HUFFMAN AND ROGERS PUT ON A SHOW AT CONCORD by Matt Kentfield
Rogers Comes Up Short Again as Huffman Slams to Victory
Clay Rogers had been in the position he was in on Saturday night before.
Rogers looked to be cruising towards the win in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division event at Concord Motorsport Park last year when a final restart allowed Bobby Gill to catch up and eventually pass Rogers on a restart with three laps remaining with a little bit of contact.
This year wasn’t much different. There were a few adjustments to the script, but the ending remained the same.
As Huffman did his burnouts to the delight of his team's hometown crowd at Concord, Rogers was left frustrated about letting another one slip through his grasp on the final restart.
“It wasn’t much fun racing there at the end with Shane, to be honest with you,” said Rogers. “We shouldn’t have even been under caution there at the end but the #04 [Larry Barrett] lost it. If we didn’t have that caution we wouldn’t have been in this position. That guy keeps spinning out a couple of times every race and he shouldn’t be out there. He runs three seconds slower than the leaders, spins out, and causes cautions every week. They ought to have a three or four spin rule or a minimum speed rule or something to keep that from happening.”
Rogers wasn’t surprised by the moves of his adversary either.
“What it comes down to is at the end Shane did exactly what Dale Jr. (Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR Nextel Cup driver and Huffman’s car owner) pays him to do,” said Rogers. “He pays him to win the race no matter what it takes.”
Shane Huffman celebrates in Concord Victory Lane after his win Saturday night. (Kathy Bond photos)
Huffman concurred that he is at the track to win races and that’s exactly what he did Saturday night.
“Yeah, that’s what Dale Jr. pays me for, sure it is,” said Huffman, who started from the pole position and led the first 106 laps. “If we had equal cars, then I probably wouldn’t have done what I did. I don’t like doing it but in that situation even if my mom was leading the race I would’ve done the same thing to her. I didn’t think anything about it because I had the best car on the racetrack. I just did what I had to do. It was fun those last few laps but at the same time it was frustrating because I wanted to win the race.”
Shane Huffman (#88) races to the inside of Clay Rogers down the frontstretch to the checkered flag.
Shane Huffman played the role of Bobby Gill in this year’s version of the Greased Lightning 250 at Concord on Saturday night as Rogers’ hopes for victory were once again spoiled with just a few laps to go. Huffman had three extra laps than Gill did, but Huffman used the same strategy of nudging Rogers from the lead to take the win on Saturday night.
After the lap-244 restart, Huffman looked high and low each lap to get around Rogers, eventually laying the bumper of his #88 to Rogers’ #44 several times starting with two laps to go. Rogers slipped up the track, giving Huffman the inside lane off the final corner and the two banged doors down the frontstretch to the checkers, with Huffman edging out Rogers at the stripe by a bumper to take his second victory of the 2006 Southern Division season.
Huffman may have played the beat and bang game with Rogers in the closing laps, it was another incident that forced him to come from the back of the field in the last 100 circuits around the tricky Concord tri-oval.
With Rogers well ahead of the field, Huffman was cruising in fourth on lap 137 when he got into the rear end of the third place runner, rookie Trevor Bayne. Bayne spun to bring out the yellow and Huffman was penalized to the rear of the field for his involvement.
“I hate that I even put myself in that position to have to make a pass for the lead in the last turn like that. I feel bad that I got into Trevor like that. He’s an awesome kid with an awesome family but I made a mistake. I feel awful about it and it put me in a huge hole.
“I wanted to dig myself out because my guys deserve to win the race. They’ve been working hard on their pitstops and that really showed tonight. I didn’t’ know if I could do it. It’s so hard to pass here and I was really aggravated. Things just worked out in our favor tonight.”
Huffman did work through the field with precision, making it back into the top-10 on lap 170 and all the way back up to third on lap 216. While Huffman made his charge from the back of the pack, Rogers and Bobby Gill renewed their battle from last season for the lead. Gill worked the inside lane into the corners while Rogers got good runs down the straightaway to keep the lead. After three laps of side-by-side racing, Rogers pulled ahead leaving Gill in the clutches of Huffman with 25 laps remaining.
The two Pro Cup point leaders put on a show for the win, but Huffman almost let Rogers walk away with it.
“I thought I screwed it up on the white flag lap. Coming off of four I had to check up a little bit and he got a good run down the frontstretch. Luckily he was a little free and I got a good run on him down the backstretch. I got into the corner and nudged him a little bit to get by him.”
Bobby Gill was able to keep a close eye on the leaders as they battled to the checkered flag, but the veteran wasn’t able to sit and wait for something to happen. A determined Joey Logano, who qualified second for the race in a backup car after developing motor problems in practice, was hot on Gill’s heels in the closing laps for third.
“Those guys were racing hard but I couldn’t pay too much attention to what they were doing because I had Joey right on my bumper,” said Gill.
“That was a lot of fun racing with Bobby there at the end,” said Logano, who made his first-ever Concord start on Saturday night. “I could get underneath him every lap then he’d be able to get back around me off the corners. I didn’t have the car to beat all night but we definitely had a top-five car, which is great considering we were in a backup car.”
Gill held off Logano to the checkers while Jay Fogelman chased them down but had to settle for fifth.
Rogers (left) and Huffman (right) may have battled on the track but shared a laugh after the race.
Huffman made the pass for second on lap 232 and set his target on Rogers’ #44. The caution flew on lap 244, allowing Huffman to close to Rogers’ bumper and when the ensuing green flew, the battle was on.
“There’s a lot of racetracks that we go to just like this one where if your car is good up top, then you run up top,” said Rogers. “I didn’t want him on the outside of me because I knew he’d try to pinch me down. You can’t be fast if you can’t use the whole racetrack here. I went to the top and he just hooked me in my bumper in the center of the dogleg and that got me up the track and I was loose anyway so I washed up and he got under me. We banged a couple times coming off the last corner but he had me.”