CHAMPIONS PROFILE: Family Ties Make For Memorable First Title Brunnhoelzl wins Southern Modified championship under father's guidance Winning any championship is special for a driver, but to win one with your father as your crew chief and car ...
CHAMPIONS PROFILE: Family Ties Make For Memorable First Title Brunnhoelzl wins Southern Modified championship under father's guidance
Winning any championship is special for a driver, but to win one with your father as your crew chief and car owner is very special.
For George Brunnhoelzl III, that is what makes his first NASCAR championship all the more memorable. The 27-year-old Mooresville, N.C., captured the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship with a career season -- a title run that can be traced to his family's Long Island roots.
"I can't tell you what this means to me to win the championship with my father with me," Brunnhoelzl said. "I wouldn't be at this point if it wasn't for him and I am so thankful for everything he has done for me in my racing career."
Brunnhoelzl has been competing in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour since 2006 and his 25 series starts prior to this season, the third-generation driver had built an impressive resume with 14 top-10 finishes and one win at Lanier National Speedway on August 30, 2008. But nothing could prepare his for his championship season.
The father and son duo enjoyed a season most car owners and drivers can only dream about. In the 14 races, the driver of the No. 28 Oval Speed/Fibrwrap/PT Ford finished in the top five an amazing 13 times -- highlighted by five wins.
Looking back on the season there were a lot of nights were Brunnhoelzl dominated from practice to Coors Light pole qualifying to Victory Lane. Brunnhoelzl won six pole awards, including setting the qualifying record at Caraway Speedway in April.
Ironically, it's two races he didn't win that factored in most in his championship.
Every champion will tell you they had some good luck to go with the hard work by the crew and sponsors to help them win a title and Brunnhoelzl had luck on his side -- especially at the season-opening race at Concord Speedway and in August at historic Bowman Gray Stadium.
In the season opening Capital Bank 150, Brunnhoelzl suffered motor problems in practice and almost didn't get to start the race. He and his father worked out a deal to rent a motor since they did not have a backup with them on the trailer.
"We talked for a while on trying to decide what to do," said George Brunnhoelzl Jr. "Do we just pack up and go home or do we try and find a motor. We race on a very tight budget and knew our options were limited. That is when Roger and David Hill from the No. 79 team offered to rent us a motor. We were nervous to run someone else's stuff but we did and it worked out."
Worked out is an understatement as the father, son and a few dedicated crew volunteers worked all afternoon to get the motor changed. Brunnhoelzl fired it up for the first time to line up on the grid at the rear of the field. The motor ran well as he charged from last place to finish third.
At Bowman Gray, Brunnhoelzl entered the weekend with a slim 17-point advantage over Andy Seuss in the standings. Seuss was caught up in an on-track incident and was forced to pit for repairs putting him many laps down in the caution-filled race. Brunnhoelzl was caught up in an accident too, but he was somehow able to finish the race in second place despite a bent wheel. Seuss finished 14th, allowing Brunnhoelzl to pad his points lead.
"Those two races are two that we will remember for a long time," Brunnhoelzl said. "I can't thank Roger and David Hill enough for helping us out at Concord, and being to finish the race in the top-three was a huge momentum boost for us at Bowman Gray."
Although he held a comfortable lead going into the final two races, that didn't stop Brunnhoelzl's determination to keeping winning races. Brunnhoelzl held off Seuss to win at Ace Speedway, and then he raced John Smith side-by-side out of Turn 4 in the season-ending Fall Classic 150 at Caraway to pick up the win when all he needed to do was start the race to clinch his title.
"We always race to win and I wanted to win that last race for all of my family and friends who showed up to celebrate the championship with me," Brunnhoelzl added. "I have raced a long time and to finally win a championship is something I will never forget."
It has been 15 years since the younger Brunnhoelzl began his racing career in an open-wheel Champ car winning four titles in five years. He made his debut in a modified at Riverhead Speedway in New York where his father and grandfather both competed for many years. He even tried his luck in full-bodied stock cars for a few years before returning to his roots.
"I have always loved driving a modified and to win in a car that my father and grandfather have so much history with is something that is special to me and I will never forget this season no matter how many more championships I am fortunate enough to win," George III said.
Brunnhoelzl will join all of the other NASCAR Touring champions for week-long activities in Concord before he gets to collect his championship trophy at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards Gala on Saturday, Nov. 14.