SES: Caraway: Kevin Prince - NASCAR spotlight

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVER KEVIN PRINCE LOOKING FOR 'THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2005) -- It's a funny old cliche to hear fishermen sit around and talk about 'the big fish that got away',...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2005) -- It's a funny old cliche to hear fishermen sit around and talk about 'the big fish that got away', especially when there was nobody around to witness the powerful struggle between man and trophy-winning aquatic life. In racing, the drivers get a little more respect and sympathy when there are thousands of race fans in the stands to witness how they are defeated.

Such was the case one year ago for veteran NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver Kevin Prince, who had lead every single lap in last year's AutoZone 150 at Caraway Speedway until disaster struck for the Wilmington, N.C. native seeking his first career victory. As the No. 1 Land O' Frost Chevrolet was between the first and second turns at the Asheboro, N.C. short track, team owner and spotter Randy Wilson saw smoke on the backstretch and radioed into Prince telling him the caution was coming out.

The only problem was there was no caution as Pat Brewer dropped a valve on Lap 118 but was out of the racing groove. Prince slowed up expecting a yellow and was bypassed by eventual race winner Erik Darnell who led the final 31 laps while a heartbroken Prince finished less than a second behind.

Prince is seeking redemption heading into this Saturday night's Caraway 150 at the .455-mile track and will be gunning for that elusive first Southeast Series victory.

"That deal last year was a situation where we had that race in the bag and let it get away," Prince says. "We've been in that situation before where we had the chance to win and come up short, but nothing was as bad as last year at Caraway. That was tough. It's a deal where you can't really put the blame on anybody because it was just an unfortunate situation that happened. Randy was only looking out for my best interest because he evidently couldn't see through the smoke.

"It was definitely disappointing, but that's racing and things happen. It's always hard to win that first one. It seems like once you win that first one, the others don't necessarily come easier but they seem like they do because you've been there before. You've already topped that hill and felt what it means to win a race before. I was honestly more disappointed than I was mad because I knew we had that race and lost it."

It takes a big man to admit to his mistakes, but that is exactly the way Wilson handled the situation last year after Caraway.

"That's life," Wilson says. "It stung when it happened and it stung for a while, but there's nothing I can do about it. I wish I could go back and do it again but I can't. If I had it to do over again I honestly don't know if I would have done anything different. I saw smoke and from my vantage point I thought NASCAR was going to call for a caution. I told Kevin to slow down, the caution didn't come out and the second-place car passed us and went on to win the race.

"It was my fault and I can't blame it on anybody else. If it were to happen again and happen the way it did before, I'd tell Kevin to back off. I want to protect not only Kevin and my race car, but all the other competitors as well."

Prince admits that there were temporarily hard feeling between the driver and the spotter after the race.

"I was mad," Prince says. "Then again it was just as hard on him as it was on me."

So what did he tell Wilson?

"We don't need to print that," the always likeable Prince answers with a laugh. "Everybody makes mistakes. As long as you're walking around breathing everyday, you are going to keep making mistakes. The biggest thing is learning from your mistakes. I think that's a mistake that Randy will never make again. I wouldn't necessarily say there were hard feelings between me and Randy, but there was a moment of silence between us before we could laugh about and go on down the road."

Prince is coming off his fifth career Southeast Series runner-up finish last Friday night in the Music City 150 at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, Tenn.

"I just want to get to Caraway this weekend with as good, if not better car than what we had last year," Prince says. "The race track wasn't what caused us to lose that race last year. I just want to go back and redeem ourselves this weekend. If we can back up what we did last year, there should be no question that we're going to be in the hunt. Maybe we'll get that first win this weekend."

Prince is also on a roll as far as mounting a comeback for the Southeast Series championship as he sits sixth in the standings and facing a 73-point deficit after six of 13 events in 2005. The Southeast Series point standings took a major swing in Prince's favor last Friday night at Nashville when current leader Dusty Williams and second-place Jeff Fultz were swept up and heavily damaged in a wild multi-car incident on the opening lap.

"You asked me after Kentucky if I thought I was out of the championship picture and I told you that anything can happen," Prince says. "It happened at Nashville last weekend because Dusty and Jeff took a big hit in the points. We're back in this championship race now and anything can still happen. We could be put in the same position we were in last weekend and come out leading the points."


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Drivers Jeff Fultz , Erik Darnell
Teams Williams