NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVERS VYING FOR COVETED INVITATIONS TO NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 22, 2005) -- This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings...
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES DRIVERS VYING FOR COVETED INVITATIONS TO NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 22, 2005) -- This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series after eight races that make up the 12-race 2005 schedule. At season's end the top 10 drivers in each of the four series (Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division will be invited to compete in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Nov. 10-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
No. 1 -- J.R. Norris, Mulga, Ala. (No. 5 Victor Ford/UPI Painting) Points: 1,247. Previous Ranking: 1. The 2005 Southeast Series campaign did not get off to the start that Norris would have liked in the first two races with a 20th place finish in the season-opener at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway followed by an 18th place finish at Houston (Tex.) Motorsports Park. Shrugging off the sluggish start, Norris picked up his first victory of the season by winning at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway where he walked away fifth in the Southeast Series standings. In the last two events, Norris has been unstoppable with back-to-back victories at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. and in the last event at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.. Norris now enjoys a 31-point lead in the Southeast Series standings.
No. 2 -- Dusty Williams, Garden City, Ga. (No. 40 Pennzoil/Dixie Excavating Chevrolet) Points: 1,216 (-31). Previous Ranking: 2. There isn't a team or driver in the Southeast Series garage area that won't admit that Williams has shown the biggest improvement all season long in every area possible. Williams admits that he got so frustrated with the lack of performance from his family-owned team that he almost walked away from the sport. Not raised to be a quitter, Williams moved his team to Mooresville, N.C. over the winter and hired crew chief Tracy Morgan. The results paid off almost immediately as Williams scored his first career Southeast Series victory in the third race of the season at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
No. 3 -- Jeff Fultz, Mooresville, N.C. (No. 54 IEN/C&C Boilers Chevrolet) Points: 1,210 (-37). Previous Ranking: 3. Jeff Fultz is the most successful active Southeast Series driver as the all-time win leader with two previous championships under his belt. Fultz is still very much in contention for a third title in what he says is his final full-time season in the Southeast Series, Fultz would love nothing better than to go out on top of his game. Jeff won the 2005 Southeast Series season-opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and backed that up with his most recent victory at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ken.
No. 4 -- Gary Helton, Sevierville Tenn. (No. 86 Volunteer Performance Racing Engines Chevrolet) Points: 1,186 (-61). Previous Ranking: 6. Usually people expect first-year drivers to struggle, but leading Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender has been one of the drivers to beat all year long and is still very much in contention for the 2005 Southeast Series championship. Helton didn't take too long in grabbing everyone's attention when he won in the sixth race of the season at the Music City Motorplex in Nashville.
No. 5 -- Jason Hogan, Cleveland, Ga. (No. 92 Hogan Lumber Chevrolet) Points: 1,171 (-76). Previous Ranking: 5. Hogan has been a busy man this season not only in Southeast Series competition but also trying to advance his career up the racing ladder by being chosen as one of 25 drivers out of nearly 2,000 applicants to take part in NASCAR team owner Jack Roush's nationally televised 'Race for the Ride' where the winner gets a fully sponsored NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride for the 2006 season. Hogan did so well in the first test at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, that he was selected to become one of 12 finalists to take part in the second and final test at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Though Hogan has yet to win a race this season, his consistency of five top-five finishes has been key to remaining very much in contention for the 2005 Southeast Series championship.
No. 6 -- Kevin Prince, Wilmington, N.C. (No. 1 Land O' Frost/Uncle Yammys Chevrolet) Points: 1,149 (-98). Previous Ranking: 6. Prince came into the 2005 season with high hopes of being in championship form. He is not yet out of championship contention by any means, but he knows it's going to take a flawless final four race run to end the season while he also has to hope for some bad luck for the five drivers he's behind in the standings. It's also a bit of a consolation knowing that if the bottom doesn't fall out, he will earn a trip to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown for the third straight year.
No. 7 -- Justin Wakefield, Woodstock, Ga. (No. 98 Bandwagon Printing Ford) Points: 1,125 (-122). Previous Ranking: 9. Working under the guidance of former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race winner and Rookie of the Year Jody Ridley as his crew chief, Wakefield has been a legitimate threat to win almost every race this season. Wakefield knows that his hopes of gaining 122 points and winning the championship are probably out of reach at this point, but for now his focus is on winning his first Southeast Series race and getting the invitation to Irwindale against 39 of the best NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division drivers in the nation.
No. 8 -- Greg Pope, Monroe, N.C. (No. 63 GK Pope Trucking/Gourmet Boutique Chevrolet) Points: 1,101 (-146). Previous Ranking: 8. Pope is easily one of the hardest working, most determined drivers in the Southeast Series. If you walk through the garage area and can't find Pope behind the wheel, he's more than likely under the car working and making adjustments. Pope has yet to win a Southeast Series race, but many feel that it's only a matter of time before the popular driver breaks through and gets that long sought after victory. If Pope maintains his consistency through the end of the season, he should be in good shape to grab yet another invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
No. 9 -- Allen Karnes, Sharpsburg, Ga. (No. 29 Stock Building Supply/Quality Cabinets Chevrolet) Points: 1,098 (-149). Previous Ranking 7. Karnes is much like Pope in the fact that he works so hard and is so dedicated despite not having the team members that a lot of his fellow racing peers have. Yet Karnes remains committed to the Southeast Series and will likely be rewarded by another invitation to Irwindale thanks to five Top-10 finishes so far this season.
No. 10 -- Robert Richardson, Pearland, Tex. (No. 33 North Texas Pipe Chevrolet) Points 1,032 (-215). Previous Ranking: 10. Richardson is another Southeast Series driver who has been bitten by the bad luck bug more often than not in 2005. The good news is that he holds an almost 100-point lead over rookie driver Eddie Stivers in 11th for the final invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.