SOUTHEAST SERIES LEFTOVERS: HOUSTON by Jeremy Troiano
Wakefield, Fultz, Davidson, Richardson, Pope, Bradberry & More
TIRE DOES IN FULTZ’S CHANCES OF WINNING
For a while, it looked like Jeff Fultz might just have the car to beat for the second week in a row, as the NASCAR Southeast Series traveled to Houston Motorsports Park.
After starting a disappointing 10th, Fultz quickly maneuvered his way through the field and found himself battling for the lead with Dusty Williams. At lap 82, Fultz took the lead for the first time and proceeded to pull away from Justin Diercks and Jason Hogan.
However, just a few laps later, sparks began to reign from underneath the car. They got worse, and then worse, and then even worse.
Eventually, the left front tire went down, forcing Fultz to come to the pits and sending him a couple of laps down and out of contention to win.
“The more we ran, the more it came on,” said Fultz. “The car was really good and was coming on even better the longer we ran. We got up through there and we were just being patient. We finally did what we normally do; we got to the front.
“Then, the car started scraping more and more and made the car really tight. We were still pulling away though because the intervals were opening up.
“We were pulling away and we were easing it in there as much as we could, but the tire finally went down.”
After the race, the team found out that the tire was slowly losing air from the start of the race.
“It finally just went down and there was nothing we could do about it. The tire still had knubs on it. From the beginning of the race, we ran over something. It is kinda bad. It is tough coming all the way out there. I really wanted to win this race.”
And for Fultz, it wasn’t just the long trip to Texas and the ninth-place finish that had him frustrated.
“More than anything, it is frustrating that we let someone else come in our series from the outside and win and that isn’t going to happen again.”
WAKEFIELD REMAINS SECOND IN THE POINTS
Justin Wakefield has an eventful night on Saturday at Houston. The youngster, coming off of a career-best second-place run at Greenville last week, started second and quickly moved into a battle for the lead with local driver Kenny Bumbera.
On lap 12, Wakefield got into Bumbera coming out of four and got the local guy crossed up. The two touched again and Bumbera went spinning and Wakefield worked on saving his #98. In the mess, Dusty Williams took over the lead.
Wakefield continued on and worked his way back toward the front, beating and banging, eventually getting up to fourth by the end of the 150-lap race.
“You had to almost get into someone and move them up the track to be able to make a pass here,” said Wakefield, who got bumped around a lot last year at Houston. “You could stay on the bottom here and if you
Jeff Fultz (#54) was quick and had the field covered until a tire went down late. (51 Photos)
Local Texas racer Kenny Bumbera had to feel the pressure on Saturday night. The hometown Houston driver wasn’t only competing in his only SES race of the year, but he was put on the pole for the event after the eight-car invert and had to lead the 19-car field to the green.
Bumbera did just that, then led the field for the first 11 laps before getting a bump from second-place Justin Wakefield, causing Bumbera’s #0 ride to spin. Some skillful driving kept Bumbera off the wall and in the race.
By the end of the night, he worked his way back up to seventh.
“I got touched and turned around and I couldn’t save it, so that put me to the back,” said Bumbera. “That bump in the rear was right out of no where. I was kind of surprised about it.
“I usually do better from the back anyway. It was just a lot of real tight, three-wide racing out there. These guys are professional though and you can run door handle to door handle and not get taken out.
“We have been here plenty of times. This is our home track, so I didn’t feel any pressure tonight. I know these guys and I’ve watched them a lot. They are good, professional racers. I knew that if I was nice enough to them they would be nice enough to me. Coming up through the field, they would give you room for the most part.”
Without the spin from the lead, Bumbera wasn’t sure if he could have continued to lead, but he would have liked the shot.
“I had a good car and good people behind me,” added Bumbera. “The car went away because the tire pressures were too high. I would have dropped back I think. I don’t’ think would have won it, but I think that I would have had a good, top-five car. I would have given it my best though.
“There are some tough boys to race against. I’ll tell you that.”
BRADBERRY FIGHTS OFF HOUSTON PROBLEMS
Charlie Bradberry was a little nervous heading into Houston Motorsports Park. It was the one track on the schedule that most everyone else had a year’s experience at already when the series visited there in 2005. He, however, hadn’t been to the 3/8-mile track before this past weekend.
Turns out it was his equipment that he should have worried about more than his competitors.
stayed on the bottom, you couldn’t get by them very well. It is just so tight. It is really tight. It was fun though.
“It was a wild night out there. About everything that could happen tonight happened. We just got into the back of the #0 car (Bumbera). I tried to back out and let him save it, but he just went around, so I had to try and gather my car up and keep it off the wall and keep it going.”
With the fourth-place finish, coupled with his second at Greenville, Wakefield finds himself second in the points, just five makers behind Jason Hogan.
“It is a good start to the season. Hogan has a second and a third though and I want to be in first. I would like to shoot for top-fives every week. If we could do that, I’d be really happy. That is how you win championships.
Justin Wakefield (right) and Dusty Williams (left) talk before the race at Houston.
Bradberry was working his way through the field from his 15th-place starting spot and had gotten all the way up to sixth before mechanical problems cost him a couple of laps in the pits and a shot at his first win since returning to the series full-time in 2005.
“We didn’t qualify as well as we would have liked to, so we had to come from the back of the pack, which was a chore at a place like this,” said Bradberry, the 2003 Southeast Series champion. “We came up through the field and got to about fifth or sixth.
“Then, the car all of a sudden just lost power and wasn’t the same after that. We came in and made a pit stop
and found that one of the headers had broken and fell on the plug wire. We fixed it, but got a lap down. After that, I was just trying to stay out of everyone’s way and bring the car home in one piece.”
As Bradberry and the rest of the SES drivers found out on Saturday night, bringing the car home in one piece at the tight, one-groove track was tough.
“You can be the best driver in the world, but here it is a certainty that you are going to run into people. This is just a tough short, short track.
“This is a place where trying to stay out of everyone’s way is tough. One time, I tried to get up there and get my lap back. After I couldn’t, I figured that it was best just to drop back and try to keep the car in one piece and bring it home and finish the race rather than get taken out.
“After something like that happens, your mindset changes and you just try and finish the race and earn as many points as you can for the championship. That is just what we did. We just tried to keep it in one
piece. We have 11 races left. You want to try and finish every lap that you can. You have to go all out hopefully, for the rest of the year.”
Bradberry finished 11th, two laps down. He now sits sixth in the point standings, just 45 out of the top spot.
RICHARDSON GETS TOP 10 AT HOME
For Texas-native Robert Richardson, the date of May 7th had been circled on his calendar since the NASCAR Touring Series schedules were announced this past winter. That was the date that the rest of the Southeast Series drivers would make the trip his way, into his home state, and battle at Houston Motorsports Park. Usually it’s Robert making the long trip east, but this week the rest of the competitors in the series headed west.
Bradberry messed up on his qualifying run, then had more problems come race time.
After a weekend and a race filled with all kinds of obstacles, Richardson was able to hold his head up high Saturday night by picking up his first top-10 finish of the year with an eighth-place finish.
Richardson had to come from the back not only once, but twice, and still managed to claw his way into the top 10 before the 150-lap race was completed. With a little bit more time, a top five was a definite possibility for Richardson.
“We had a decent, top-five car,” said the 22-year-old Richardson. “I got in a hurry at the start and got into the back of the 0-car (fellow Texas-native Kenny Bumbera)
when we jumped into second place at the start and the contact buckled my hood up and I couldn’t see for a good portion of the race after that. I had to look out the left front. I couldn’t see my marks. I was making due for what I could get at that point.”
Then came the first of Richardson’s two spins, neither of which were his own doing. On lap 26, Richardson went for a spin after slight contact with Greg Pope.
After that spin, Richardson was able to grab a gear and keep himself on the lead lap since NASCAR didn’t throw the caution. Richardson then went for a spin again on lap 86, when he got sandwiched between two other cars while making his way back to the front of the field. Again, Richardson was able to grab a gear and keep from going a lap down on the tight, 3/8-mile track.
He got back into the top 10, buckled hood and all, before the night was over.
“We spun out and I was lucky enough not to get creamed by anyone coming at me. I got around and grabbed a gear and kept on going. The car was real fast and we made up a lot of ground. I was surprised that we made up so much ground at the end of the race. The race went by a lot faster than I thought it would. With a little more time, we could have maybe grabbed a few more spots. We had a fast car.
“It was just a tough night overall. But we still got an eighth-place finish out of it. We’ll just go to South Boston and see what we get there.”
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Robert Richardson (#33) out qualified Jeff Fultz (#54) on Saturday.
Chris Davidson got quite a few cheers during driver introductions on Saturday night during the second Southeast Series race of the year. He also got a few boos. But that was because Davidson was finally racing at home. The one and only Southeast Series trip to Davidson’s homestate of Texas was just getting ready to start at Houston Motorsports Park.
Davidson had a lot of expectations getting ready to start the race. He was starting ninth and felt confident he had a car that could finish in the top-three and maybe even win the race. And being close to home, winning his first SES race couldn’t come at a better place.
One thing Davidson didn’t expect though was getting taken out of the running for the win just two laps into the event; and being taken out by one of his fellow Texas drivers making a rare start in the Southeast Series.
And that is exactly what happened.
“I don’t know what happened for sure,” said a disappointed Davidson after the race. “We were just on the second or third lap and we were passing people. The inside line was going and the outside line wasn’t. We had passed several cars and we were just getting ready to ride for a while. The 99 car (Michael Crofford) was pushed up high and he decided that he needed the position that I was in more than me and hit me a couple of times trying to get down in line when I was right there. That cut the right front tire down right away. While we were riding around with a flat tire trying to get to the bottom of the track, we ground the sway bar arm off and that was it.
“We went back out and tried to just ride around and make up as many position as we could for points.”
After the race, where Davidson finished 17th, 21 laps off the pace, he went down and talked with Crofford about the incident.
“We just had a talk and decided who thought what happened and why it happened. I don’t think it will happen again.
“There is no sense for driving like that early in the race. We race these cars every week. You can normally race 150-lap side-by-side with most people and usually not tear up your car. It seems like tonight, there were a lot of them tore up. It is frustrating when you have a good car.
“For the first time in a long time, we actually had a really, really good car that I think was capable of winning or at least finishing in the top-three and it got taken away from us. We got to get back to work and fix the car and see what happens at South Boston I guess. But I tell you what, if South Boston is anything like here, then we’ll have something big for them up there.”
PRINCE HAS A LONG, LONG, LONG NIGHT
Running around for 100 laps on the apron of a race track can’t be fun for anyone. That is exactly what Kevin Prince has to deal with on Saturday night at Houston.
“That was one of the longest races I’ve ever run,” joked Prince of the 150-lap affair that had to have seemed like 500 laps for the SES veteran. “It was a boring night. It was no fun at all out there. That is all you can do though. That is racing and there is nothing you can do about it.
“We had a good car to start, but we got into the #99 (Michael Crofford) and bent the spindle and put it into the tire.
“So we were really done after that. We wound up having a blow out. Once that happens, all you can do is nurse it home. There will be another night.”
Prince finished 14th, 10 laps down.
HELTON’S NIGHT ALMOST AS LONG
Rookie Gary Helton was another victim of the close confines of Houston on Saturday night. And just like with Prince (and several other drivers during the night), contact with another car ruined his whole evening early.
”We had a good car I thought,” said Helton. “We just got caught up when everyone checked up. There wasn’t anything could do and there was no where I could go and I got into the guy in front of me pretty hard. We bent the hood up and I had to come in the pits because I couldn’t see where I was going.”
Helton made a green-flag pit stop at lap 23 to try and fix the damage. It was something that needed to be done.
“You have to look out the left side window and try to get your reference that way when the hood gets bent up like that. It takes you a while to get used to that and it takes a while to get it fixed.
“This is a rough place, but I like it. It fits my style. I like the track. It is a great, nice track. We just got caught up tonight.”
ROOKIE FOY HAS FIRST TOP-10 RUN
It took just two races into his rookie season for young Michael Foy to earn his first career NASCAR Southeast Series top-10. And Foy did it by doing what a lot of others couldn’t do during the night, keeping his #32 out of trouble and pointing in the right direction.
“It is not bad to run top 10 in just my second race,” said Foy. “We are taking it just one race at a time. That was our goal today was to finish in the top 10.
“It wasn’t too rough for me out there tonight. I had a tight race car, so I was pretty tired about half way through the race. The track is really one groove. You need to keep it on the bottom and that is what I am fighting the most.”
So how did he get into the top-10 in just his second race?
“I am learning a lot. People like Jeff Fultz and Justin Wakefield are teaching me a lot. I’ve learned a lot the first two races and I’m sure I’ll learn just as much the next race.”