JR Norris Captures 2006 NASCAR Southeast Series Championship
Fourth-Place Run Is Just Enough To Beat Friend For Final SES Title
CONCORD, NC (September 25, 2006) -- When it came to racing hardware, JR Norris already had a pretty impressive collection prior to this weekend. He had earned the famous "Nashville guitar." He already had a NASCAR Southeast Series Rookie of the Year trophy. He had several race win trophies lining his mantle.
But now, the 26-year-old has something even more sought after than all of that -- he has a NASCAR championship ring.
Following his fourth-place finish on Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the "Rock 101 150," Norris earned his first NASCAR Southeast Series Championship in the final year of the series.
"I got a ring," said Norris after the event. "That is what I really wanted. I wanted the ring and I've got it now. I've got a guitar and now I've got a ring. That really says something about what we've been able to do over the years.
"It is an honor to give Richie (Wauters, team owner) and Jeff Victor this championship. I know Richie would have wanted to win the race, but I think he'd be pretty happy to get what we've got. I have to thank him for what he's done for me this year. I really can't put it into words. Richie is like a dad to me.
"Jeff Victor has really supported this team as well. He's a big part of this deal. And I can't say enough for all of our sponsors. Everyone that has come to the track with me at every race this year; without everyone, I wouldn't' physically be able to do this. This is all for them just as much as anything else."
Norris wasn't his normal dominant self on Saturday night. After starting on the pole, Norris failed to lead a lap in a SES event for the first time this year. He ran second, but fell back to forth, after getting passed by fellow championship contender Jason Hogan just past halfway. Coming into the event, Norris led the championship standings by just 15 points. With his fourth-place finish at Greenville, he won the title by just five points over close friend Hogan.
"That is the best thing to do to win the championship on the track and not by accidents or anything else," said Norris, who finished fourth, which was good enough to clinch the title. "We actually raced each other very hard. We actually rubbed a little bit. He didn't give it to me and I wasn't going to give it to him. I guess that is why there is so much respect between us. We know we can go out and race each other like that. It's always good. You don't' get a lot of people that can be friends in racing. That is one thing that I like about me and Jason. We can be friends.
"The car wasn't what it was in practice. I don't know what happened. We'll get the car back over to the trailer, check the tires and the stagger and all. I guess I had enough to do what I needed to do. That is what we set out to do. I really wanted to come out here and win the last race and the championship. We won the championship though."
Norris wrapped up the 2006 Southeast Series with two wins and another second-place run in four events. During his three-year NASCAR Southeast Series career, Norris won six races and earned 20 top-five finishes. He also earned four Bud Pole Awards. In 2005, Norris also won his first-ever start in the NASCAR Midwest Series, coming at the legendary Milwaukee Mile.
"This championship really puts the icing on the cake," added Norris. "We've come so close in the past to winning this thing and stuff has happened. I can't say we failed ever at anything though. We just didn't have the outcomes that we wanted. We won the Rookie of the Year in 2004 and now, we've got the championship this year. I just can't say any more.
"It was only four races and that might make some people detract from this title, but it shouldn't. I wish it would have been more, but it will still tough and we still worked just as hard. Now, I get to go to New York. That is really cool. I even had a dream the other night about what it would be like to go to New York to represent the Southeast Series."
Now, Norris looks forward to the next portion of his racing career.
"I've got another championship and another great thing to put on my resume. I don't know what I'm going to do the rest of the year or next, so if anyone needs a driver, I'm here. I'm trying to work on some things for the Truck Series. Hopefully, I can get something to work out."