Kevin Prince Heads to Myrtle Beach in Search of First Career Nascar Autozone Elite Division, Southeast Series Victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 5, 2004) -- There are a lot of people pointing their fingers at NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, ...
Kevin Prince Heads to Myrtle Beach in Search of First Career Nascar Autozone Elite Division, Southeast Series Victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 5, 2004) -- There are a lot of people pointing their fingers at NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver Kevin Prince.
Prince has done nothing wrong. He hasn't made a fellow driver or team mad.
The reasons those fingers are pointed at Prince is because many think he is going to be a serious threat to score his first career Southeast Series win this Saturday night in the re-scheduled AutoZone 150 at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
"Kevin is a guy you always have to worry about because he is always a threat," says Southeast Series championship leader and teammate Jeff Fultz. "I know he can win because we both run the same equipment. If I can't win then I'm pulling for him."
Currently sitting fifth in the Southeast Series point standings, it's almost hard to believe that Prince has yet to win a race as competitive as he has been. The Wilmington, N.C. native has two second-place finishes for his efforts in 2004 and a career in the Southeast Series that dates back to 1995.
"I am actually disappointed we haven't won a race by now," Prince says. "It's tough, almost like a gremlin. I've been close several times but haven't won a race yet. If I can ever get that first win in the books, I'm not going to say the second win will be easier but it will seem to come easier. For me, getting my first win has seemed like it's taken forever. You try so hard to get that first win, but once you finally get it the other wins seem like they come easier."
One of the races that Prince nearly won that got away came about a month ago at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., when he was no doubt the class of the field until a late turn of events allowed Erik Darnell to pick up the victory while Prince ended up second. Leading late in the race, Prince was told by his spotter and team owner Randy Wilson to slow down because a car in front of them went up in smoke. The car with trouble moved quickly out of the racing groove and therefore the caution flag was not displayed.
"I had that race won until we had that little miscommunication," Prince says. "Stuff like that just happens in racing. I don't sit back and dwell on that because I know I've made mistakes as a driver. My spotter made a mistake for the sake of my safety when I was leading. A car blew up in front of me and I lost the lead. Randy and I have been together for a long time. He's like a second dad to me and I'm kind of like a son to him. Randy was concerned about my safety because he couldn't see through the smoke from where he was spotting.
"That is all over and done with and we're focusing on the future. We've had a good team all year but had a little bad luck along the way which is why we're sitting fifth in the points instead of first."
With his talent, a solid No. 1 Land O' Frost crew and Wilson behind Prince, he knows it's only a matter of time before he finally scores a Southeast Series victory. Prince is also aware of the fact that the tour is heading to his home track at the famed .538-mile oval where he won the 1993 Late Model championship and has over 25 Myrtle Beach wins.
"Myrtle Beach is my home track and we always expect to do good there, but it's also a hard place to get your car running well at," Prince says. "I always try to win when I race at Myrtle Beach. I know we as a team have high hopes heading into Saturday night. When we were there the last time and got rained out, I felt like we had a pretty good shot at winning because we were really good in practice."
Though they are teammates, Prince expresses a great deal of appreciation for the help and advice that he has been given by Fultz.
"It's a big confidence builder because I've raced with Jeff Fultz for a long time," Prince says. "We've raced side-by-side for 20 laps before and have never come close to taking each other out. There are some drivers that you can race with like that and there are some others you have to be a little more careful with. I respect the guys that have been around this Southeast Series for a long time and I hope they feel the same way about me."
Saturday night's AutoZone 150 was slated to be held on July 17. Inclement weather hit the area when the Southeast Series cars were out on their pace laps before taking the green flag, causing the postponement of the event until around 8 p.m. as the tour visits the track for the 19th time this Saturday.
Fultz has been a man on a mission though the first eight races of the 2004 Southeast Series campaign with a tour-leading three victories and six top-five finishes. Fultz heads into Myrtle Beach with two goals in mind -- extending his Southeast Series championship lead and scoring his 21st victory that would put him in a tie with Wayne Anderson on the all-time win list.
"I'm really excited about going back to Myrtle Beach because I've won the last two races there," Fultz says. "It's the type of track that my team really struggled at a few years ago, but we really put a lot of effort into getting our cars a lot better at places like Myrtle Beach. I think we're going to have a really good shot to win on Saturday night. We were very good in practice a few weeks ago before the race got rained out. Hopefully if everything stays the same we'll be in good shape."
While Fultz has racked up some impressive statistics and results this season, his bid for a second Southeast Series championship is anything but safe. Fultz heads back to Myrtle Beach holding a slim 32-point lead in the championship standings over J.R. Norris who is having a tremendous rookie season. Norris is only two points ahead of Darnell who sits third, while Jason Hogan is well within striking distance in fourth.
So how does Fultz approach Saturday's 150-lapper? Play it conservative and try to race for points, or perhaps try to lead every lap and win as many races as possible and let the points fall where they may?
"We really have to put our championship lead in the back of our mind," Fultz answers. "If we can't win, we have to do as best as we can to post the best possible finish. I know I always get 100-percent from my team and they know they get the same from me. We always go to the track to win. I believe the next three races we have are at tracks I've won at in the past. We've just got to stay on top of our game. In the Southeast, it's not just two or three good cars because every single driver out there is good enough to win."
Prince admits there might be a tear or two falling from his eyes if he were to be able to pick up his first Southeast Series win at the home track where he has turned so many laps in the past.
"I wouldn't doubt it," Prince says. "That would be about as sweet as it could be. To get my first Southeast Series win at what I consider my home track in front of all my fans and family would be great."