PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: SOUTH GEORGIA by Jerermy Troiano
Rogers Has Solid Points Night, Another 15-Year-Old, Fultz Makes Impressive Debut
PRO CUP DEBUT HUGE STEP FOR FULTZ
The name Jeff Fultz is not new to anyone in the racing world, especially in the short track realm. The veteran is a two-time NASCAR Southeast Series champion and one of the best in the business.
This year though, Fultz and his JCR3 team decided to go a different route than they have in the past. Their new plan would include a full-slate of Pro Cup racing. The team couldn’t get their car finished for the Lakeland opener, but had it ready for South Georgia and put on quite a show.
“Fultzy” started 22nd and finished an impressive 10th, which included leading 22 laps in the middle portion of the race and picking up the $1,000 award for leading at the halfway point.
Not bad for a driver and team that had never even had a lap on their new car until Saturday morning’s practice.
“It is a fun series for sure and I’m really impressed,” said Fultz. “We had a really good time. So far, we really enjoy the series. So to get out here and get a nice finish out of it, lead some laps and everything else is really good.
“Some of the lapped cars are really tough. If you stay up front it is better. We just needed some track position. If
at this track before tonight. I’m feeling much more comfortable in the car and I’ve been meeting and learning to race the other drivers in the series. This was another step forward for our race team this weekend. We accomplished every goal we set out for ourselves. That’s as good as a win right now for us."
Jeff Futlz made his Pro Cup debut at Valdosta. (51 Photo)
we would have pitted with those guys, it might have played out a little better as we could have stayed with them. The car just wasn’t as good in the back.”
Fultz and his team didn’t even finish building their car until Thursday night. Despite that though, he was impressive and still thinking about how to make the car better.
“We are learning,” added Fultz. “The car was super tight. We just couldn’t get the tightness out of it. We tired a little bit different of a pit strategy. The car just really wouldn’t run in the back. I just stayed out to see what the car would do out front. The car was way better out front. We had to finally come in and get our tires. We thought we’d wait and come in late and use those tires to pass everyone. We just wish that track positions would have played out a little bit better and if people weren’t beating and banging as much, we probably would have gotten up to sixth or so.
“We only have one little mark on the car. I tried to keep the car very clean and more cautious so we could take the car to the next race.”
A-ROG HAVING CAREER YEAR… ALREADY
Last year, South Georgia Motorsports Park was huge for Andrew Rogers after he earned a career-best second-place finish in what was then just his second USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series start. This year, South Georgia was just as good for Andrew, but in different ways.
Rogers picked up his second top-10 finish of the season on Saturday night, coming home eighth. In addition to his sixth-place finish at Lakeland, Rogers now finds himself third in the Southern Division point standings after two events. It is the highest Rogers has ever been in the points during his Pro Cup career. His two top-10 finishes in 2006 also match the total he had during the entire 2005 season.
“I’ve already tied my career best for top-10s in a season. I guess that is pretty good I guess.”
Andrew Rogers' #81. (Kathy Bond Photo)
The race wasn’t as easy as it sounded for Rogers though.
“I can’t believe we got an eighth-place out of this,” said Rogers. “It seems like with our luck last we had last year, this night would have resulted in a DNF or we would have been pulled off or something.
“First, we got into it with Clay Rogers. I like Clay a lot. I think he was just frustrated with what was going on with him. I know I pinched him down behind a lapped car. I don’t know if he pushed up or what, but he got into me and it felt like it bent something or hurt something in the car. The car was bad loose from then on out.”
Then, Rogers then got put to the back of the pack after spinning out Shelby Howard. He also got spun late in the race by Matt Carter, which forced him to come from the back of the pack once again.
“I spun out Shelby Howard. It was totally my fault. I deserved to go to the back for that. I got together with Matt Carter after that and got spun out. We nearly got into the wall and flat-spotted the tires. We came in and put our other set of tires back on the car after that. We finished the race with a set of tires on the car that had 200 laps on it.
“It was an eventful night. We really came back and finished strong. That should move us up in the points. There are some guys that had some bad luck. As much as I got knocked around, I could have sworn that the sides were going to be missing, the rear was going to be missing and the back bumper was going to be gone. The car is in good shape and we just had a solid run. I’m really excited about it. Our car was hooked up.”
LINDLEY AND LAVENDER DON’T SEE EYE TO EYE
Mardy Lindley and Jody Lavender weren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye at the end of the race on Saturday night.
The two drivers were running second and third late in the race when Lavender got into the back of Lindley while battling for the runner up spot with less than 20 laps to go. The contact sent Lindley spinning and Lavender to the rear of the field with a “rough driving” penalty from Pro Cup officials.
“He says he slipped,” said Lindley, who won at Lakeland and had the Southern Division points lead heading into the night. “He wasn’t under me. He just hit me square in the bumper. How did he slip?”
The contact was costly for Lindley, who only made it back up to 17th following the incident.
“I don’t know. I just don’t get it sometime. There are some people you can race around. There were also some people up north that you knew was going to be a problem.
“Other than that, it was a good run. I’m pleased. We led laps and ran up front all night long. The pit crew was awesome again. That is all I can ask for.”
Lavender owned up to the contact after the race.
The cars of Mardy Lindley (#03) and Jody Lavender (#84) got together late in the race.
“I spun him out. That is what happened,” said Lavender. “I didn’t mean to. I cost myself a shot at the win tonight because of it.
“We had the best car here. We just got to him and I don’t know if I got too impatient or what, but I guess I just lost the nose a little bit. I knew I was going to get penalized for it. It was my fault though.”
Lavender came back to finish 14th.
LOGANO NOT THE ONLY IMPRESSIVE 15-YEAR-OLD
Trevor Bayne came to South Georgia with a new look to his car, but the results were relatively the same.
The young 15-year-old had an impressive run at Lakeland, running in the top-10 much of the night before falling back late after getting into an accident not of his own doing.
At South Georgia, Bayne was even more impressive, coming home a strong sixth.
“That was a wild race,” said Bayne. “It was like a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs. (Crew chief) Wade Day had us up there in the top five. We were up to fourth at one point. Then, later in the race, someone up front didn’t get a good start and the #03 (Mardy Lindley) had to check up real hard. I was shifting from third to fourth when that happened and I couldn’t get it into gear. We
fell back to about 14th and worked our way back up. We got back up there and finished sixth. My team worked hard and kept me motivated. They wouldn’t let me get down on myself.”
After two events, Bayne leads the Rookie of the Year point standings and finds himself in the top-10 in the overall standings. He, however, is not surprised.
“I’m very happy. I don’t know if I’m surprised, because I know this team can do it. I fell pretty confident in myself and I think we should be able to win some races by the end of the year. We have a lot of people helping us out.”
And Bayne was also excited to see another 15-year-old run so well.
“Me and Joey (Logano, who won the race at the age of 15) are not just friends at the track, but we hang out away from the track as well. Hopefully, I’ll be moving to North Carolina soon and we can hang out more.
TOUGH OUTING NUMBER TWO FOR HUFFMAN
Not a lot of people would have guessed that after two races of the 2006 Pro Cup season, Shane Huffman and the JR Motorsports team (owned by NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.) would be 14th in the point standings.
That is the case though after Huffman’s second-straight race with mechanical problems. This time, Huffman broke a rear end gear while leading the event and forced him to a 32nd-place finish
Shane Huffman had another tough outing.
“We gave another one away,” said Huffman. “Even though it is early in the season, these mechanical gremlins are beginning to get old.
“The car was really good in qualifying, better than I thought it would be,” sounded Huffman. “I didn’t get everything out of the car so I knew we would be good for the race.”
Huffman led 26 laps after passing Jeff Fultz for the top spot before the gear broke following a mid-race restart.
“That was one of the best cars I have had in a long time,” said Huffman. “Once we got to the front it seemed like the car was driving itself. I hardly had to work.”
THE MONKEY LETTING LOOSE THE GRIP ON GEORGE
There has been a huge monkey on the back of George Brunnhoelzl for quite some time.
Now, just maybe, the monkey appears to be losing the grip.
At first though, it didn’t appear to be that way. On lap 32, the odds of finishing on the lead lap were pretty slim. That’s because at the moment, Brunnhoelzl was pointed the wrong way on the track after getting involved in an incident with Michael Ritch.
But the young driver wasn’t about to give up. He fought back to get through the 250-lap race and, in the end, found himself on the lead lap in the 19th-finishing position. That was in spite of the fact that Brunnhoelzl didn’t exactly have a speedy racecar under him after the early altercation.
“The car is rolling and in one piece,” said Brunnhoelzl. “We finally made it 250 laps. It has been a while since we did that. We didn’t have a good racecar by any means. We got tied up with (Michael) Ritch early there. I think he pushed up or something and caught me in the left rear. It didn’t hurt the car too bad. It bent the rear end a little bit. We just couldn’t get the car right after that. We couldn’t get the car right before that. We were just off tonight. We need to go back and do our homework and check the car all over again after we wrecked so hard at Lakeland. Maybe we missed something.
“It is a step in the right direction, finishing the race and
George Brunnhoelzl III
on the lead lap. Next, maybe we can get into the top-10, then into the top-five and go from there.”
Brunnhoelzl finished 19th.
ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE RUN FOR ROOKIE MASON
While some of the rookie eyes were on Jeff Fultz and Trevor Bayne on Saturday night, Mike Mason continued to be impressive on the quiet side.
Mason started 17th and finished just outside of the top-10, coming home in 11th on Saturday night.
"We had a really good race car tonight, especially on old tires," said Mason. "I just can’t say enough about the job my crew chief, Mark Huff, and everyone else on the team is doing. I had never been to this track before and we were pretty fast right off the truck. These guys know what it takes to give me a good piece and my cars have been great. I’m just trying to bring them back in one piece."
"We feel like we won Saturday night. Our goal at each one of these early season events is to get quality experience, complete all the laps we possibly can, and bring the car home in one piece. We did that again tonight, all 259 laps.
“That’s awesome, I learned a lot out there. This was only my third time racing these kinds of cars and I never raced