THE THRILL OF VICTORY, THE AGONY OF DEFEAT by Jeremy Troiano
Huffman Wins The Race, But Gordon Holds Onto Title
SC too; they have all been so supportive of this race team. It has been a lot of fun.”
Huffman will leave the team next year and drive for Dale Earnhardt Jr’s team (JR Motorsports), currently piloted by Mark McFarland, who will compete with Dale Jr's team in the NASCAR Busch Series next year.
“From where we stated to where we are now, it has been a lot of work. I was very nervous about the undertaking we had. We had a huge under taking. I think we did a pretty good job with it. Nine wins in a season is pretty awesome. It would be hard to beat it or repeat it next year. It is really bittersweet though. I hate it for Pete and Bud and these guys; I wanted it for them.
“We just missed out this year and all I can say is, 'I’m sorry to my guys.”
USA International Speedway, Lakeland, FL
1. Shane Huffman
2. Mark McFarland
3. Mike Garvey
4. Benny Gordon
5. Johnny Rumley
6. Woody Howard
7. Brad Rogers
8. Jay Fogleman
9. Jody Lavender
10. Jason Sarvis
11. Joey Logano
12. Gary St. Amant
13. A.J. Frank
14. Daniel Johnson
15. Mart Nesbitt
16. Sam Fullone
17. Jeff Agnew
18. Matt Carter
19. Michael Faulk
20. George Brunnhoelzl III
21. Mardy Lindley
22. Eric Corbett
23. Joe Harrison Jr.
24. Ken Butler III
25. Andrew Rogers
26. Tim Bainey Jr.
27. D.J. Kennington
28. Shelby Howard
29. Michael Ritch
30. Bobby Gill
31. Clay Rogers
32. Joe Gaita
33. Shane Wallace
34. Billy Bigley Jr.
35. Jason Mignonga
Saturday night’s USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series victory lane celebration might as well have been titled “The Wide World of Sports.”
The legendary show became known for their opening sequence, which features the phrase “the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat.”
Nothing described the feel of Victory Lane in Saturday night’s Hooters 300 more than that simple phrase.
As Shane Huffman triumphantly climbed from his #81 Knight’s Companies car for the ninth and final time in winner's circle, all he had to do was look to his right and see Benny Gordon’s #66 team celebrating their 2005 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series National Championship.
It was Gordon’s “thrill of victory.” And despite winning the race, Huffman suffered from the “agony of defeat,” and it was evident on his face.
“It doesn’t quite mean as much,” said Huffman of his win. “If I didn’t say I was broken hearted, I’d be lying. It’s been a hell of a year. I just really wanted this deal. We just came up a little short. I’ve been trying to smile a lot, but it is hard.”
Huffman trailed Gordon by more than 30 points heading into the night. That meant Huffman needed to win the race and earn a bunch of bonus points to have a shot at his second title in three years.
Huffman jumped out front early and led a bunch of laps. That gave him five bonus points. Leading at halfway would have given him five more, as would leading the most laps.
It wasn’t meant to be though.
Despite being rivals on the track, Shane Huffman and Benny Gordon showed each other plenty of respect after the race on Saturday night. (top - 51 Photo; bottom - Kathy Bond Photo)
Huffman came into the pits with the lead on lap 91, but came out 11th. After marching up through the field and back toward the front to grab the lead before halfway, Huffman had to make another stop on lap 129, to tighten up some loose lug nuts on his ride.
Meanwhile, out front was rival Gordon, who was leading laps and picking up bonus points as well, including the five points that goes with leading at halfway.
Eventually, Huffman would work his way back to the lead. And he’d lead until the end. In the final tally though, Gordon would end up leading just eight more laps than Huffman, giving him those bonus points as well.
Coupled with Gordon’s fourth-place finish, Huffman had to settled for second-best this time around.
“I was ready to cry in those last few laps,” said an emotional Huffman in Victory Lane. “I knew Benny and them were doing exactly what they needed to do. Hats off to those guys. They have a hell of a race team and they deserve it. We just had some bad luck the first two races (of the Championship Sereis) and we missed the set up in the third race. It just got us far enough behind where we couldn’t make it up in these last two races.”
“It means so much for this team to win the title," said a happy Gordon. "I’ve got the best car owners in the business and a group of guys that have worked on my crew for years and years, traveling all over the country to win something like this. We’ve won some Late Model championships, but we’ve never won something this big.”
Despite being “broken hearted,” Huffman was still able to look past his title loss to reflect on his season, which came with a brand-new, start-up team that was formed less than two months before the start of the season.
“We ended the year on a high note. I just have to thank Pete Knight, Bud Knight and everyone with Knight’s Companies. Actually, the entire town of Summerville,
Huffman (#81) and Gordon (#66, outside) were around each other much of the night at Lakeland. (Kathy Bond Photo)