The NASCAR Elite Division Kodak Southeast Series will return to Huntsville Speedway on July 12 2003 after 16 years. Daytona Beach, FL. (June 25 2003) - One of the last asphalt short track bull rings in the south will host the NASCAR Elite ...
The NASCAR Elite Division Kodak Southeast Series will return to Huntsville Speedway on July 12 2003 after 16 years.
Daytona Beach, FL. (June 25 2003) - One of the last asphalt short track bull rings in the south will host the NASCAR Elite Division, Kodak Southeast Series on July 12 with the running of the Thunder By The River 150.
Huntsville (AL) Speedway has not hosted a NASCAR regional touring division on their quarter-mile oval since 1987 when what formerly was known as the NASCAR All American Challenge Series visited the track for a 150-lap event.
Ironically the last event held for this NASCAR Series at Huntsville was on July 12 1987 so 16 years later, to the date, the series returns.
The popularity of the track, among drivers, is evident when one checks the record books and looks at the field of drivers that competed in 1987. Names like NASCAR drivers Steve Grissom, Stanley Smith, Bobby Hamilton, David Green, Mark Green, Mike Harmon and the late Clifford Allison were in the field and all progressed to other series in NASCAR. David Green, the 1994 NASCAR Busch Series Champion and current NASCAR Busch Series points leader, set a new track record in qualifying for that race leading the 30 car field.
The series ran three races at Huntsville in the middle 80's with Bobby Allison winning both the pole and the race in 1984. In 1985, Mickey Gibbs was the winner. Gibbs also went on to compete with NASCAR's premier division. Tim Nooner won the event in 1987
Three drivers very anxious to have Huntsville Speedway on the schedule have raced many laps at the tight quarter-mile oval. Johnny Brazier, a regular at Huntsville before embarking on a career with NASCAR, is from nearby Hazel Green. His Frogg Togg/Moody Monday's Lounge Ford will be one to keep an eye on. Brazier has won a number of other series events at the track he considers his home track and was the 1996 and '97 Southern All Star Asphalt Champion.
Another Southern All Star Asphalt Champion, who made his move to NASCAR's Kodak Southeast Series in 2003, is John "Boy" Wilkinson III who hails from the hometown of the famed Alabama Gang, Hueytown, Al. Wilkinson won his championship in 2002 and is currently leading the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of- the-Year Program with his C & W Drilling Chevrolet on the Kodak Southeast Series.
"Huntsville is a tight race track that requires lots of give and take and patience," commented Wilkinson from his race shop in Hueytown. "Although I have won lots of local races there I have not won a touring series race at the track. With the horsepower of these cars there will be lots of close racing. It will be one heck of a show for the fans because it will be tough to pass and track position will be very important," continued Wilkinson.
"My brother-in-law (Terry Mason Jr.) won a Southern All Star race at Huntsville and lots of local races with his CCC Group/M & R Pipe/Hamner Engines Chevrolet. Although we are related we are still very competitive and both of us like to win. With the experience all three of us have at Huntsville we could be in the hunt for the checkered flag."
Wilkinson's driving ability and consistency are very evident since he leads all competitors in laps completed percentage with an excellent 99.40%. He has failed to complete only three laps of 510 run through four events.
All three have been very competitive this year and rank in the top ten in series points. After four races Wilkinson trails series points leader Charlie Bradberrry by only 10 points. Mason is ranked seventh and Brazier is ranked ninth in points.
As the end of year Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (CA) Speedway draws closer for the top ten drivers in the final points standing in their respective NASCAR Elite Divisions, competition on this series becomes even tougher. Eighteen drivers have made every start so far in 2003 and all 18 have a shot at a top ten ranking when the Toyota All-Star Showdown is held November 6-8. This televised, history making event, will bring national recognition to NASCAR's regional drivers with posted awards of approximately $500,000. The highlight of weekend racing activities will be a 25-lap finale with $10,000 going to the winner.
Bradberry, another Alabama driver and the 2001 series rookie-of-the-year, moved himself to the top of the points standing following the superspeedway event at Kentucky Speedway on June 13. Ironically he moved into the points lead after the fourth race of the 2002 season finally finishing third in the end of year standings.
"Not often do you get a second chance with the caliber of drivers we have on this series," commented Bradberry, driver of the Bradberry Racing Chevrolet. "Last year we just seem to run out of gas towards the end of the season and mechanical problems got in our way. At least now we can say we have been there and done that. After the win at Nashville, the entire team has new focus and is working very hard to make sure we are ready for the second half of the season."
Bradberry who won his first career Bud Pole Award and his first NASCAR victory at Nashville Superspeedway also has run a number of laps on the quarter-mile surface at Huntsville which includes two Southern All Star victories.
Jeff Fultz, 2002 Kodak Southeast Series Champion, currently third after four races, dropped out of the points lead after a 30th place and 19th finish at Nashville Superspeedway and Kentucky Speedway. Fultz will definitely have his C & C Boilers/Cleaver Brooks Chevrolet ready for his push toward a consecutive series title.
The driver winning the Bud Pole and the race for the Thunder By The River 150 will establish new marks for those areas since so many changes have occurred with series cars since 1987.
Action gets underway at Huntsville Speedway for Kodak Southeast Series drivers on Saturday, July 12, with practice from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Qualifying will take place at 6:00 p.m. with The Thunder By The River 150 taking the green flag at 8:30 p.m.