SES: Drivers ready for the Showdown

Countdown to the showdown: westward bound Kodak southeast series drivers ready to show their stuff DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 13, 2003) -- Horace Greeley's famous exclamation "Go West Young Man, Go West" could be the defining motto for the top...

Countdown to the showdown: westward bound Kodak southeast series drivers ready to show their stuff

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 13, 2003) -- Horace Greeley's famous exclamation "Go West Young Man, Go West" could be the defining motto for the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Elite Division, Kodak Southeast Series.

For many drivers on the Kodak Southeast Series, which competes throughout Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia, going to California for the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will mark the first time they have raced west of the Mississippi River.

The invitation-only event will be held Nov. 6-8 at the half-mile Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. The top 10 drivers in the four series that comprise the NASCAR Elite Division -- the Featherlite Southwest Series, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series, Kodak Southeast Series and Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series -- will be invited along with the top 15 drivers in each of the two series in the NASCAR Grand National Division -- Busch North and Winston West -- who will compete in a similar format.

"I would like nothing more then to be able to say I am the best of the best," said 2002 Kodak Southeast Series rookie of the year Jason Hogan, of Cleveland, Ga.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for short track drivers in NASCAR racing. When NASCAR made the rules uniform for our cars, allowing a driver to compete in all four series in the Elite Division, that alone expanded the potential for our type of racing. With this new concept, the incentives are tremendous."

Those incentives include a live national television audience on SPEED Channel and $500,000 in posted awards.

Current Kodak Southeast Series points leader Charlie Bradberry, of Chelsea, Ala., says the event provides an opportunity for drivers at the regional level to gain national recognition.

"So many of today's top drivers got their start with the Kodak Southeast Series, but never had an opportunity like this," said Bradberry. "My brother, Gary, competed with this series in the 80's when it was known as the All American Challenge Series and never had anything like this on a national level. We know this will be a long haul for drivers in the Southeast, but the opportunities to be seen by those who could have an influence on your future racing career will overshadow any hardships."

Two other Southeast Series drivers angling for an invitation to the event are brothers-in-law "Texas" Terry Mason Jr., of Birmingham, Ala., and John "Boy" Wilkinson III, of Hueytown, Ala. Mason and Wilkinson have been competing against each other for many years around the Birmingham area and are both competing for the 2003 Victory Circle Rookie of the Year award on the Kodak Southeast Series

"We are really looking forward to competing against our fellow NASCAR short track drivers," said Mason. "Neither John or myself have ever raced that far away from home and it will give our family an opportunity to not only go to California to race, but also to enjoy the area," Mason said.

Wilkinson and Mason are not the only Kodak Southeast Series rookies in the top 10 in points. First-year drivers Cecil Chunn, of Spring Hill, Tenn., and Justin Wakefield, of Woodstock, Ga., are also challenging for one of the 10 spots to represent their series at Irwindale.

"To have all four rookie contenders finishing in the top ten of a major racing series shows how tough the competition is on the Kodak Southeast Series," said Wilkinson. "I have won a championship on another racing series but I never had the opportunity that NASCAR is giving us with this new concept to compete on a national level."

Cincinnati, Ohio's Jeff Fultz, the 2002 Kodak Southeast Series champion, says the Toyota All-Star Showdown will truly showcase the entire series to a national audience.

"I think this is a neat concept," said Fultz. "I have competed against some drivers from the other three series in the NASCAR Elite Division, but never for the stakes that are on the line for this event. At our individual series events, we are competing against individuals. At Irwindale, we are going as the Kodak Southeast Series and it would be kind of special to have the bragging rights for a year depending on which series performs the best."

Fultz, a four-time race winner this season, is battling Bradberry for the 2003 series title and trails Bradberry by 52 points with two races remaining. In 2002, Fultz fought off David Reutimann all the way down to the last race of the season before winning the championship.

The Toyota All-Star Showdown is an invitation-only, non-points event. Drivers will be invited based on their finish in the 2003 point standings for their respective series. Thirty Grand National teams and 40 Elite Division teams will make up the event's starting fields.

The three-day event begins with practice on Thurs., Nov. 6. Teams return for another practice session on Fri., Nov. 7, along with twin 50-lap qualifying races for both divisions. The feature races will be held Nov. 8.


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Drivers David Reutimann , Jeff Fultz