Norris looks forward to Fontana in NASCAR Winston West Series. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 22, 2002)-- Eric Norris felt he had the car to beat a year ago when the NASCAR Winston West Series visited California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. His...
Norris looks forward to Fontana in NASCAR Winston West Series.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 22, 2002)-- Eric Norris felt he had the car to beat a year ago when the NASCAR Winston West Series visited California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. His chance for victory evaporated, however, when he had to make a green-flag pit stop for fuel late in the race.
Norris is hoping for the same opportunity with a better outcome when the series returns to the two-mile superspeedway for the Pontiac WideTrack Grand Prix 200 on Saturday, April 27. The $244,020 event-- which is to be televised to a national audience on a tape-delay basis on SPEED Channel at 8 p.m. ET on April 29-- is part of a big weekend of racing that includes a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; a NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division race; and an International Race of Champions event.
"We had a fast race car," Norris said of last year's event. "We just kind of miscalculated on fuel. I really feel like we should have won that race. We led a lot of laps and we just miscalculated. It was an unfortunate deal. But we know that we're going to have a fast car again. I know how to get around there and I'm excited to get back there."
After starting fifth last year-- Norris took the lead on lap 47, but opted not to pit with the other front-runners during the second of only two cautions. He eventually gave up the lead on lap 73 when he had to stop for fuel, leaving him one lap off the pace with an 11th-place finish. "We should have pitted and we didn't," recalled the 36-year-old Dana Point, Calif., competitor. "Everybody else did and we just ran ourselves out of gas. Had we not done that, we had a chance of winning or at least a top three."
Despite last year's outcome, Norris does not intend to change his game-plan. "We're going to go with the same strategy," he said. "We made a mistake, but the same guy that made the mistake is the same guy that gave me a fast car. So, I don't blame him. There are a lot of mistakes I've made. We'll go back there. We learned a good lesson. We're going to take what we learned there last year and hopefully not do it again and have a good race."
Norris admits, meanwhile, that his experience at California Speedway gives him an edge. In five series events and one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on the Southern California superspeedway, he has logged more than 500 laps of competition. "With the laps I've got there, it's definitely an advantage for us," Norris said. "And we've got a lot of notes from those 500 laps, too."
Those laps have taught him patience, Norris said. "It's like any race track. You've got to be patient, not make dumb mistakes and stay out of trouble," he said. "I think at Fontana, like any racetrack, we need to be there at the end. If we're there at the end-- and we don't make a mistake in the pits and I don't make a mistake driving-- we're going to have a shot a winning the race."
Norris has one more thing going for him at Fontana. It's one of his favorite tracks. "I think it's a great, fast racetrack," he said. "It's my favorite place to go."
Norris enters the event fourth in the NASCAR Winston West Series championship standings. Austin Cameron of El Cajon, Calif., leads the standings with 365 points after two races. Sean Woodside of Saugus, Calif., is second with 335, followed by series rookie Greg Pursley of Newhall, Calif., with 315. Norris is fourth with 304; while Kevin Richards of Spokane, Wash., trails closely with 301. Rounding out the top 10 are series rookie Mike David at 290, Brandon Ash at 247, Scott Gaylord and Hershel McGriff each with 246, and Jeff Jefferson and Mike Duncan each at 245.
Practice and qualifying for the Pontiac WideTrack Grand Prix 200 are slated for Thursday, April 25. The race itself is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 27.