JEFF FULTZ SCORES FOURTH VICTORY OF 2005 NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES SATURDAY NIGHT AT SOUTH GEORGIA MOTORSPORTS PARK VALDOSTA, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2005) -- It was a series of nightmares for two NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division,...
JEFF FULTZ SCORES FOURTH VICTORY OF 2005 NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHEAST SERIES SATURDAY NIGHT AT SOUTH GEORGIA MOTORSPORTS PARK
VALDOSTA, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2005) -- It was a series of nightmares for two NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series drivers on Saturday night in the form of championship hopefuls J.R. Norris and Dusty Williams. Yet it was another dream night for two-time Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz who parlayed his victory in the Big Mac 200 presented by McDonald's to overtake Norris for the Southeast Series championship lead by 32 points with only two races remaining in the 2005 season.
The victory was Fultz's fourth win out of 10 races this year.
"I just want to thank all the fans that came out and I'm so glad I got to win the first Southeast Series race at South Georgia Motorsports Park," Fultz said. "Then again, it's hard to be happy when there are so many people in this country that have lost everything they had with Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Rita. All our thoughts and prayers are with those people because they're going through such a tough time now."
Fultz, the driver of the No. 54 C&C Boilers/Cleaver-Brooks Chevrolet, held off a stiff challenge from Jason Hogan on a final five lap shootout to score the victory.
"I didn't want to see that last caution come out," said Fultz, a native of Mooresville, N.C. after nipping Hogan by a mere .233 second margin of victory. "It was one heck of a race and Jason had a great, great car. I hated to see J.R. and Dusty have their problems because I want to win the championship by racing and beating them instead of them dropping out. I didn't want to get the points lead that way."
Hogan, the driver of the No. 92 Hogan Lumber Chevrolet, was pleased with his runner-up effort, though he would have liked to have won his first race of the season.
"Fultz was just a little bit better there at the end than we were," said Hogan, a home state favorite from Cleveland, Ga. who moved to third in the standings past Kevin Prince and Williams who slipped from third to fifth after he had mechanical problems and joined Norris in the garage area. "When I saw J.R. and Dusty have their problems, it kind of made me race against the big picture which is the championship. I got beat, but I got beat by a champion driver and team so that makes me feel a little better about the night."
Rounding out the top-five behind Fultz and Hogan were Kevin Prince in third, Justin Wakefield fourth and Josh Hamner whom had an impressive Southeast Series debut with a fifth-place finish. The Top 10 was completed by Allen Karnes, Eddie Stivers, Terry McMahan, Walter Sutcliffe and Alex Garcia.
The night started with one of the main stories centering on the battle for the Southeast Series championship between Norris -- who led coming into the race -- as well as Fultz and Williams. Unfortunately for Norris, his night came into a premature end only four laps into the race when he had engine problems en route to a 14th place finish.
Williams held the top spot after the eight-car inversion following qualifying put Bud Pole Award winner Hogan back in eighth. By Lap 24, it was Prince flexing his muscle as he passed Williams for the lead when Williams got loose coming off the second turn. It was a lead that would last only two laps when Hogan, Wakefield and Hamner tried to make it three-wide entering turn three and all three cars went for a spin with fairly minimal damage.
Prince used the yellow flag to make a pit stop which turned the lead back in the hands of Williams for the ensuing Lap 33 restart with Fultz lurking just behind. Adding insult to injury for Norris was the fact he was stuck in the pits and had to watch his two closest pursuers in the championship fight running first and second.
A lot of Southeast Series fans liken Fultz to a cold -- he's going to catch up with you eventually. Williams found that out when Fultz stalked him before taking the top spot on Lap 72, bringing Hogan along to second to drop Williams back to third with Greg Pope and Prince just behind in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Perhaps tired of watching those in front of him leading the event, Hogan grabbed the lead from Fultz on Lap 96. At the halfway mark, or Lap 100 of 200 circuits, the top-five was made up by Hogan, Fultz, Williams, Prince and Pope.
Williams saw his chances at winning this year's Southeast Series take a serious blow with only two races left when he broke a rear-end when all the leaders hit pit road. Fultz was able to barely slip past Hogan with Prince coming out third with Helton in fourth.
As Helton exited the second turn on Lap 126, he went for a harmless spin to bring out the fourth caution of the night. Kevin Prince followed with a spin in the second on Lap 157 while battling with Jason Hogan for the runner-up position behind Fultz who had led almost 100 laps at that point in the event.
In the end, it was the same old story -- Fultz adding on to his illustrious Southeast Series resume in what he says will be his last full-time season with the series.
The Southeast Series returns to action Oct. 16 at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, Tenn. in the Music City 150.