NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVER GARY HELTON HEADS TO MYRTLE BEACH IN SEARCH OF BOTH ROOKIE AND CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 31, 2005) -- It's been a case of "so far, so good" for NASCAR AutoZone...
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVER GARY HELTON HEADS TO MYRTLE BEACH IN SEARCH OF BOTH ROOKIE AND CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 31, 2005) -- It's been a case of "so far, so good" for NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series rookie driver Gary Helton through the first eight races of the 13-race season. The Sevierville, Tenn. driver won his first career Bud Pole in the April season-opener at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway and pulled into victory lane for the first time at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, Tenn. in July.
Not only is Helton sitting atop the leader board when it comes to the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, he is very much in contention to make an incredible Southeast Series championship run as the tour returns to action Sunday afternoon, Sept. 4, in the Myrtle Beach 150 at the famed Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway.
Helton heads to Myrtle Beach sitting fourth in the Southeast Series standings and very much in the title fight. Helton is only 61 points behind leader J.R. Norris.
"I've really had a good time racing here in the Southeast Series and it's been a lot of fun," Helton says. "I like the rules and the way the officials treat everybody so fairly when it comes to things like inspection. It's all been good. The main reason we came to the Southeast Series was because we wanted to try something new and travel to different locations and compete on different tracks."
Helton does have past racing experience at the Myrtle Beach short track and is hoping he can use that past knowledge to help inch closer in the Southeast Series championship race.
"If it wasn't for breaking a time chain and getting in a wreck earlier in the year we'd be heading into this weekend in a lot better shape as far as the points are concerned," Helton said.
"I really thought it would take a year or two to get acclimated," said Helton. "Anytime you switch to a different series than what you've been racing, it's going to take some getting used to. To be honest, I thought we'd be about ninth or tenth in the points at this point in the season. We're a little bit ahead of that. So we're going to try to win the rest of the races we have this year and we're sure not going to be defensive because of where we're at in the standings. We're just going to try to keep on doing what we've been doing up to this point.
Fultz admits that the entry of Helton and his team to the Southeast Series has made everybody step up their racing game and get more competitive.
"Gary is a good racer who has been around for a long time and I love having him coming to the Southeast Series and racing with us this year," Fultz says. "He's a tough driver and he's made all the rookies in the Southeast Series this year step up their game. Gary's just a cool guy I like hanging around with. He works for the Volunteer Performance Racing Engines and that's the company where my team gets our motors from, so Gary is very talented all the way around. It's been enjoyable having Gary and his crew chief, Robbie White, come to the Southeast Series this season and they have brought a lot to the table."
Fultz jokes that not only has Helton made the rookies work hard through the first eight of this 13-race Southeast Series season, he's also made it tough on the veterans like himself, Jason Hogan, Kevin Prince, Dusty Williams and current championship leader J.R. Norris.
"Gary is a great driver and I'm glad to see him do as well as he has so far this season," Fultz says. "He's made me step my game up because I've raced with him every race this year. All in all it's just great to see the Southeast Series be able to have the talent level as high as it is now. It's not only nice to see those guys have the success they've had so far as much as it is seeing good things happen to good people like Gary and that team. Gary wants to win, but he will not wreck you to win and he will race you very clean. You've got to keep an eye on Gary and that team because they're tough."
What: The Myrtle Beach 150 (Race No. 9 of 13 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series).
Where: Myrtle Beach Speedway, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
When: Sunday, Sept. 28 at 4 p.m. (EST).
Track layout: .538-mile oval.
Race length: 150 laps/ 80.7 miles.
Posted awards: $49,686.
Top 10 in points: 1. J.R. Norris 1,247; Dusty Williams 1,216; Jeff Fultz 1,210; Gary Helton 1,186; Jason Hogan 1,171; Kevin Prince 1,149; Justin Wakefield 1,125; Greg Pope 1,101; Allen Karnes 1,098; Robert Richardson 1,032.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sunday, September 4 -- Haulers enter 8:00 a.m.; Pit Gates Open/Inspection Begins 9:00 a.m.; Drawing to determine qualifying order 11:00 a.m.; Mandatory Rookie Driver's Meeting 11:00 a.m.; Mandatory Driver's/Crew Chief's Meeting 11:30 a.m.; Practice 12:30-1:30 p.m.; Bud Pole Qualifying (2 laps) 2:30 p.m.; The Myrtle Beach 150 4:00 p.m.