Shane Huffman Wins South Georgia 250 Cecil, GA-Never has the phrase "the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory" seemed more apropos than in the South Georgia 250 presented by Carter Rental at South Georgia Motorsports Park on Saturday ...
Shane Huffman Wins South Georgia 250
Cecil, GA-Never has the phrase "the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory" seemed more apropos than in the South Georgia 250 presented by Carter Rental at South Georgia Motorsports Park on Saturday night.
Three different drivers appeared to be en route to the win, but, in the end, Shane Huffman stood in victory lane again.
Race leaders Mark McFarland, Clay Rogers and Randy Gentry all suffered misfortune during the 250-lap race, opening the door for Shane Huffman to win the inaugural race at the half-mile track.
"I've never been in anything like that," said Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford. "That was one of the wildest races I've ever been a part of. We by no means had a car good enough to be up there, but I drove my heart out to keep the car up there. I guess it was just meant to be."
Minutes earlier, it didn't seem that way for Huffman.
With just five laps to go, Mark McFarland ducked under Huffman on a restart. With neither driver giving an inch, the lead duo barreled off into Turn 3. McFarland's momentum carried him up the track and into Huffman.
As the pair struggled to regain control, Randy Gentry, running third at the time, dove to the inside and took the top spot on Lap 246, but Matt Carter's spin on the next lap erased Gentry's sizable lead and set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Gentry, driver of the No. 19 HarrisonsWorkwear.com Chevy, was less than a mile away from a breakthrough win, when, unfathomably, his Chevy died on the backstretch under the caution, giving the lead back to Huffman.
"Man, I just hate to give one up," said Gentry, who finished 15th. "To be so close to the win, it's tough. We could have used that money, and the team could have built off of a win. That's what's heartbreaking about it."
While Clay Rogers didn't stop on the track under caution, the defending Pro Cup champ came to an abrupt stop under green.
After leading 103 laps, Rogers pounded the Turn 4 all after cutting down a right-front tire on Lap 209.
"I went into [Turn 1] and felt a little vibration," said Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki Ford. "Then, coming off [Turn 2], I felt it a little more. Going down the backstretch, it got a little worse. I'm just glad I backed out going into [Turn 3], or I might not be here right now."
Out of the three leaders to fall out of contention, McFarland was the only on to manage a smile at the end of the race. That's probably because he managed to finish the ninth despite losing a cylinder after a small engine fire burnt a spark plug wire in half. Not to mention, the JR Motorsports driver cut a tire after the late-race contact with Shane Huffman with five laps remaining.
"The car actually picked up speed on seven cylinders," said McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy. "That was probably the best car that I've ever driven. I hate it for the team, but we'll keep plugging away, and we've got plenty of races left."
While there were plenty of disappointed drivers after the South Georgia 250, there were plenty of feel-good stories as well.
In just his second Pro Cup start, Andrew Rogers rebounded from a spin on Lap 20 to finish second.
"I think somebody got into the back of me and spun me out," said Rogers, driver of the No. 18 Termidor/BASF Ford. "We did all we could to keep from going a lap down. We went to the tail end of the field, but we tried to stay focused and work on the car in front of us.
"Every now and then, we would lose a spot, but the car was just amazing on long runs. It's great, it's awesome! I can't even talk like right now."
With his second-place finish, Rogers picked up an extra $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race and moved into the rookie points lead.
After struggling all night, Bobby Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, wrestled an ill-handling car to a third-place finish.
Much like Gill, Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Lucas Oil Ford, made wholesale changes on his car all night and wound up finishing fourth.
"It was great to see the team work on the car as hard as they did," said Fogleman, who qualified 20th. "They worked and worked and worked to get the car freed up. We fought all night long for a fourth-place finish."
Fogleman's fourth-place finish was good enough for him to split the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award with Tim Edwards and Jody Lavender.
Billy Bigley Jr., driver of the No. 25 Peerless Woodworking Ford, made a last-lap pass on Michael Ritch to finish fifth.
McFarland added $1,250 to his purse for winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award and the Greased Lightning "Blast the Pack" Award for leading the most laps.
Rogers, who picked up $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader, split the laps led award with McFarland after both drivers led a race-high 103 laps.
There were six lead changes among five drivers.
The race was slowed 12 times for 79 laps of caution.
South Georgia 250 Notebook
South Georgia Motorsports Park got rave review from fans as a standing- room only crowd watched the inaugural event at the half-mile track in Cecil, Ga. And Pro Cup drivers were just as impressed with the new facility.
"This is a nice place," said Jay Fogleman. "These are the kind of tracks we like to go to. They've got a great facility and a town that wants us here. The crowd was huge and enthusiastic."
Billy Bigley Jr. finished fifth in the South Georgia 250, which was not surprising. But the fact he didn't win the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award was startling. Why? He qualified an uncharacteristic 12th.
Jake Hobgood, driver of the No. 64 Germain Motor Company Ford, finished a career-high 10th at South Georgia Motorsports Park after a practice crash at the season-opener forced him to miss the opening race.
Salving a Finish
Mike Garvey once again showed the savvy that wins championships on Saturday night. Garvey, driver of the No. 17 JaniKing Ford, lost a brake line early in the South Georgia 250. But rather than park his ride, Garvey and his team made countless stops to repair the faulty fitting and finished 19th.
"You hate to have to come in and fix it, but you can't run around a track like this without brakes," said Garvey. "We just about pulled in and stopped, and I said, 'Let's just fix it, go back out and see what the attrition is.' To get 19th after the way the night started almost seems like a win."
The Rookie Class of 2005 had a rash of early exits in the South Georgia 250.
Steve Wallace, who was leading the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year standings, lost an engine on Lap 34 and finished 33rd.
Wayne Willard had his second DNF in a row after retiring on Lap 152 with a mechanical failure and finishing 27th.
Chase Pistone, who qualified sixth, also ended his night in the pits after engine woes halted his evening on Lap 182.