SES: Greenville-Pickens II: Season finale preview



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2006) -- The stakes are high heading into the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series' final race this Saturday night in the re-scheduled 'Rock 101' 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.

The main story heading into the Southeast-Midwest Series combination race is centered on the battle for the Southeast Series championship battle that will be decided as current point leader J.R. Norris holds a precarious 15-point advantage over close friend and on-track rival Jason Hogan. If Norris earns a third-place finish or better, he will win his first NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series championship even if Hogan wins the last Southeast Series race under the sanction of NASCAR.

"It's going to be tough and I know that anything can happen," Norris said. "I'm sure Jason Hogan is going to run good this weekend because he was tough in the first race we ran at Greenville-Pickens earlier this year. I won that race so I think we should be bringing back a car that's good and hopefully even a little bit better than we had there in April. I'm heading to Greenville-Pickens trying to win that race because if I win the race I know I'll win the championship.

"To win the final Southeast Series championship would mean a lot to me and that'd be a pretty good as far as what I've accomplished in my racing career. Plus I think there is a tremendous amount of prestige that would go along with it like getting to go to New York along with all the other NASCAR champions for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series banquet in November."

Hogan is well aware that if Norris has any problems whatsoever, he could very easily be in a position to win his first Southeast Series title after several seasons of trying.

"Winning the Southeast Series championship would mean a lot to me because I've tried so hard to win it before and come up short, but it would really be very cool and meaningful to me since it is going to be the last year for the Southeast Series and the other three NASCAR AutoZone Elite Divisions," Hogan said. "To say we're chasing a dream would be exactly right because we've been chasing this championship for quite a few years now and it's all going to boil down to what happens Saturday night."

Norris and Hogan are fully aware that should they have mechanical failures or problems Saturday night that the door to the championship could be opened to Gary Helton in third (-61) as well as Dusty Williams in fourth (-70).

"This championship is still very much still anybody's to win or lose," Norris said. "Everybody is focused on me and Jason, but they still shouldn't count Gary and Dusty Williams out of contention. Anything can happen because they aren't that far behind us. We're just going to have to wait and see how it turns out and it should be interesting. "

Norris is missing out on one dream to pursue another this Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens as this race was originally scheduled for August 12 until Mother Nature intervened and the event was rained out. Norris was scheduled to make his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut this Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Billy Ballew Motorsports, but now he will be in the Palmetto state Saturday night in search of clinching the Southeast Series championship.

"It's pretty tough to have to miss out on an opportunity like that because I've tried for so long to get that shot," Norris said. "What happened has happened and there's nothing I can do about it. I've got to deal with it and go on and hopefully I'll get another shot in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to show what I can do. We sat down and decided that we've put too much time and effort into winning a Southeast Series championship and that we'd come too far to quit in the last race when I'm leading the championship standings. We decided that we'd come too far to just give up.

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday night's race, both Norris and Hogan agree that the best man will win the Southeast Series title and there will not be any hard feelings when all is said and done at legendary promoter Tom Blackwell's historic South Carolina short track which has hosted more NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series races than any other facility through the years.

"No matter who wins the championship, there's not going to be any loss of respect on either one of our parts," Norris said. "Jason and I are going to race each other as hard as we can on Saturday night but we're not going to take each other out. We're not going to do that because it's not worth it. He might rough me up a little bit if he's got a faster car, but I would expect him to and Jason knows I'll do the same thing to him. No matter what happens this Saturday night, Jason and I will shake hands like any friends would do when it's all said and done."

Hogan agrees with Norris.

"We both go into every race with the goal of winning," said Hogan, who has won once this season while Norris has been to Victory Lane twice. "Both of us in the past have tried to points race and it hasn't worked out for either of us. We're going into this race like we would any other race and what's going to happen is going to happen. It's a matter of fate. I don't want to beat J.R. or any of the other drivers who have a shot at the championship because of their bad luck. I want to beat them on the track racing against them.

"If it's my time to win the Southeast Series championship that would be great, but if not there is hopefully better things to come in my racing future. Whether it's me winning the championship or J.R. Norris -- or even Gary Helton or Dusty Williams -- the better man is going to win the title."

-credit: nascar

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Drivers J.R. Norris , Tom Black
Teams Williams