SES: Hickory: Round two preview

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series Returns To Its Roots t Hickory Motor Speedway April 24 Southeast Series Last Visited Historic NASCAR Track in 1995 as All Pro Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 20, 2004) -- It's been nine ...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series Returns To Its Roots t Hickory Motor Speedway April 24

Southeast Series Last Visited Historic NASCAR Track in 1995 as All Pro Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 20, 2004) -- It's been nine years since the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series visited historic Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, but both the series and the track have improved with age.

The track, a longtime participant in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, came under new management in 2002 and the new staff has fans, sponsors and competitors excited about Saturday night short track racing. The series, meanwhile, has undergone a transformation from the NASCAR All Pro Series to the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, marking a new age in NASCAR regional racing.

The Southeast Series is now one of four series which comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and serves as a feeder series for the NASCAR Grand National Division and NASCAR's three national series -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Other series that make up this division of Late Model-style race cars include the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, and the Southwest Series.

"Hickory Motor Speedway is 'The Birthplace of The NASCAR stars' and the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division is where future stars move up the ranks," said Hickory Motor Speedway Marketing and Promotions Director Sherry Clifton. "It's an exciting series, especially for race fans who enjoy seeing these talented drivers on their way up."

The Southeast Series makes its return to Hickory Motor Speedway April 24, for the running of the Hickory 150. The last time the Southeast Series raced at this .363-mile track was Sept. 10, 1995, when Ron Barfield Jr. claimed the Bud Pole qualifying award and proceeded to win the race ahead of Billy Bigley Jr., Eddie Goodson, Rick Crawford and Freddie Query in fifth place.

Today, a new generation of Southeast Series stars is ready to tackle the famous NASCAR oval.

The series is led by 2002 champion Jeff Fultz, a native of Cincinnati now residing in Mooresville, N.C. Fultz dominated the win column during last year's Southeast Series campaign (with six victories) but finished second in the final point standings. With 2003 champion Charlie Bradberry not returning to the series on a full-time basis (he's headed to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series), Fultz has emerged as an early favorite for the crown.

"It's great for the series to go back to Hickory," commented Fultz during a test session at the track April 3. "You can't even touch the history here; it's been the starting point for so many drivers."

Indeed, some of NASCAR's most recognizable names began their racing careers at Hickory. Junior Johnson, Ralph Earnhardt, Ned Jarrett, Harry Gant, Dennis Setzer and Andy Houston are among the list of drivers to have won a Hickory track championship before advancing into NASCAR's national series.

Other top Southeast Series contenders include 2002 rookie of the year Jason Hogan, of Cleveland, Ga., Terry Mason Jr., of Birmingham, Ala. and 2003 rookie of the year John Wilkinson III, of Hueytown, Ala. This trio of drivers finished 3rd-5th in the 2003 standings and will challenge Fultz for this year's title at every turn.

The Hickory 150 marks the second of 12 events on the 2004 Southeast Series schedule, which continues May 1 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.

Southeast Series drivers to greet fans at Hickory-area AutoZone stores ... In conjunction with the Hickory 150, the following Southeast Series drivers are scheduled to appear at two Hickory-area AutoZone stores. On Friday, April 23 from 5-8 p.m., Johnny Brazier will display his No. 74 Troupe Industries Ford race car at the AutoZone store located at 504 Highway 70 SW. Wayne Bowen's No. 23 Hi-Tach Oil Stabilizer Chevrolet will be on hand at the 1935-12th Street Avenue NE AutoZone location in Hickory. Both drivers will be available to sign autographs and interact with fans and customers.


What: Hickory 150 (Race No. 2 of 12 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series)
Where: Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway
When: 8:00 p.m. (approx.), Saturday, April 24, 2004

Track layout: 0.363
Race length: 150 laps/54.45 miles.

Top 10 in points: 1. Brian Hoppe 180, 2. Jason Hogan 170, 3. Jeff Fultz 165, 4. Eddie Hoffman 160, 5. Erik Darnell 155, 6. Biff George 150, 7. A.J. Frank 146, 8. Cecil Chunn 142, 9. Allen Karnes 138, 10. Robert Richardson II 134.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 8:00 a.m. Registration begins, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Practice, 6:00 p.m. Time Trials


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Drivers Andy Houston , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Billy Bigley , Ned Jarrett , Jeff Fultz , Ron Barfield , Junior Johnson , Charlie Bradberry , Erik Darnell , John Wilkins , A.J. Frank