PRESSURE NO MORE: HUFFMAN FINALLY A WINNER by Jeremy Troiano
Former Champ Finally Gets First Win for High-Profile Team in Wild Race
MANFULL INVESTMENT CORP 250
Montgomery Motor Speedway, AL
1. Shane Huffman
2. Bobby Gill
3. Chase Pistone
4. Shane Wallace
5. Jay Fogleman
6. Clay Rogers
7. Don Satterfield
8. George Brunnhoelzl III
9. Jody Lavender
10. Andrew Rogers
11. C.E. Falk
12. Mike Mason
13. Dange Hanniford
14. Mardy Lindley
15. A.J. Fike
16. Michael Ritch
17. Joey Logano
18. Michelle Theriault
19. Bryan Glaze
20. Daniel Johnson
21. Mike Herman Jr.
22. Steve Redditt
23. Bill Manfull
24. Billy Bigley Jr.
25. Trevor Bayne
26. Will Riley
27. Bobby Joe Woodley
28. Wayne Willard
29. Dana White
30. Jeff Fultz
31. Matt Carter
32. Kirk Leone
33. Brett Butler
In racing, there is an old cliché for bad luck. They call it “having a monkey on your back.” Sometimes, extra bad luck is often referred to as having a gorilla or even King Kong on your back.
In Shane Huffman’s case, the monkey that was on his back wasn’t just for the bad luck that encompassed him during the first two USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Southern Division events, but more for the pressure he was holding on his shoulders.
Even bigger than the win is the relief now felt by Huffman, who has the pressure of those high expectations off his shoulders.
“This is what I was brought here to do,” said Huffman. “I kind of felt bad for not doing it in the first two races of the year, because we had cars that should have won. So I’m glad to finally give them a win. I feel privileged to be here.
“In a way, I do kind of feel like some of the pressure is off. This Hooters Pro Cup Series is a big deal to Dale Jr., Kelly and everyone associated with this year. They think a lot of this series, so this is a big win.”
Huffman looked like he’d get his first win with JR Motorsports in the first race of the year, where he dominated at Lakeland before a mechanical problem put him a lap down. Then, at South Georgia, Huffman was again dominate and leading when a rear-end gear broke, forcing him out of the event.
Shane Huffman won Saturday night's race at Montgomery, his first for JR Motorsports. (Kathy Bond Photo)
At Montgomery, Huffman wasn’t his normal dominant force, but instead just stayed in the shadows and showed his hand at the end of the night.
Starting out, though, Huffman had a long road in front of him. He had to start “shotgun” on the field after his scorer was late for the scorer’s meeting.
“They penalized us at the beginning of the race because our scorer was too late for the meeting. I don’t have a problem with it, but it better be called that way the rest of the year. I didn’t know what was going to go on there.
“Our car was exceptionally good on the long runs. I had
Huffman (#88) chased Bobby Gill (#06) around most of the night. (Bond Photo)
See, Huffman signed on before the start of the 2006 season to drive the potent JR Motorsports ride, owned by NASCAR Nextel Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the Pro Cup Series. The marriage of one of the highest-profile teams in Pro Cup and arguably its best driver over the last three or four years brought a lot of high expectations.
With 18 series races, some thought Huffman could win up to 10 or more. And he still might be able to. And it will be a lot easier, now that after two disappointing outings in a row, Huffman is in the win column.
Huffman won Saturday night’s Manfull Investment Corporation 250 at Montgomery Motor Speedway, giving him his first win of the season and JR Motorsports’ second ever (their first came in 2005 with Mark McFarland).
to use a little more of my car up during the beginning of the race just trying to get back into the top 10. We missed a few wrecks and had a lot of opportunity there to tear the car all to hell.”
Huffman took the lead for the first time after passing Michael Ritch on lap 126. Like a veteran, though, Huffman then decided to fall back and save his tires on the overly-abrasive track and let a few others battle it out for the lead.
Then, when the time was right, Huffman used his slightly less-worn tires to make his move on the front.
“I told the crew on the radio late in the race that I thought we were going to win. I just felt like they were going to come back to us. We just got to third there and (leaders Bobby Gill and Clay Rogers) caught lapped traffic and killed their stuff. That is when I decided to make my move."
Huffman passed Gill on lap 231 for the final time. But that didn’t mean the race was over. Several late-race cautions forced Huffman to have to hold off Gill, which is a tough thing to do.
“We kept getting those green-white-checkers. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Bobby is awesome on these restarts and was timing it, but I tricked him on the last one.”
Gill had nothing for Huffman.
“The second set of tires was the best that the car handled all night,” said Gill. “I was just trying to take it
Huffman owned Montgomery on Saturday.
easy on the tires, but Clay (Rogers) and Shane (Huffman) really wanted to go, so I had to push it harder than I wanted to. We really didn't have a good car, but we'll take second place tonight.”
Huffman is also known for having “feelings” before the race starts. And most of the time, his feelings are right.
“I had that feeling when I woke up,” said Huffman. “I knew it was going to be a good day.
“It sucks because we should be three and three, but like I’ve said before, would have, should have and could haves don’t get you paid or the trophies. Hopefully, there will be more to come. I think we have a better car for Peach State than we did here.”
That could spell bad news for the rest of the Pro Cup drivers. If the high-potent combination is finally working on all cylinders, then things could get ugly from here on out.