NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES TITLE ON LINE SATURDAY NIGHT AT MONTGOMERY MOTOR SPEEDWAY DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2005) -- Being in contention for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series championship is an...
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES TITLE ON LINE SATURDAY NIGHT AT MONTGOMERY MOTOR SPEEDWAY
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2005) -- Being in contention for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series championship is an all too familiar situation for veteran driver Jeff Fultz . On seven prior occasions, Fultz has been in the thick of the Southeast Series championship with two titles to his credit and five near-misses.
Make it eight years now as Fultz holds a 64-point lead over second-place Jason Hogan as the Southeast Series heads into its 2005 season-finale Saturday night, Oct. 29 in the Montgomery 225 at Montgomery (Ala.) Motor Speedway.
Fultz took over the Southeast Series championship lead in the last race at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, Tenn. when then-leader J.R. Norris lost an engine five laps into the race and by doing so slipped back to fourth in the standings behind Hogan and leading Sunoco rookie driver Gary Helton who moved to third.
Fultz, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and the series' all-time win leader, can clinch the title with by finishing 15th or better on Saturday.
"I was really hoping we could have wrapped the championship up at the last race but we didn't," Fultz said. "I didn't think we could, but we gained a lot of very valuable points. I've been in this predicament before in having to race for the championship until the checkered flag at the last race of the season. We have to go to Montgomery and race a little different and not give this championship away. This has been a heck of a championship battle all year long between our team and guys like J.R. Norris, Jason Hogan, Dusty Williams and Gary Helton. This is one of the tightest points races that the Southeast Series has had in a long time and it's been that way all year long.
"It's been a nail-biting time for all us guys all year long. This has been a great class of drivers this year with some great stories like Gary coming into the series as a rookie and doing so well and a guy like Dusty and his team just totally turning that program around and in the right direction."
While things look to be shaping up in the favor of Fultz as he guns for his third Southeast Series championship, he knows things can go terribly wrong. After all, Fultz has also lost three Southeast Series titles and finished second by a combined 45 points.
"If everything goes like it's supposed to for us, we'll be just fine," Fultz said. "The bad part about it is we don't know for sure what's going to happen until the last lap or maybe even knowing that enough of the other drivers have dropped out of the race Saturday night and we know we can't lose the championship. We have to approach this race a little differently, but I think we're going to be in contention for the victory.
Fultz admits to feeling a sense of urgency to get Saturday night's 225-lapper -- the longest Southeast Series race of the season -- under his belt and to hoist his third and possibly final title in the air.
"I think it's only natural to be a little bit nervous having the point lead heading into the last race of the season because anything can happen," Fultz said. "The only real reason I'm nervous is because I want to get this over with. This has been one of those years where we've either been really dominating or been off quite a bit. I just want to go to Montgomery and be able to race for the win and pull off the championship at the same time. That right there would mean the world to me and this team."
Hogan knows that about the only way for him to win this year's Southeast Series championship is for mechanical failure on Fultz's No. 54 C&C Boiler/ Industrial Equipment News Chevrolet.
"I don't want to see Jeff have any bad luck and win the championship that way," Hogan says. "If I win the championship, I want to do it by beating Jeff on the track fair and square. I don't want people to think I got lucky and backed into the title. We're just going to approach this race like we always do. I'm going to be patient at the beginning of the race so I can have a clean car at the end to have a chance to win the race.
"If we do our normal deal and it works out, that'd be great. If it doesn't happen for me this year there's always next season."