SES LEFTOVERS: NASHVILLE FAIRGROUNDS by Jeremy Troiano
“The Big One” Strikes Again, Williams Tries Hard, JR Determined
NASHVILLE’S “BIG ONE” STRIKES FOR SECOND-STRAIGHT YEAR
In last year’s first Southeast Series race at Music City Motorplex, contact between two cars on the 17th lap of the event caused “the big one;” an accident which took out several drivers and made for long nights for several more.
This year, it took just half a lap to trigger “the big one.” And this year’s big one was much bigger than last years.
It started when outside pole sitter Pat Brewer got into the turn two fence just a half lap into the event. Brewer corrected and got into the wall again, corrected again and then came down across the track in front of the oncoming field. Only a few guys were actually able to sneak through the accident.
Everyone else either piled in stopped before they reached the scene of the crime.
In the end, no fewer than 10 cars were involved in the wreck in some way, shape or form. The accident took out several cars, including the top-two in Southeast Series points, Dusty Williams and Jeff Fultz, along with
Chris Davidson, Charlie Bradberry, Casey Smith and Don Young.
The cars of Brewer, Gary Pedley, Ken Weaver, Robert Richardson, Eddie Stivers, Alex Garcia, Allen Karnes and Terry McMahan all received some sort of damage in the accident as well, but were able to keep going.
After the crash, which brought out a lengthy red flag situation, the talk was of the accident and its ramifications.
“We were racing hard out of the corner there and I got a little loose,” said Brewer, the first to hit the wall. “I just got drilled from behind then. It started a major chain reaction. It was pretty bad. I hate it for all of these guys. We all had pretty good racecars. They all got wrecked up pretty bad. I just hate it for everyone, but that is part of it.
“Our car is junk. It is rollback material. We'll just have to take it back to the shop and try and get it fixed. I hate it for everyone here, but that is just the way it is.”
Davidson, who has run into problems at almost every event this year, had no where to go.
“All I saw was a bunch of smoke and spinning cars,” said Davidson. “We were actually ok. We were stopped or just about stopped and someone ran into the back of us. It is no body's fault. When someone wrecks in front of the whole field, that is pretty much what you end up with. The only thing you can do in a situation like that is stop and not everyone can get stopped the fast with as fast as we are going here.
Fultz, who remained second in the points standings despite his 21st-place finish, was not happy.
Pat Brewer's #83 was the first car to get into the wall before the mess at Nashville. (51 Photos)
“That is the problem with Nashville. Off of two they always have wrecks. There is no reason for use to be wrecking on the first lap anyway. It is just inexperience of someone qualifying better than they had and it puts them up front. You tear up a bunch of good cars. Both the top two guys in points are out now. That is a part of racing though and we hate it. Hopefully, it doesn't happen again. We don’t tear up much stuff, so this is unfortunate for this team.”
Bradberry wasn’t only involved, but had a few anxious moments after the wreck.
“Coming off turn two, I saw the red 83 turned sideways,” said Bradberry, the 2003 SES champ. “I went low and we all just wadded up. There is nothing you can do. You are going so fast and it is so tight down the straightaway, it was like a wall of cars. I hit the people in front of me and got hit by the people behind me. It was a mess.
“I got a tore up racecar, but the fuel cell ruptured and nothing happen, so I’m glad to come out pretty good actually.”
Thankfully, all of the drivers walked away from the incident.
POINTS LEADER SHOWS DETERMINATION
Dusty Williams, the SES points leader, has a little extra determination this year and it is showing by the way he and his team never give up.
On Friday night, it looked like his night would be over early. However, Williams and his team got to work and trashed to fix his heavily damaged #40.
Jeff Fultz looks over his damaged #54.
“The 83 (Brewer) just lost it,” said the two-time and defending Southeast Series champion. “He is in a place that he don't belong. He just lost it. All of us were in the gas and he came off the wall two or three times. I tried to follow the 5 car (JR Norris) and I don't know how he made it, but the door closed and i got hammered in the back. Then I hit the guy and it came around and hit the wall. I just broke everything.
A frustrated Chris Davidson looks over his heavily damaged #41 in the pit area.
The team got the car back out on the track, albeit for just a few laps, but it was enough to gain him several spots in front of those that dropped out in the first lap crash.
“The 83 of Pat Brewer just got loose coming off of turn two and hit the wall and when he did, it positioned him to shoot right across the track,” said Willliams after the accident. “I turned left as hard as I could without hitting Jason (Hogan) or turning myself into the inside wall and there was no where to go. I spun, got into the inside wall and got hit again in the back. That is one of the worst hits I’ve had before.
“It got the radiator, steering arm, the right front spindle is bent. We will get back out there.”
“It is unfortunate for Fultz, but we are looking at the big picture. We were looking on the pig picture coming into tonight anyway. We weren't counting on a race win. We know JR is strong and now we know he'll gain some ground tonight. But we are looking at the big picture and that is why we'll get back out there. It happens. It just tore up a lot of good cars. That is a part of racing though.”
Williams was able to finish 18 laps before retiring in 18th-spot.
TWO AND THREE CAN THANK PENALTY FOR STAYING OUT OF BIG ONE
Even though it sounds bad, not everyone was involved in the first lap melee at Nashville. In fact, both the eventual second- and third-place finishers were likely to have been part of it, but both had to move to the back of the field for working on their car after qualifing.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both Kevin Prince and Cecil Chunn.
Dusty Williams began working on his car before it was even towed off of the track.
“We got no practice because of a problem with the oil pump,” said Prince, who came home second. “So our practice laps were the two laps we qualified. We made a couple of changes and had to start at the rear and got fortunate enough to miss the wreck.
“I laid back. The way I look at it, the first lap, I’ve got nothing to gain by driving it deep into the corner with them. So I laid back at the start and it was fortunate that when it all started, I had plenty of time to woe down.”
Chunn, who finished third at the end of the night, also just missed the wreck.
“The rear end shifted, which made the car super tight in qualifying,” said Chunn. “We had a rear end problem, we fixed it but that sent us to the back of the field. Starting at the rear of the field was a blessing in disguise. Where we would have started we would have ended up in the wreck. Everyone from sixth place to 13th place ended up wrecked.”
Prince and Chunn both eventually moved to the front of the field and came home with solid finishes.
“We had a good car,” added Prince. “We really did. But we didn't have anything for the 86 (race winner Gary
Helton). But with the kind of day that we had, it was a good finish to a bad start. Second isn't first, but it is a win to us right now, compared to what we went through today.”
“The longer we went, the tighter it got,” said Chunn. “We are gaining on it. That is better than we had finished in a long time. We had a good run at Nashville Superspeedway and ran out of gas. We didn't run well at Kentucky, but we still got a top 10. I am three for three in top 10s this year, so I can’t complain.”
NORRIS THE MAN TO BEAT
Both Kevin Prince (#1) and Cecil Chunn (#48) made it through the first lap accident and got top-three finishes.
If you walked around the pit area on Friday afternoon at Music City Motorplex and asked all of the NASCAR Southeast Series drivers who was going to be the car to beat, every single one of them would have pointed to the same car; the orange #5 of JR Norris.
Norris was, hands down, the favorite to win on Friday night. JR was the fastest car in practice. He then went out and turned in the fastest qualifying lap of the 23 cars in attendance. It marked JR’s third-straight pole in NASCAR Southeast Series competition at the half-mile Fairgrounds track.
Norris drew a six for the invert and worked his way through the wreck without any. Showing the maturity that he’s learned over the past 16 months, Norris brought his car to fourth and decided to hang back and wait. That charge to the front came, but under much different circumstances than JR and the team had planned going into the night.
“I was just riding along,” said Norris. “That is what is so
sickening about it. I was just riding. I felt the car getting a little tight and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I thought I could work with it. I’d driven a tight car before. We had a caution and we went back green and it was gone. I knew the right front [tire] was down.”
After an early-race caution, Norris was forced to pit when the right-front tire went flat, apparently from running something over on the track. In the process, Norris lost two laps to the leader and effectively took him out of contention for the win. Yet Norris was determined to work his way back up front. He lit the afterburners and turned it on. In the process, during the next 100 laps, JR convinced himself he would make up those two laps and get back on the lead lap in hopes that maybe, just maybe, he could still have a shot to win.
And Norris did just that. Before the 150-lap race was done, he’d made up two laps, under green flag conditions, and finished as the final car on the lead lap in fourth spot.
“I was determined to get back on the lead lap. I don't think I’ve ever driven that hard in my life. I'm worn out now. Even as the whole race pace slowed down, I stayed a half-second faster than everyone else. That is what is disheartening about it. The fastest car is suppose to win, but it doesn't always win I guess.
“We had a good points night. We need to go to Caraway and have another good points weekend and try and win this championship.”
HOGAN MISSES OUT AT NASHVILLE AGAIN
He’s said it before and he’ll say it again. Of all the things Jason Hogan would like to do before he ever quits racing, winning at the famed Nashville Fairgrounds track, now named the Music City Motorplex, is near the top of his list.
On Friday night, it looked like Hogan would have a good shot at doing just that. Hogan jumped to the lead of the event after running lap after lap, side-by-side with fellow racer Justin Wakefield. Hogan and Wakefield swapped the lead several times during the side-by-side battle until Hogan took a commanding lead on lap 38.
From there, Jason led until lap 86, when Gary Helton grabbed the top spot, forcing Hogan back to second. There, Jason ran a solid second until, on lap 121, Hogan fell off the pace and had to come to pit road under green, the victim of a broken rearend gear. He finished 11th.
“I had a awesome car,” said Hogan. “It’s cool to be able to race with Justin like that for so many laps and never touch each other. That just goes to prove what type of
racer he is and what type of racers are in this series. That is what racing is about, being able to run side-by-side and not tear up a thing. That was pretty cool. I had a ball doing that.
“I have to give props to my guys. They got up under there, got it fixed and got us back out really quick. I don’t know if it gained us any spots, but it shows that we are not going to give up. We are going to gain every point we can. That is big picture racing.
"This place doesn't like me. I have a curse here. We have good racecars and something always seems to happen. I run out of gas, break rearends or something. We will get it figured out though. It isn't often we break something on these racecars. It is just freak accident. Sometimes you just get a bad rearend gear. It lost us a bunch of laps and some big time points we could have gained. There will be a next week though.”
TURNER MOTORSPORTS: 2 CARS, 1.5 TOTAL LAPS
Turner Motorsports showed up to Nashville with not one car and driver, but two.
Former ASA standout Casey Smith ran his first race with Turner Motorsports as a teammate to regular driver Chris Davidson.
Between the two of them, they completed just one and a half laps. Both were involved in the first lap accident.
“It sucks for Steve Turner and everything he's done,” said Smith, who will race the remainder of the short track races with the team in a second car. “We were fast, but fast doesn't pay anything.
“I thought we had a fast car and we were fast in practice, but we just were a little off in qualifying,” said Smith. “Then we thought the car felt was good for the race, but that lasted only a half lap. I think that we had a good car for the race. I thought I had the wreck
Casey Smith's #51, along with Randy Pedley's #43, each suffered frontend damage.
In three chances, Norris has three poles as Music City Motorplex.
Robert Richardson (left) and Jason Hogan (right) talk before the race.
missed. I saw an opening and I went for it. I thought I was going to be clear and then (Charlie) Bradberry came right back in front of me and I nailed him.
‘We had a lot of a-frame damage. It just wasn't worth it to get it back out there. I was really happy with the car from what I felt. I thought we were gong to have a good run. Chris was walking back to the pits, stopped and looked at my car and said I might as well pull it behind the wall.
“It is a shame.”
For Davidson, it was the fifth DNF in six races this season.
“It is always something,” said Davidson. “This is horrible. If we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all. I just don't know what to do anymore. I guess we'll go home, fix it and see what happens.”
FIRST LAP WRECK HAS ILL EFFECTS ON RICHARDSON
It didn’t take long for Robert Richardson’s night to turn sour this past weekend at Music City Motorplex (TN). On the very first lap, the outside pole sitter in the NASCAR Southeast Series race got sideways and took out a gaggle of good cars. Richardson started 13th and had nowhere to go before being one of a dozen drivers to pile into the carnage. That was the first problem of his race.
“Everyone saw what happened that first lap,” said Richardson. “A bunch of cars got collected up in that wreck. We were fortunate enough that only got minimal damage to the car but it was still a mess the later part of the race.”
The collateral damage from the wreck took a little longer to hurt Richardson.
“The car overheated and we lost our brakes for the first quarter of the race. We had to come in the pits and bleed the brakes which put us a bunch of laps down.”
Richardson ended up retiring from the event on lap 72. He was credited with a finish of 14th.
“It was not a weekend we needed,” said Richardson. “The one good thing is that I did end up moving up a spot in the points.”