NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES ROOKIE GARY HELTON SCORES SECOND WIN OF SEASON AT MUSIC CITY MOTORPLEX NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- Nobody can argue about why NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver...
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES ROOKIE GARY HELTON SCORES SECOND WIN OF SEASON AT MUSIC CITY MOTORPLEX
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- Nobody can argue about why NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver Gary Helton loves the Music City Motorplex so much. Heck, he'd like for every race to be held at the famed Tennessee short track.
Helton picked up his second win of the 2005 Southeast Series season -- and by doing so making it a clean sweep of both races at Music City this year on Sunday night in convincing fashion after a too close for comfort green-white-checkered finish over Jason Hogan by a scant .344 margin of victory. Helton led the final 98 laps of competition.
"That was awesome," said Helton, a native of Sevierville, Tenn. "The last time we were here there was a big wreck on the first lap and it took out a lot of good cars, so to win a clean race like this means a lot and it kind of vindicates the first win. We had a great run with a great Volunteer Performance Racing Engines motor."
Helton used the victory to move from fourth to third in the final standings thanks to his effort on Sunday night.
"It's so hard anytime you move up to a new series to learn and get a handle on everything," Helton said. "My crew has done a great job, plus we have a great motor so it really makes my job as a driver a whole lot easier."
On the final restart with two laps remaining, it looked as if Tim Sauter was going to give Helton a run for his money. However, Sauter got a tough restart before relinquishing the runner-up position to Hogan. Sauter finished third, followed by the top-five of Justin Wakefield and Jeff Fultz.
Hogan's effort as well as some hard times for J.R. Norris allowed Hogan to move to second in the Southeast Series standings, facing a 64-deficit to the two-time and defending series champion Fultz.
"Our game plan coming into this race was to take it easy the first 100 laps and then go hard at the end," Hogan said. "When I saw J.R. have his problems, I knew right then that I had to finish the race and not tear anything up. If we did that I knew we could move into second in the points. That last restart, the No. 86 car (of Helton) got a good restart and I was able to get a run on Tim and grab second from him there at the end. To be able to race door-to-door with a guy like Tim Sauter is just an unbelievable feeling."
The Top 10 was completed by Stanley Smith, Dusty Williams, Greg Pope, Josh Hamner and Robert Richardson.
Hamner, in only his second career Southeast Series start, won his first Bud Pole award but had to start 10th after the first 10 cars were inverted prior to the race. That put Williams on the pole for the start alongside Wakefield. Williams jumped out to the early lead before the first caution of the night slowed the field when Norris went for a spin on Lap 11 and hit the first turn wall before heading to the garage with any hopes at the Southeast Series title in severe jeopardy.
Norris, who came into the race second in Southeast Series point standings only 32 points in arrears of Fultz's lead, would see his night come to a premature end because of the incident and finished 21st.
"It was just bad racing luck and there's nothing else you can say about it," Norris said. "My crew worked so hard to get me in contention for this year's title, I want to make it known they're the reason behind my success. Last but not least, I want to thank my dad because if it wasn't for him I wouldn't even be in racing. We'll just go into the last race and see how it plays out."
Williams proceeded to hold the point and was setting a torrid pace through the first part of the event until the second yellow flag of the evening was shown for a harmless spin coming off the fourth turn by Johnny Brazier.
Helton wanted to see what it was like to lead and did just that when he worked past Williams to take the top spot on Lap 59. Behind the duo of Helton and Williams were the top five, respectively, of Sauter, Fultz and Smith just before the halfway mark.
By the 100-lap point, Helton was almost a half lap ahead of Sauter and cruising to what appeared to be an easy victory until he saw that advantage erased by the third caution of the night that was thrown for debris.
The last caution of the night came on Lap 147 when Charlie Bradberry spun on the front straightaway, setting up the two-lap dash for the trophy with Helton ultimately prevailing.
The Southeast Series returns to action in the season finale at Montgomery (Ala.) Motor Speedway on Oct. 29.