J.R. NORRIS GRABS SECOND STRAIGHT NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES VICTORY SATURDAY NIGHT AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS GREENVILLE, S.C. (August 13, 2005) -- The question heading into Saturday night's Greenville 150 was...
J.R. NORRIS GRABS SECOND STRAIGHT NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES VICTORY SATURDAY NIGHT AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS
GREENVILLE, S.C. (August 13, 2005) -- The question heading into Saturday night's Greenville 150 was rather simple, could anybody beat Greenville-Pickens Speedway's NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series' version of Superman -- Jeff Fultz -- who had won the last four races at the famed half-mile short track?
Well, the answer was yes and in fact there might be a new Superman in the Southeast Series as sophomore driver J.R. Norris won his third race of the season, and second straight to extend his championship lead to 37 points over Dusty Williams following his Greensville-Pickens victory. In fact, it was Norris' first career Southeast Series victory that didn't come in Nashville, Tenn.
"I can honestly say I never expected to win at a legendary track like Greenville-Pickens," Norris said after getting showered by water from his crew. "We weren't that good in practice, but we made some changes to the car before qualifying and the car really came alive. During the race I just tried to be patient and race smart. Once this car got out front it just seemed like it stayed there. The car was awesome and I have to thank everybody associated with this team. It was just an awesome night for me and it couldn't have come at a better time or track."
Norris was almost at a loss for words when talking about his Southeast Series championship lead.
"I can't even put into words what this means to me," Norris said. "I really can't describe it. We've got a little work to do on the car but this win makes it all worthwhile. We'll go to Myrtle Beach and try to make it three wins in a row."
Norris had his rearview mirror full with 12 laps to go when a late restart allowed Justin Wakefield -- running second -- a shot at his first career Southeast Series victory.
"I finished second and I guess second is the first loser," Wakefield said with a smile. "It was a good night for us. We pulled a spring rubber out when we pitted and that was probably the wrong way to go. It just made the car too tight getting in the corners. I'm just tired of finishing second."
Rounding out the top-five behind Norris and Wakefield were Gary Helton, Jason Hogan and Williams.
Fultz started the race from the Bud Pole, but actually rolled off 10th after a 10-car inversion allowed Helton to lead the field to the green flag. Helton held the early lead until he was caught and bypassed for the top spot by Kevin Prince on Lap 14 while Fultz had already advanced up to fifth.
The first caution flag of the night came out on Lap 25 when Michael Kile slapped the wall in the third turn. That set the stage for the mandatory pit stop to change one tire. Prince went into the pits leading but came out third because Helton and Ted Mickelson elected not to pit. Prince, however, was the fastest back out of the pits in third followed by Fultz, Hogan, Norris and Wakefield.
The second caution out when Terry McMahan went for a harmless spin in traffic in the first turn. Perhaps the biggest loser under the caution was Fultz who had to make an unscheduled pit stop and fell deep back in the field. McMahan also brought out the third caution when he spun in the fourth turn with Helton leading Prince.
Norris made a bold move to grab second on the outside of Prince on Lap 50 before taking the lead from Helton on Lap 57. At the halfway point, the top-five consisted of a lightning fast Norris, Prince, Wakefield, Helton and Fultz.
Mickelson and Allen Karnes got together betweens one and two to bring out the fourth caution, while Helton used the break in action to make his mandatory pit stop. When the green flag was displayed on Lap 96, Norris led Prince, Wakefield and Fultz.
When all was said and done Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens, Superman had been knocked from his throne and there appears to be a new sheriff in town in the form of Norris.