NASCAR GDS: Huffman Sweeps Tri-County Awards
1 June 1998HUDSON, N.C.: Robert Huffman of Claremont, N.C. celebrated his first Bud Pole Award and his first victory of the 1998 Goody's Dash Series season Friday night in the running of the Ekamant Coated Abrasives 125 at Tri- County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C. The former Dash Series Champion and former Tri-County champion demonstrated his acute knowledge of the .4 mile oval by thoroughly dominating most of the race, leading all but nine of the scheduled 125 laps.
"We're trying to stay focused on the big picture here", said Huffman after the race. "The win is great but this team is really focused on a championship."
"Last year we had competitive equipment at every race but had some terrible luck. This year things have been going a little better and that's what it's going to take to win another championship."
Another driver who is seeing major improvements over his 1997 campaign is the second place finisher in Friday's event, Ricky Bryant of Linwood, N.C. Bryant's charge to the front took him from his tenth starting position to fifth by mid-way and into the second spot before two thirds of the race was complete. Both Bryant and his Best Iron Erectors Pontiac appeared to be at the top of their game but in the closing laps, just didn't have quite enough left to chase down the speedy Huffman.
"This was a good finish for us here," said Bryant. "It will be a big boost to the team, especially after Charlotte. Mark's (crew chief, Mark Blessing) doing a great job getting the car set up, Jan's (Smith) helping us out with our engine program now, that's a big help, and I think I've matured some as a driver."
"Plus, we've got some tracks coming up that I've done pretty well at from time to time. Lanier's a super little racetrack; I really like it there. And we've got Southern National and Orange County in a few weeks. We won a track championship at Southern National and had 14 straight wins at Orange County, so I'm really looking forward to them."
Bryant is currently second in both, the championship point standings and in the run for the Goody's Mid-season Consistency Award behind Robert Huffman. Bryant has already finished in the top five, four times in 1998.
Although Huffman carried away the major portion of the awards for this event, including the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading at the halfway point, this was not necessarily an easy win for the White House Apple Juice team. Huffman had to fight off repeated attacks from 1995 Series Champion David Hutto of Rock Hill, S.C. who raced his Irmo Grading Chevrolet door to door with Huffman throughout much of the middle third of the event. But Hutto's chances of picking up his third win of this season were dashed when his No. 16 broke a right front wheel on lap 78 sending the Chevrolet into the first turn wall. Hutto was able to make repairs and return to the race, but could only muster a 23rd place finish, 41 laps off the pace.
Rounding out the top five in Friday's Ekamant Coated Abrasives 125 behind Huffman and Bryant were Jake Hobgood, of Winnsboro, S.C., who put a giant move on B.J. Mackey of Rock Hill, S.C. on the final restart of the race and Ned Combs of Newton, N.C. who survived to spins in the closing laps to finish fifth.
The next three drivers, Chad Branham of Lugoff, S.C., Jimmy Gross of Bowling Green, Ky. and Donnie Apple of Denton, N.C. all recorded their career best finishes in the sixth through eighth positions respectively. Asheboro, N.C.'s Mickey York made the biggest gain in positions, coming from his 23rd starting spot to finish in ninth, and Jon Redman of Fairfax Station, Va. recovered from two separate incidents to finish tenth.
Donnie Apple's eighth place finish in the Long John Silvers entry earned him the Rookie of the Race honors as the highest finishing Rookie of the Year contender and served to strengthen his lead in the Rookie standings over Chris Hall of Dawsonville, Ga.
As a result of the Ekamant Coated Abrasives 125, Robert Huffman holds a 39-point advantage over Ricky Bryant in the Goody's Dash Series championship point standings. Jon Redman, Doc Brewer and Jake Hobgood round out the top five.
The next event for the Goody's Dash Series is the Country Cupboard "150" at Lanier National Speedway, June 13. Ticket information is available from the Speedway at 770-967-8600.