NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP ON LINE GOING INTO WEDNESDAY RACE AT MUSIC CITY MOTORPLEX Music City 100 is combination race featuring Southeast Series and Midwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 7, 2006)...
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP ON LINE GOING INTO WEDNESDAY RACE AT MUSIC CITY MOTORPLEX
Music City 100 is combination race featuring Southeast Series and Midwest Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 7, 2006) -- Two NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series drivers -- J.R. Norris and Jason Hogan -- are tied for the 2006 championship with only two races remaining heading into Wednesday night's Music City 100 presented by the Nashville Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
Close friends and on-track rivals, Norris and Hogan are all too aware that only one will ultimately claim the Southeast Series championship. Any problems either has at Nashville this Wednesday night -- a combination race with the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series -- can potentially be a major hurtle heading into the Southeast Series finale three days later on Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.
"There's a lot on the line, but we have to go into Nashville with the approach that it's just another race," said Hogan, a Cleveland, Ga. native. "If it's meant to happen, it'll happen. If it's not, it won't. You can't stress yourself about it. We're going to go into this race just like we do any other race and what comes about will be when all is said and done. There's nobody I'd rather be racing with for the title more than J.R. Norris because we kind of grew up racing against each other as we've moved up through the ranks to where we are today.
"We're close friends and he knows I want to beat him and I know he wants to beat me. At the end of the day we're still going to be friends no matter what happens. It's pretty neat to be able to race for the championship against one of your best friends. To be able to race against anybody for a championship means a lot, but to do it against a close friend like J.R. Norris really does make this pretty special."
Norris agrees with Hogan in that this year's title is still miles away -- and two combination races with the Midwest Series -- from being declared official.
"It's not a lot of pressure on me because my main goal is to win the last two races," said Norris, an Alabama native who currently resides in Huntersville, N.C. "If I were to win the Southeast Series championship -- that's something that we'll deal with when the time is right to do so. These last two races are big and the Southeast Series championship is something I really want to win.
"It's a dream for me to have a shot at winning the Southeast Series championship because a lot of drivers before me have won it and gone on to bigger and better things up the NASCAR ladder. It's all going to come down to who wants it the most. Even though winning the title would mean a lot to me, I know there are a lot of drivers like Jason Hogan and several other guys who want to win the championship just as bad as I do in these last two races."
The battle for who hoists the Southeast Series championship trophy is tied -- though problems for either leader could open the door for the likes of Ricky Turner (-25) or Dusty Williams in fourth (-45). In fact, Gary Helton might be a dark horse in fifth as he sits 51 points outside the lead with Ted Mickelson just one point behind him. Eddie Stivers and Josh Hamner are tied for seventh in the Southeast Series standings -- 62 points outside the top spot -- heading into the homestretch.
"Ricky Turner is right there in the thick of things and he has a lot of experience at Nashville," Norris said. "Dusty Williams is right up there as well. All it takes is two bad races for me and Jason Hogan and we'll open the door for a lot of other drivers and then who knows what's going to happen. The Southeast Series championship is still very much up in the air."
The battle for the Midwest Series championship is even tighter than the one for the Southeast Series title as three drivers -- Dan Fredrickson, Steve Carlson and Tim Schendel -- are tied for the top spot in the standings. Wednesday's race will also have a big impact on the Midwest Series title race. Drivers in each series will be scored relative to the other drivers in their "home" series.
Norris, meanwhile, admits that Hogan's past success at the famed Nashville short track is something that could play into the Southeast Series championship picture.
"Jason always does real well at Music City Motorplex in whatever division he's racing in," Norris said. "Whatever luck he had at Nashville is something I need going in my favor. Maybe this last time around Nashville will provide better results for this team."
Hogan knows that an impressive run at Nashville will be imperative should he pull off the Southeast Series championship at Greenville-Pickens on Saturday night.
"There are a lot of real good cars in the Southeast Series and a lot of different drivers that still have a chance to win this championship," Hogan said. "I know heading into Nashville that all those drivers are gunning for me and J.R. It's going to be interesting after we get done at Nashville and we all see who has a shot at the championship heading into Greenville-Pickens."