed to. I thought the race was ours or Huffman's. I just didn't have time to get up there.

"It was an awesome race," added Ritch. "Everybody in the top 10 hit the wall. We all drove the last 50 laps like we were qualifying. We were just driving our guts out."

Ritch also drove hard for much of the first half of the event.

After starting fourth, the High Point, N.C., driver used the high line to track down race-leader Jody Lavender on Lap 35. Ritch would lead four times on the night. But after pitting on Lap 198, Ritch would line up 10th for the final 50-lap sprint.

"Our pit strategy just got us a little too far back," said Ritch, who led a race-high 75 laps. "When we had that long caution, it just ruined our chances at winning the race."

Like Ritch, Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 84 Heritage Bank Ford, was in contention for much of the night. After leading three times for 30 laps during the first half of the event, Lavender battled McFarland for the lead late in the running, but dropped to fourth at the finish.

"For most of the race, I thought we had something for those guys," said Lavender. "I don't know if we got beat on tire strategy or what. We just weren't good enough at the end of the race. We had a good night, though. We qualified second, led some laps and finished fourth."

Lavender's good night jumped him two positions in points to fifth in the standings.

Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford, led three laps in the early stages of the event, but the defending Pro Cup champ could only muster a fifth-place finish.

Matt Carter, Bobby Gill, Shane Wallace, Daniel Johnson and Andrew Rogers completed the top 10.

Rogers, driver of the No. 18 Termidor Ford, picked up $1,000 for winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award.

Rogers' third top-10 finish of the season couldn't have come at a better time. Rookie point leader Chase Pistone dropped from the race on Lap 123 with mechanical failure.

"I'm pretty good friends with all the rookies, and I don't wish bad luck on anyone," said Rogers. "But at this point in the season, if something mechanical happens to them, I'm all for it. I thought we had a top-five car at the beginning, but I got into Jay Fogleman and it messed the front end. I battled a tight car the rest of the night."

Wayne Willard and Daniel Johnson split the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award. Johnson finished ninth after starting 21st, while Willard finished 12th after starting 24th.

The Up The Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 was slowed nine times for 57 laps of caution.

Up The Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250

Pole Prowess
Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy, picked up his series-leading fifth Advance Auto Parts Pole Award of the season in the Up the Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 at Peach State Speedway. McFarland up five laps short of taking home Tucson Win from the Pole Award as well.

McFarland's only win of the season came when he qualified fourth.

Rookie's Bunched
With Chase Pistone, the rookie point leader, and Michael Faulk, who entered the race second in rookie points, having problems in the Up the Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 at Peach State Speedway, the Southern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race tightened considerably.

Wayne Willard, driver of the No. 01 Bowen Family Homes Chevy, finished 12th and jumped to second in the rookie points, just 25 behind Pistone.

With his 10th-place finish, Andrew Rogers closed to within 65 points of Pistone.

Michael Faulk, driver of the No. 53 LiftOff Ford, is just 29 points behind Pistone.

Dual Chargers
Wayne Willard not only closed the gap in the rookie race, he split the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award with Daniel Johnson for advancing 12 spots during the night.

Johnson finished ninth in the Up the Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 at Peach State Speedway, giving him two top-10 finishes in a row.

"We didn't have a top-five car, but we got what we had out of the car," said Johnson, driver of the No. 56 Atlanta Check Cashers Pontiac. "We got another top 10 and picked up a little in points, so it was a good night overall."

Smiling Ritch
Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Ford, has had little to smile about in recent races after seeing strong runs thwarted by mechanical failures. But in the Up the Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 at Peach State Speedway, Ritch avoided the gremlins, picked up the Greased Lightning Blast the Pack Award and finished a season-high third.

"I have to thank Jackaroo, Nu-go, CJR and Admiral Benbow for their support this season," said Ritch. "We're getting closer to getting a win for them."

Use The Force
With 10 BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials at their disposal, Pro Cup drivers used a myriad of strategies during the Up the Creek Fish Camp & Grill 250 at Peach State Speedway.

Most drivers opted to take four tires on the first stop and two more with 50 laps to go. Shane Huffman used a three-and-three strategy to win the race, but he wasn't sure if that was the way to go.

"I ran the entire race on the left front," said Huffman. "The car wouldn't turn at the end of the race. I won, but I'm not sure if I'll use that strategy again."

-usar-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Jody Lavender , Mark McFarland , Michael Faulk , Shane Huffman
Teams JR Motorsports