Solid Second-Place Moves Norris in Southeast Series Title Hunt With Leader Having Problems, Rookie's Chances Are Still Alive HUEYTOWN, AL (September 21, 2004) -- J.R. Norris survived a tough and wild race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday...
Solid Second-Place Moves Norris in Southeast Series Title Hunt With Leader Having Problems, Rookie's Chances Are Still Alive
HUEYTOWN, AL (September 21, 2004) -- J.R. Norris survived a tough and wild race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday afternoon in the Kentucky 150 NASCAR Southeast Series event. He spun, he ran over debris and was even smack in the middle of a big wreck, but somehow the rookie driver managed to get through the trouble better than his closest competitors did. In the end, Norris wound up second and moved within grasp of the National Championship points lead heading into the series' finale next weekend.
"I don't know what the deal was. The last time we were here the cars weren't that bunched up, but this time there were cars left and cars right," said Norris, reffering to the race, which played out much like a NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Daytona or Talladega with two-by-two racing as far as the eye could see. "It was wild. That really surprised me and there were a lot of cars that got beat up."
It did not appear that the combination of rubber build-up on the track from a previous race and the light SES machines was a good combination.
"That Goodyear rubber off the dash cars made the track real slick," said Norris. "The track was so slick. Hell, I spun out off of four all by myself."
Norris started fifth and had moved up to third on lap 22, when he spun in turn four. He avoided hitting anything, but lost a lot of track position. Still, Norris kept trucking on. He worked his way back up through the field, but got together with Gary Helton while battling for a spot in the top-three. A multi-car wreck developed, but Norris was able to drive away.
The #5 car had a fair amount of cosmetic damage and he had to give up more track position to pit and have his crew look the car over, but he got out of the incident relatively unharmed.
"I got into Gary Helton there and I didn't mean to," said Norris. "I really didn't mean to. I will apologize until the day I die but I didn't mean that at all. It happened and it took some good cars out."
The misadventures still were not over for Norris and his team. Late in the event, after working back towards the front of the field again, he ran over a large piece of debris just after making a pass for second. This caused minor damage to his machine, as well as the car of point leader Jeff Fultz, who was following JR and ran over the debris just afterwards.
"I hit some lead there at the end of the race and it shot back into Fultz's car," said Norris. "You can see on the front of my car where it hit. That killed my downforce there at the end. I never saw it, but I heard it."
Norris could not catch leader Stanley Smith at the finish and settled for second place. He was not satisfied with the result, but given everything that he had to overcome to even finish, the second-place was very impressive.
Even more important was the ground that Norris made up to point leader Fultz. Only 67 points separate the two drivers. If Fultz stumbles in the season finale at the Music City Motorplex, Norris will be ready to jump from the role of a rookie to that of a champion.
"I guess we just take what we got here and go one to next week," said Norris. "We made up some ground in the points so we just got to go and see what we can do next week."
Needless to say, Norris retained his Rookie of the Year point lead on the basis of his finish as the SES moves to the Music City Motorplex (TN) for their September 25th event.
The Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Southeast Series is one of the prizes JR Norris has his eye on in 2004, although he is also aiming for the championship in a combined effort with car owner Richie Wauters.