LINDLEY TAKES ADVANTAGE, WINS RETURN TO SOUTH by Jeremy Troiano
Dominant Huffman Loses Lap After Leading 155 Laps
For the last couple of years, Mardy Lindley has been a staple of the Hooters Pro Cup Northern Division. At the same time, Shane Huffman has been a staple of the Southern Division.
This year though, both find themselves in similar situations. Both are racing for brand new teams, as Lindley made a move from the Northern Division to the Southern Division to team up with the Titan Industrial team, which fielded cars for Toby Porter and Matt Carter in 2005. Huffman, a former Pro Cup Champion, moved from Knight’s Racing to the a team with big time connections and resources – the JR Motorsports team, owned by NEXTEL Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr.
So officials brought Huffman down pit road to look things over. What they found was a little bit of oil leaking from the oil pump.
This brought Huffman back to pit road to fix the repairs, handing the lead over to Lindley. Huffman lost a lap in the process and was forced to spend the remaining 85 laps trying to get his lap back to have a shot. For Huffman, that never happened and he finished 11th.
On the other hand, Lindley had to just hold off a late charge from Clay Rogers to hold on and pick up his first win since 2004 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
“It is a great way to start the year,” said Lindley. “We had a long year last year. So to come over to this year is great. He has given me everything I needed to build a winning racecar. I’ve always felt in the past like I could win races. I know that we can still win races. We just never really had the right funding before. This opportunity just gives me the opportunity to come down here and race some of these guys and be right back home.”
For quite a while on Saturday night, all the rest of the Pro Cup field saw was Shane Huffman's #88.
That opportunity he is talking about is the one driving for the HWK Racing team and Bobby Hawkins. The team was brand new in 2005 and looked to be one of the best teams in the series, but the results never showed up with Porter and Carter.
This year though, things might be different. It took just one race for Lindley to bring him his first win.
“It is big,” added Lindley. “Bobby Hawkins and my father had a relationship and was going to do some Cup racing. The weekend before he was going to get in the car, he got hurt and wasn’t able to make it. So to come back and finally get to drive his racecar and win a race for him is great. It is going to be a good year.”
Mardy Lindley gets interviewed by SPEED while his team celebrates in the background. (Kathy Bond Photo)
On Saturday night, in the Pro Cup Southern Division season-opener, it looked like both drivers made great choices in their moves.
Huffman and Lindley dominated practice. They then dominated qualifying, with Huffman grabbing the pole and Lindley qualifying third. Huffman led 155 of the race’s 252 laps. Lindley led 85.
But only one driver can win. And on Saturday night, that driver was Mardy Lindley.
The turning point in the race came on lap 167. With Huffman out front, several drivers behind the leader started radioing to their spotters that a car was leaking fluid. Lindley, who was right behind Huffman, knew who it was.
Mardy was, yet wasn’t, surprised with how quickly the team found Victory Lane.
“You never know how things are going to run. We brought some of my people from the past and mixed them in with some of his guys. He gives us everything we need to race though. As good as the thing drove and as good as the Predator engine was, I knew the thing was going to be good.”
The turning point was lap 167, when Huffman came to the pits. Before that, it looked like another Huffman / Lakeland domination show. Huffman and Lindley were running near identical laps and there wasn’t much of a chance of the two doing much other than pulling away from the field.
“We were just coasting,” said Huffman. “The thought of losing the race never really crossed my mind. I just had a gut feeling this morning. I didn’t say much about it though. Usually my gut doesn’t lie. I knew the only way we would get beat is if we beat ourselves. We just beat ourselves. We have no one to blame for it but ourselves. We win as a team and we lose as a team. We just have to build from it and go on.
“I would hope it looked impressive, but the results speak for themselves. We still have some work to do. We can’t just sit back on this. The car looked pretty dominant, but it wasn’t as good maybe as it looked. We probably could have changed a couple of things and made it a little bit better.”
When Huffman dumped into the pits, it opened the door for Lindley, who promptly took advantage.
“We made the car better after the pit stop there,” added Lindley. “When we were racing Shane, we were maybe a little bit better on the stop watch. Maybe by five-hundredths of a second; not by much. It was really about the same there at the end when he was trying to get his lap back. Shane and I had pretty even cars.
“It would have been a pretty good battle, so I hate that Shane had those problems. But you can look at my windshield there; stuff was pouring out of his car.”
Lindley (#03) holds off a challenge from Clay Rogers (#44) late. (Bond Photo)
After that, the only other battle Lindley had to deal with was a late-race charge by Clay Rogers. Rogers got a great jump in his #44 Ford Fusion and got alongside Lindley heading into turn one. Problem was that the lapped car of Wayne Willard was also on the inside of the track, meaning the battle went into turn one three-wide.
Willard didn’t back off, as didn’t Rogers or Lindley. Rogers got completely sideways, but kept the car under control. The three cars made it through the corner, but it was Rogers’ last real shot. From there on out, it was all Lindley.
“Mardy doesn’t give you much track to race with,” said Rogers. “Me and him don’t have a very good history together. We’ve had a few run ins. But it came down to the lapped cars. Cars that have been lapped should be able to look up in the mirror and roll out of the throttle about the flag stand to give the leaders a corner, especially when they are racing side-by-side. I wasn’t going to give it up, that is for sure. I had a lot of rear brake dialed into the car. I had the thing turned sideways. I knew that was the best opportunity I had on making the pass and I was just counting on that lapped car to get out of the gas. It just didn’t happen.”
Rogers held on for second, while Michael Ritch finished third. Bobby Gill and Shane Wallace rounded out the top-five.