NASCAR GDS: Local Hero Scores First Series Win at Orange County
20 July 1998ROUGEMONT, N.C. -It was a dream come true for Linwood, N.C. native Ricky Bryant as he danced on the roof of his BG Racing Pontiac in victory lane following Saturday nights ATK Engines 125 for the Goody's Dash Series, a part of the NASCAR Touring Division at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC. It was Bryant's first career Dash Series win and it couldn't have happened at a better place.
"When I walked through the gate this morning, I just had a felling this was going to be a good day," said Bryant. "I love this racetrack."
The event had been billed as a homecoming for both, Bryant and the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR's only sub-compact touring series. The Series was making its first appearance at the historic 3/8-mile oval since 1988. And for Bryant, it was a triumphant return to the track that earlier in his racing career had rewarded him with 11 straight wins and two track championships.
Bryant's day got off to a roaring start as the 27-year-old Series sophomore captured his second Bud Pole Award of the 1998 season setting a new track record of 14.501 seconds at 93.097 mph.
Perhaps oversimplifying his secret for navigating the speedway so quickly, Bryant explained, "When the green flag comes out you mash the button. When the checkered flag comes out, then you can let off."
Things got a bit more complicated when the green flag dropped to start the 125-lap event. Outside pole sitter, David Hutto of Rock Hill, S.C. got the jump on Bryant as the front row crossed the starting line and led the field into the first turn. In turn four, Bryant's Pontiac skittered up the racetrack opening the door for Robert Huffman of Claremont, N.C. to slip by on the bottom. Quickly, Bryant had slipped from first to third and was now faced with the challenge of reeling back in two of the most successful drivers in the 1998 season.
While Hutto was able to open-up a sizeable lead from time to time, Huffman and Bryant were locked up in a battle for second throughout much of the first half of the event. As the race approached the 100-lap mark, the now evenly matched Hutto, Huffman and Bryant battled nose to tail. But it wasn't until lap 100 when things really started to happen up front. Diving into turn three, Huffman tried to slip underneath the leader but found very little room to work. Huffman's right front fender and Hutto's left rear quarter panel made slight contact. The exchange was just enough to cause Hutto to slide up the track and allow Huffman to slip by on the inside. Bryant also saw the opening and dropped below both of the leaders at the exit of turn four staring at an opportunity to take the lead.
"I was in that same position one time before," said Bryant. "That time I went for it and ended up on my roof. So this time I decided to be patient and wait for another chance."
That opportunity came just five laps later when Huffman, on a very worn set of Goodyears and struggling to hold on to the bottom of the racetrack, opened the door for Bryant entering turn one. Bryant drew alongside and then passed the 1990 champion on the backstretch to take the lead for the first time in the event.
"We gave it everything we had," said Huffman. "There just wasn't anything left." Then with a smile that only partially masked his disappointment he added, " I guess you can't win 'em all."
Speaking of his competitor in a later interview, Bryant praised Huffman's talent and competitiveness. "Robert's a master. He knows every trick in the book and is probably the toughest guy on the track to pass. If you can pass Robert Huffman you've accomplished something."
"I knew Robert's tires were giving up and I felt like if we could just get around him we'd have a pretty good shot at the win. Then, when we got along side of him I told myself, "Man, we're in for a race now."
Bryant was able to hold off Huffman for the remaining laps and went on to experience his first Goody's Dash Series victory lane celebration in front of a packed grandstand, many of them very excited Ricky Bryant supporters.
Following Bryant and Huffman across the line was Hutto, now some distance back in a badly misfiring Chevrolet. Rookie of the Year point leader, Donnie Apple of Denton, N.C. finished fourth and picked up the Rookie of the Race honors and B.J. Mackey of Rock Hill, S.C. rounded out the top five.
Hutto was also awarded the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading at the halfway point of the race.
In other victory lane presentations, Robert Huffman, Jon Redman and Donnie Apple were presented with checks for their order of finish in the $15,000 Goody's Mid-season Consistency Award competition. The awards are based on the driver's standings in the laps completed statistic and the three drivers were presented checks in the amount of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively. Also receiving checks from Series title sponsor, Goody's Pharmaceuticals for their finish in the Mid-season awards were, Ricky Bryant $1,000, Gary Moore $900, Doc Brewer $800, Jake Hobgood $700, B.J. Mackey $600 and Jimmy Gross and David Hutto $500 each.
The next event for the Goody's Dash Series is Saturday, August 1 at the Southern National Speedway in Kenly, N.C. Orange County Speedway winner Ricky Bryant is also a past track champion at Southern National so he will be looking to duplicate his success there.