Brian Hoppe Wins AutoZone Spring Classic 150 at Music City Motorplex NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 17, 2004) -- Score one for the out-of-town challengers. Brian Hoppe, of Madison, Wis., won the AutoZone Spring Classic 150 on Saturday at Music City...
Brian Hoppe Wins AutoZone Spring Classic 150 at Music City Motorplex
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 17, 2004) -- Score one for the out-of-town challengers. Brian Hoppe, of Madison, Wis., won the AutoZone Spring Classic 150 on Saturday at Music City Motorplex, the season-opening event for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series. It was Hoppe's first career Southeast Series victory and he collected $4,000 for the win. Cleveland, Ga. driver Jason Hogan finished second, followed by Jeff Fultz, Eddie Hoffman and Erik Darnell in fifth place.
"This means a lot," said Hoppe, a regular competitor in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series. "It's cool to win in another series, that's something I've wanted to do for a while. To have an opportunity to come down here for this race -- with a car this good -- I'll take it.
"Track position was everything," continued Hoppe. "We didn't have to fight from too far back and I got in the lead pretty early, where I could hold my own pace. That was important."
The race unfolded with Monroe, N.C. driver Greg Pope -- who started in the first position after the top eight qualifiers were inverted the begin the race -- establishing a sizeable early lead. A.J. Frank, of Bluffton, S.C., chased down Pope and the two drivers were pulling away from the pack until a caution period on lap nine.
Pope maintained his lead when the race restarted and continued to show the way until a multi-car accident resulted in another caution on lap 16. The race was red-flagged in order to allow track cleanup crews to prepare the track and racing resumed after a brief period.
Hoppe restarted the race in third position and passed Frank to take over second place on lap 50. Five laps later, Hoppe moved underneath Pope and grabbed the lead on lap 56.
Hoppe explained his strategy during the middle stages of the race.
"I was working on the No. 7 car [of Erik Darnell] really hard and wanted to get by him, then I just decided to save my tires and let everybody's stuff wear out. Then, I was in third the leaders caught a lapped car and when they did I got to the outside of the No. 11 car [of A.J. Frank] and then we passed a lapped car and I was able to get past the No. 63 [of Greg Pope]. Then, once we got by, for the last 100 laps, we were able to set our own pace and put the Gildan Activewear car in victory lane -- that's what we wanted to do."
While Hoppe worked to maintain his lead, several drivers were charging through the pack in an effort to reel in the leader. George Vincent, of Oswego, Ill., steered clear of trouble during the early caution periods and by the halfway mark he had advanced from 19th to the fifth position. Also making several moves forward was Fultz, who started ninth and was running in the fourth position with 40 laps remaining. Fultz, the 2002 Southeast Series champion, gained one more position as the laps wound down to finish third, but catching Hoppe proved too tough for Fultz or any other challengers.
Failed to Qualify: (2) EDWARD STIVERS (#66), RONNIE WHITE, II (#95).
Time of Race: 1 hrs., 17 mins, 49 secs
Average Speed: 72.285 mph
Margin of Victory: .465 Seconds
BUD POLE AWARD: J.R. NORRIS *, 5 Victor Ford/UPI Painting Ford
FEATHERLITE MOST IMPROVED DRIVER AWARD: ALLEN KARNES, 29 Quality Cabinets/Jerry K/Lewis & Associates Chevrolet
POWERADE POWER MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD: CECIL CHUNN, 48 Mid South Signs/NGK Spark Plugs Chevrolet
Caution Flags: Laps 3-5; 10-13; 18-26; 61-67; 69-75; 90-93; 103-105. 7 for 37 laps.
Lap Leaders: GREG POPE 1-56, BRIAN HOPPE 57-150.
Total Laps Led: BRIAN HOPPE 94, GREG POPE 56. 1 changes involving 2 drivers.
Top 10 Driver Points:
BRIAN HOPPE 180
JASON HOGAN 170
JEFF FULTZ 165
EDDIE HOFFMAN 160
ERIK DARNELL 155
GEORGE VINCENT 150
A J FRANK 146
CECIL CHUNN 142
ALLEN KARNES 138
ROBERT RICHARDSON, II 134
Next Race: April 24 - Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway