HUFFMAN AND TEAM COMMITTED TO 2004by Jeremy Troiano
Veteran Will Be Back To Defend His Championship
It has been an off-season of turbulence for Shane Huffman. After winning nearly a half-million dollars and the 2003 USAR Pro Cup Series National Championship, he found himself rideless after the #84 Xtra Motorsports team lost its sponsor.
After the sponsorship woes, Huffman and team owners Rhett Durham and Carroll Watts talked about everyone being free to pursue other opportunities. And other opportunities arose for both parties, but in the end, it was somewhat a “family feeling” that keep them together.
“We've got a lot of work to do and a little time to do it in," said Huffman. "We've gotta lot to put back together. We have one car that is pretty much ready, but we've got another that is going to take some time to have ready for Lakeland, but I don't think that is a reason to doubt that we'll be down in Lakeland with anything other than two race-ready cars.”
Huffman wasn't the only past champion in trouble. Bobby Gill, who's name is synonyms with the Pro Cup Series, is also rideless.
“It's just tough to find sponsorships these days,” added
The car may look different next year, but we bet the speed will be the same. (51 Photo)
Huffman. “But I think it can happen. It just takes longer than most people would think. I have to thank Rhett Durham and Carol Watts for what they have done for not only me, but this entire team. You can bet that we are all going to work just that much harder to show them our appreciation.”
Anyone interested in helping Shane and the Xtra Motorsports team defending their title is urged to call the shop at 828-459-3584.
“It sounds simple but it's not. We just felt like it was our responsibility and our duty to give Shane and the entire crew the chance to defend the championship they worked so hard to earn, It just wouldn't be right to pull it out from under them," said Durham. "We all wanted to race and we agreed to look into other things at the end of the season. But in the end, we decided we were better off as a whole. We are like a family.
“It's so hard to put it into context what Shane means to this team. I can't imagine having another driver. For me, it is like having my brother back. He's been my driver since I've been an owner. The thought of having someone else behind the wheel was just different. This whole team is that way. They are all like a part of the family.
Huffman had several opportunities available, but none of them could give him all the options he wanted; most importantly, staying close to home with many of the people that helped him get to the point he is currently at.
That is all out the window now, as Huffman and the Xtra Motorsports team have committed to run the entire 2004 Pro Cup Series schedule in hopes that their legacy and season performance will help draw a sponsor as the season progresses.
“I'm really excited and I feel like that a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Huffman. “Now, I can stop worrying about if and where I am going to be racing and get down to the business of preparing for the coming season.
“I've got a great group of people behind me here, from the owners to all of the crew guys, and we will work through this. It's just tough to find sponsorship dollars these days, but we believe if we just keep working forward and keep doing what we did last year, something will come our way. We've got plenty of people out there pulling for this deal, so we all have pretty high hopes. Nonetheless, we are going out there to win races and do what we did last year, win the championship.”
The title wasn't enough to keep Huffman's sponsor around, which meant he was rideless.
“So we decided that we were going to commit ourselves, with or without sponsorship help. But I can not stress enough on how tough this deal is without sponsorship help. We need someone where to help us get through the coming season.”
While the timing isn't perfect, being less than four weeks out from the season-opener at Lakeland, Huffman and his crew are busy preparing cars for the coming season. The bright spot is that the opener is at Lakeland, a place Huffman dominated in 2003.
Owner Rhett Durham (left) couldn't keep his team off the track. (Horne)