SES: Music City: JR Norris race notes

Southeast Series Opener "A Learning Experience" For JR Norris Rookie of the Year Contender Captures Bud Pole Award in Nashville Hueytown, AL (April 20, 2004) -- "A learning experience" was the best way NASCAR Southeast Series Rookie of the Year...

Southeast Series Opener "A Learning Experience" For JR Norris
Rookie of the Year Contender Captures Bud Pole Award in Nashville

Hueytown, AL (April 20, 2004) -- "A learning experience" was the best way NASCAR Southeast Series Rookie of the Year candidate JR Norris could describe the season opener this past weekend at the Music City Motorplex in Nashville (TN). The 24-year-old Norris captured the Bud Pole Award on Saturday afternoon, but suffered through a flat tire and two NASCAR-issued penalties during the running of the "Spring Classic 150."

"We had the fastest car by far all night long and everyone knew it," said the disappointed Norris after the race. "I just goofed up, plain and simple. All in all, I had a super race car and that is thanks to how hard we've worked on getting it ready. I thank everyone who came and helped me. They put forth a lot of effort. I could have won the race easy if I would have used my head. I guess that is why I have a rookie stripe on the back bumper."

Norris came out of the box on fire, leading Saturday's one and only practice session in the Richie Wauters'-prepared #5 Victor Ford. Norris then backed it up in qualifying by setting fast time and earning his first career NASCAR Bud Pole Award. Unfortunately, Southeast Series rules call for an inversion after qualifying and Norris pulled an eight, meaning Norris would take the green from the eighth spot.

The rookie wasted little time getting into the top three and drove a smart race early on. Bad luck befell the team for the first time near the 40th lap when Norris suffered a cut tire and slowly looped it on the track. Norris was able to keep the car going, but had to make a green flag stop. That put the team two laps behind. Norris made both laps back up, but fell victim to a couple of penalties from NASCAR.

"On a late (race) restart I just came up on a guy in front of me so quick that I made a move and split them all down the middle and caused a wreck. Then, just a little later, when we were getting ready to go green, the guy in front of me moved up and waved me by so I passed him, but I wasn't suppose to pass him on the left side so I got penalized another lap.

"It just killed the momentum of the whole day. It is great that we put the car on the pole, but poles don't mean too much unless you can back it up and win the race."

There won't be much time to reflect on the Nashville race as Norris and the team will travel to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) this coming weekend for the second race of the season. Earlier in the year, the Southeast Series held an open test session at the historic track and Norris and the Wauters' #5 turned laps nearly three-tenths a second faster than everyone in attendance.

"We just have to move on and we'll come right back out and tear them up at Hickory," Norris stated. "If we run anything like we did there during our test, and then make some general improvements to the car as the day goes on, we'll be in good shape. There are some great racers who weren't at the test who will be fast, but I don't see why we can't put it on the pole again. But this time, I just can't make as many rookie mistakes.

"Hickory is a tough and demanding place, but I've raced there before with the Southern All Stars so hopefully I can draw on some previous experience there. I think after the learning experience we had at Nashville, I'll be a little better prepared."

The Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Southeast Series is one of the prizes JR Norris has his eye on in 2004, although he is also aiming for the championship in a combined effort with car owner Richie Wauters. If you would like more information on JR Norris and his 2004 efforts, check out jrnorris.com.

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