Huffman rough-houses to Goody's win

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   BRISTOL -- With the full moon as the perfect backdrop, racing under the lights at Bristol got off to an explosive start on Wednesday night with Robert Huffman's controversial win in the Pabst Blue Ribbon 150 for the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series.
   Huffman tapped points leader Jake Hobgood twice between turns three and four on the final lap. As Hobgood smashed the outside wall in his rear view mirror, Huffman crossed the finish line to take the win in the event for smaller V-6 powered sedans.
   Four-time Dash Series champion Huffman had his No. 37 Toyota in front most of the early portions of the race before making a mid-race fuel stop. He battled back to the third position before making contact with then second place Johnny Chapman on lap 142.
   With Chapman out of the way, he ran down the Pontiac of Hobgood over the closing laps leading to the controversial finish.
   Huffman's rough house tactics were met with a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance. "I didn't come here to wreck these people," said Huffman. "I came here to win the race. Bristol is a tough race track. I got under Johnny four or five times and he chopped me off. I was better than he was. He had a spotter to tell him where I was.
   "Jake, I wouldn't have run over him for nothing. On that last lap, I got down in that corner hard and got back in the gas real quick. He hadn't got back in it and obviously was trying to hold me off. We got together and I hate it. But, Toyota and White House don't pay me to run second. I could have set there in second, but we came here to win."
   Asked about the fans' reaction, Huffman responded, "Naturally, you don't like it. I remember talking to Dale Earnhardt years ago at a local track and he said as long as they're cheering good or bad, at least they know you're out there. They may not like me right now, but some of these days they will be pulling for me, because they remember what happened."
   Chapman charged to victory lane after the checkered flag to interrupt post-race activities, but was soon escorted away by local police. When asked about what Chapman said in their confrontation, Huffman commented, "I better not repeat it."
   Hobgood was more subdued in his protest, offering only a terse statement of, "He wrecked me, that's all I've got to say."
   For the race winner, he was escorted form the winners circle in the back of a sheriff's department cruiser bypassing a crowd eager to discuss the use of his front bumper.
   It was Huffman's fourth win of the season and the 39th of his career. Only Dash Series pioneer Dean Combs with 60 wins ranks ahead of the Claremont, NC driver on the all-time victory list.
   Scott Weaver came through all the excitement to post a solid runner-up finish. Keith Roggan, whose car had been smoking since the early laps, pedaled his machine to a third place outcome.
   2001 race winner Brandon Ward, who bounced off the Hobgood car on the final stretch, came home fifth, while Zach Brewer rounded out the top five.
   Defending series champion Cam Strader lost his chances for victory way back on lap 46 when he was collected by the spinning car of Angie Wilson coming off turn four.
   It was also a tough night for hometown driver Adam Dean of Bristol. Dean brought out the first caution on lap 27, after collecting the end of the inside retaining wall. Early race leader Justin Hobgood was another victim of attrition just 16 laps later when smoke trailing from his Pontiac told of an ailing motor.
   The only injury was suffered on lap 105, when Randy Humphrey suffered bruised ribs in a three-car melee.
   Another three-car pile-up on lap 118 spoiled the Bristol Dash debut of Eric McClure. The son of Winston Cup car owner Larry McClure became entangled with the No. 31 car of Brewer as the two entered turn three.
   Posting a good showing in the race was Blountville entry Reece Milton. The local racer ended eighth in the final rundown completing all 150 laps of the event.
   Despite losing the spots at the end of the race, Jake Hobgood retained his points lead in the tour that competes on fourteen raceways through the Southeast.