NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVER J.R. NORRIS PICKS UP WIN SATURDAY NIGHT AT GREENVILLE PICKENS SPEEDWAY GREENVILLE, S.C. (April 29, 2006) -- NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver J.R. Norris appears to...
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVER J.R. NORRIS PICKS UP WIN SATURDAY NIGHT AT GREENVILLE PICKENS SPEEDWAY
GREENVILLE, S.C. (April 29, 2006) -- NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver J.R. Norris appears to have gotten the hang of getting around the Greenville-Pickens Speedway. On Saturday night at the famed South Carolina short track, Norris scored the victory in the 2006 season-opening 'Rock 101' 150.
In fact, it was Norris' second straight victory at Greenville-Pickens thanks to his win last August. Norris took the victory by three seconds over second-place finisher Jason Hogan.
"This car really wasn't as dominant as it looked," said Norris, who led 143 laps. "It was more of a case of when I got out in clean air and traffic -- that made my job a lot easier. Justin Wakefield had a car as good as us if not a little bit better until he had his problems. I hate it for all the guys on that team, but this is racing and I know things happen because I didn't finish the last four races last year."
Norris was emotional after climbing from his car in AutoZone victory lane.
"We really didn't know what we were going to do this year because we were kind of running out of money. (Team owner) Ritchie Wauters let me drive his car and I just have to thank him for letting me drive his car," Norris said, his voice cracking with emotion. "Without him, I'd be sitting at home tonight. I just can't thank Ritchie and everybody on this team enough for what they've done for me. I have to thanks all our sponsors like Victor Ford, Five Star Racing Bodies and Hamke Racing. I also have to thank my mom and dad for their support. I would not be standing here without the support of Ritchie and everybody else I mentioned."
Hogan had a car to beat, but the only problem with that was he couldn't get close enough to Norris to make a move for the lead.
"A second-place finish at Greenville is like a win for me considering how I've done here in the past," Hogan said. "Heck, a top-five finish here at Greenville would be like a win for me. We had a good car and brought the car home in one piece and there wasn't a scratch on it. We actually learned what we need to do to get the car even better for the next race so hopefully we'll have something for J.R. He's a hard guy to beat and Ritchie always gives him a good car. We'll just try to get them next time."
Rounding out the top-five behind Norris and Hogan were Ricky Turner, Ted Mickleson and Allen Karnes. The Top-10 was completed by Dusty Williams, Eddie Stivers, Josh Hamner, Michael Foy and Gary Helton.
Greg Pope's night started out on a good note as he took the lead on the first lap and led until J.R. Norris took the top spot on the seventh lap. Two laps later, Steven Wallace made slight contact with Greg Pope which sent his No. 63 GK Pope Trucking Chevrolet into the first turn wall.
The second caution was thrown on Lap 44 -- which came as a needed break for Norris' fellow competitors who were almost a straightaway behind the No. 5 Victor Ford -- for a piece of debris that was found on the backstretch. During the caution, Wallace's hopes at scoring the win in his Southeast Series debut went out the window when he had to park his car because of brake problems.
On the ensuing restart, Hamner and Hogan got together in the first and second turns which sent Hamner for a harmless spin. The fourth caution flag came out on Lap 61 when Stivers also went for a harmless spin.
All the while, it was Norris in command followed by the top-five of Justin Wakefield, Hogan, Gary Helton and Ted Mickelson just before the halfway point.
The fifth caution of the night was by far the most significant as five cars were involved in a Lap 66 melee, including Hamner, Pope, Stivers, Don Young and Chip Brindle. The red flag was displayed while the track was cleaned and the green flag was once again put in the air on Lap 76.
The most heartbreaking story of the night came when Wakefield -- who was giving Norris his biggest challenge -- blew a motor in the third time on Lap 98, ironically the car number of the Bandwagon Printing Ford.
Caution number seven was displayed on Lap 84 when Foy went for a spin in the second turn. Once the drivers settled down a bit, the final 66 laps looked like a parade with the bright orange car of Norris leading the way.
The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series returns to another historic track for its next event on May 27 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.