JR Norris Is 2004 NASCAR SES Rookie Of The Year 24-Year-Old Just Misses Championship By 21 Points Following Second-Place Finish HUEYTOWN, AL (September 27, 2004) -- For J.R. Norris, Saturday night's second-place finish in the NASCAR Southeast ...
JR Norris Is 2004 NASCAR SES Rookie Of The Year
24-Year-Old Just Misses Championship By 21 Points Following Second-Place Finish
HUEYTOWN, AL (September 27, 2004) -- For J.R. Norris, Saturday night's second-place finish in the NASCAR Southeast Series season finale at Nashville's Music City Motorplex was bittersweet. While the 24-year-old dominated most of the race, his second-place finish in the race left him just shy of winning the series championship. Instead, Norris had to settle for being officially crowned the 2004 Southeast Series Rookie of the Year. He finished second in the overall point standings, just 21 points out of the championship.
"I'll admit that it was a great season, but I'm the type of person that would have rather gotten beat by 80 points than to come up that short," said Norris following the race. "While I'm really disappointed, I'd say the season was a success. But I don't like barely losing. We got beat by the best though. What else can you say. It's racing. It's my rookie season. We'll just get everything together and come back next year and win that championship."
Norris was one of three drivers that had a mathematical shot to win the championship heading into the AutoZone 150 at the old Nashville Fairgrounds racetrack. Coming into the night, Norris was second in the standings, 67 points back of Jeff Fultz.
Norris grabbed the Bud Pole for the race, his third pole award of the season and second at Nashville. Following the invert, Norris had to start eighth, but wasted little time getting to the front. Norris grabbed the lead from Justin Wakefield on lap 26. From there, J.R. went on a rampage and put all but the top four cars a lap down before the first yellow waved at lap 90.
After building a lead of nearly 13 seconds on the half-mile track the untimely caution allowed second-place Zach Niessner to catch back up. On top of that, Norris' engine began to lose power around lap 80, leaving him a sitting duck to Niessner. Norris ran hard and was able to continue to keep Niessner at bay until getting trapped behind a lapped car and losing the lead with less than 10 laps to go. Norris kept the pressure on Niessner up until the end, but the lack of power forced him to settle for second.
"I wanted to lead the thing. I felt better setting my own pace," said Norris. "I got to the lead and set my own pace. I was just pulling away. Then, around lap 80, the motor laid down on me. I just kept driving it as hard as I could. They had that caution and he got to me; that enabled him to get up to me. I couldn't do anything wit him after that. If I could have kept him behind me, I thought I could have held him off. Once he got into front of me, I couldn't do anything wit him. He out motored me on the straights.
"I wasn't going to give up. I was driving my tail off there at the end. I could pull up beside (Niessner) and actually get a nose on him coming off the corner, but once we got on the straight, he would pull away from me."
Norris knew he had to win and Fultz had to have an off night. Fultz did have an off night, finishing 13th. Even with the win, Norris would have fell a few points short.
"I'll tell you what, I learned a lot this year," added Norris. "I learned how to pace myself and run hard all at the same time. I learned how to deal with different people's driving styles and sometimes use that to my advantage. I got to meet a lot of people and really enjoyed the traveling. So despite everything, I guess it was a pretty good year. We just weren't able to get the big prize there at the end.
"We had great cars all year long. I have to thank my entire crew and my car owner Richie Wauters. Without all of the, none of this would be possible. It is easy to look that good when you got a lot of good equipment behind you. It was a tough year. I guess all that means is we've got more to shoot for next year.
Now we just have to go out to California and get them out there. That would be huge!"
With the Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Southeast Series wrapped up, JR Norris is focused on winning the second Toyota NASCAR All Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway (CA) in November with car owner Richie Wauters. If you would like more information on JR Norris and his 2004 efforts, check out jrnorris.com