JEFF FULTZ OVERCOMES ADVERSITY TO SCORE FOURTH STRAIGHT SOUTHEAST SERIES VICTORY AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS SPEEDWAY GREENVILLE, S.C. (April 30, 2005) - Two time and defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz...
JEFF FULTZ OVERCOMES ADVERSITY TO SCORE FOURTH STRAIGHT SOUTHEAST SERIES VICTORY AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS SPEEDWAY
GREENVILLE, S.C. (April 30, 2005) - Two time and defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz has won a lot of races throughout his career, but he admits his victory on Saturday night in the 'Rock 101' 150 presented by Keith Whitaker Chevrolet at Greenville- Pickens Speedway was one of the most memorable.
In the closing seconds of the final practice session leading into qualifying Saturday night, Fultz's No. 54 IENA/C&C Boiler Chevrolet spun coming off the fourth turn. While it looked like no big deal, that turned out to not be the case when his car returned to the pits with a badly damaged right front suspension with various broken parts and pieces. Stoically and calmly, Fultz and his crew unloaded their back-up car, took off the equipment they needed to make the repairs before qualifying second to pole winner Gary Helton.
The season-opening win allowed Fultz to become the most victorious Southeast Series driver in Greenville-Pickens history, bypassing Jody Ridley, Billy Bigley Jr. and Wayne Anderson who have three triumphs.
"I can't put into words what this win means to me," Fultz said. "To win four straight races at such an historic track like Greenville-Pickens and the fans in this area means a lot. To be able to actually be listed in the Southeast Series record books as having one more win than guys like Wayne Anderson, Billy Bigley Jr. and of course Jody Ridley is something I'll never forget. Then again, records are made to be broken.
"I just want to thank all the folks at AutoZone and the fans because they make this one of our biggest races of the season. We've really seemed to hit the set-up at this place. We came down here with one intention and that intention was to win the race."
"We had a very good car in practice until we broke something on the right front and spun out," Fultz said. "It was incredible the amount of effort all the guys on my team put into fixing it and giving me a car that ended up winning the race. The car was great in practice until we had the late problem. Every single person on this team worked their heart out to fix the car like they did for me and I can't thank them enough. This was the epitome of a winning team working together and rallying around each other to get the job done. They basically had to rebuild the entire front- end of the car after our problems in that last practice.
"Since our car broke when it did, I have to consider us as being fortunate because we caught the problem and had the chance to fix it before we started the race without knowing there was something we needed to look at a little closer. I guess it was a blessing in disguise because I've never had a problem in practice like I did today and still win the race. The car we raced tonight was a couple of years old and we pulled it out to race tonight. If it wasn't for the guys on this team, there's no way I'd be standing in victory lane here at Greenville-Pickens."
Justin Wakefield finished a mere .388 behind Fultz to post his career best Southeast Series finish. Rounding out the top-five were Jason Hogan, Charlie Bradberry and rookie driver Gary Helton.
For Wakefield, his runner-up effort at Greenville-Pickens was the best finish of his young racing career.
"I thought we had something for Fultz on the longer green flag runs, but it just didn't work out for us and we didn't have enough laps," said Wakefield, a Woodstock, Ga. native. "I guess it doesn't matter because we ended up second and Fultzy is celebrating in victory lane. This was my most competitive race so far in the Southeast Series. We had an awesome car that just handled great all night long.
"This race is a far cry from my first eight Southeast Series races last year because it seemed like I was either in a wreck or blowing a motor. It's nice to get the season started off to a much better start and be in contention to beat a great driver like Jeff Fultz."
Hogan admits he took Fultz's approach of bringing in an older car because the famed South Carolina short track is known for its close- quarters and door-to-door action.
"That's not too bad considering we brought the oldest car we had in our shop," said Hogan, a native of Cleveland, Ga. "We saved our best car for next weekend at Houston because we've got a great car and we were fortunate enough to win there last year. I just didn't want to take the chance of tearing that car up here at Greenville and it did a good job for us. I tell you what, we've gained 110-percent since the last time we raced at Greenville. This is an awesome way to get our season started off. We're just hoping we can keep it going all year long."
Saturday night's race was a wild one by Southeast Series standards as the caution flag was thrown six times for only 31 laps.
One of the early contenders that had problems was J.R. Norris, who started from the pole and was running second until mechanical issues dropped him out of contention. The second caution flag of the night came out on Lap 47 when Pat Brewer went for a harmless spin in the first and second turns.
Hogan took advantage of the first pit stop of the night to grab the lead, followed by Fultz, Kevin Prince, Wakefield and Bradberry and Dan Fredrickson. Hogan's time in the lead turned out to be a short one as Fultz made his way past him on Lap 58. The third yellow flag of the evening was thrown for debris.
Wakefield took advantage of a great restart to bypass Hogan for the runner-up position and was trying to gun down Fultz until the fourth caution was thrown for an incident involving Brewer Stanley Smith. The fourth caution came out for a multi-car incident involving Prince, Robert Richardson, Eddie Stivers and several other drivers in the first turn.
In the end, there was simply no denying Fultz who stamped his name in the record books as the most victorious Southeast Series driver in the Greenville-Pickens
The Southeast Series returns to action this Saturday night in the Houston 150 from Houston Motorsports (Tex.) Park where Hogan is the defending race winner.
Time of Race: 1 hrs., 13 mins, 10 secs
Average Speed: 61.503 mph
Margin of Victory: .388 Seconds
BUD POLE AWARD: GARY HELTON *, 86 Volunteer Performance Racing Engines Chevrolet
FEATHERLITE POWER MOVE OF THE RACE: JEFF FULTZ, 54 IENA/C&C Boiler Chevrolet
POWERADE MOST IMPROVED DRIVER: DUSTY WILLIAMS, 40 Pennzoil/ Dixie Excavating Chevrolet
LUNATI CREW CHIEF OF THE RACE: Jon Craiq (No. 54, Fultz)
Caution Flags: Laps 16-19; 49-55; 103-105; 119-128; 132-135; 144-146. 6 for 31 laps.
Lap Leaders: J R NORRIS 0, KEVIN PRINCE 1-50, WALTER SUTCLIFFE 51, JASON HOGAN 52-57, JEFF FULTZ 58-150.
Total Laps Led: JEFF FULTZ 93, KEVIN PRINCE 50, JASON HOGAN 6, WALTER SUTCLIFFE 1. 4 changes involving 4 drivers.
Top 10 Driver Points: JEFF FULTZ 180, JUSTIN WAKEFIELD 170, JASON HOGAN 165, CHARLIE BRADBERRY 160, GARY HELTON * 155, DUSTY WILLIAMS 150, JUSTIN DIERCKS 146, CHRIS DAVIDSON 142, STEVEN HOWARD 138, ALLEN KARNES 134
Next Race: Houston, Tex.