From last to first, Huffman takes checkered flag in Hooters race


star staff


  BRISTOL--After the exhaust fell off his Ford on a second qualifying lap, Shane Huffman had to start at the back of the field for the Hooters Pro Cup Series Food City 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
  No problem, Huffman simply drove to the front for the win.
  "Our hand was dealt to us early on," said Huffman about overcoming a series rule that prohibits working on a car after qualifying. "We decided to pit on the first caution and that was the right plan."
  Huffman crossed the finish line two car lengths ahead of Clay Rogers in a race that extended three laps beyond the advertised 150 circuits.
  "We couldn't run with Shane," said Rogers, also driving a Ford. "We were having trouble with the right front tire and we couldn't afford to abuse it. It wasn't a bad night. It was a pretty good debut for us and the series at Bristol."
  Former Busch Series competitor Michael Ritch finished third in a Pontiac.
  "I was really wore out tonight," said Ritch. "I wanted to drive hard to finish in the top three. We're a short track series and this is a short track, but in a way it's not. We wanted to win obviously, but we wanted to finish in the top three at the first Pro Cup race at Bristol."
  Outside pole sitter Bobby Gill jumped into the early lead and led the first 56 circuits. Trying to get by the lapped car of Bud Kenny, Gill tapped Kenny from behind causing a chain-reaction accident.
  Second place at the time Rogers ran in the back of Gill, who spun and was hit by the oncoming car of Matt Carter.
  Brad Rogers, younger brother of Clay, assumed command of the race after pit stops until the next round of stops on lap 99.
  Randy Gentry took over from Rogers until Huffman passed him for the lead for good on lap 103.
  Carter recovered from the early misfortune to finish fourth, while Brad Rogers came in fifth.
  Steven Wallace, son of former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, made his Bristol and Hooters Pro Cup debut with a tenth place qualifying run. After climbing as high as second position, he consistently ran in the top ten before a tremendous head-on impact with the turn three wall on lap 141.
  Wallace was credited with a 21st-place finish.
  Local driver Raymond Williams of Blountville driving a Chevy with a replica No. 99 Aaron's paint scheme used by Michael Waltrip in the Busch Series, had an eventful night. After spinning on lap 69, Williams finished 17th, one position back of Abingdon driver Danny O'Quinn.
  In the end, it was a satisfying victory for defending Hooters Series champion Huffman, who came out first among 36 drivers.
  "Everything went our way," said Huffman, from Hickory, N.C. "Having a great car allowed us to come from the back. We were able to pick and choose our spots.
  "It means more than I can explain to win here. I watched a lot of guys drive up that ramp to victory lane and I wanted to be one of them. The atmosphere here is electric. We battled back from adversity all day, but never got down."