NASCAR GDS: Swaim Victorious in the Battle of the Champions
17 November 1998HOMESTEAD, FLA.--In a surprise finish to Sunday's season finale to both NASCAR's 50th Anniversary year and the 24th Goody's Dash Series, a NASCAR Touring Division racing season, 1997 champion, Mike Swaim Jr. of High Point, N.C. was declared the winner of the Pennzoil 50 at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex.
After leading the first 19 laps of this event, Swaim's No. 28 Pennzoil sponsored Pontiac Sunfire appeared to be able to hold on to the leaders, but was unable to mount a serious challenge to 1998 Series champion, Robert Huffman of Claremont, N.C. and 1995 Series champion, David Hutto of Rock Hill, S.C. as that pair swapped the lead on practically every lap during the second half of the race.
A late race caution for Newton, N.C.'s Ned Combs' tangle with the fourth turn wall momentarily interrupted the battle and set up a green, white, checker dash to the finish with Hutto's Irmo Grading / Addy Dodge / Midland Photo Pontiac on the point followed by Huffman's No. 90 White House Apple Juice Pontiac and Swaim's No. 28 Pennzoil machine.
At the green, Huffman and Hutto took their battle all the way to the Homestead speedway's grassy infield as the duo diced for the lead down the front straightaway and through turns one and two. Coming off turn four and heading to the white flag, the two touched sending Hutto on a long, slow spin down the front straightaway eventually making contact with the inside retaining wall and coming to rest just past the start-finish line. NASCAR officials took exception to the contact and blacked flagged Huffman as he came to the checkered flag with Swaim in tow.
The resulting one lap penalty placed Huffman in 15th finishing position and Swaim was declared the winner.
"We were more lucky than fast today," said Swaim in the post race interview. I couldn't really see how the contact up front was initiated, the 16 and the 90 were dicing it up pretty good on that last restart. That's always NASCAR's call, and everybody has to live with it. It just worked in our favor this time. But our guys worked really hard and they sure deserve this win."
A disappointed Robert Huffman had a different spin on the situation, declaring, "He's (Swaim) taking home the money, but were taking home the pride and the championship. I felt like we won the race. The penalty put a little damper on the day but not on winning this championship." Following Swaim across the line was the defending champion of this race, Danny Bagwell of Cordova, Ala. in the Sterling Casino Lines / Torbert Trucking Ford and Bud Pole Award Winner, Jake Hobgood of Winnsboro, S.C. in the Wynn's / Precision Engine / Grease Monkey Pontiac. Eddie Kelley of Indianapolis, In. made an excellent showing for his new sponsor, QA1 Performance Rod Ends, by leading three laps of this event and coming home in the fourth spot. In doing so, Kelly picked up his fifth Rookie of the Race honors this season. Another Hobgood, the 1994 Goody's Dash Series champion, Will Hobgood rounded out the top five in his Wynn's Precision / Grease Monkey Pontiac. Will also led a lap in this event.
With the 1998 Championship Point Standings now cemented, two Rookie contenders made the most impressive gains as a result of this event. Donnie Apple, the 1998 Rookie of the Year moved up one spot to seventh in the overall point standings and Eddie Kelley bumped fellow Rookie candidate Chris Hall to eleventh and took over the tenth spot in the standings. Chad Branham also moved into the top twenty in the point standings, jumping from 23rd to 20th as a result of his finish here in the season finale despite being forced to retire early in the event with a blown head gasket..
The teams of the Goody's Dash Series will gather again to honor the accomplishments of many of its members on Jan. 9, 1999 at the Atlanta Airport Hilton for the 24th Annual Goody's Dash Series Awards Banquet. -30-