Alex Haase Celebrates In Victory Lane While Wakefield and Fultz Explode In Firecracker 125 by Jason Buckley
Late-Race Incident Generates Hard Feelings and Harsh Words In PASS South Feature
The Fourth of July weekend across the country is known for celebrating the United States of America. From coast to coast, Americans show pride in their country by saluting the men and women who fight for our freedoms as well as lighting and enjoying fireworks displays at parks and race tracks.
At Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, many Americans got the best of both worlds as they were able to enjoy a fireworks display in the air as well as on the track as some of the best Super Late Model racers took to the track in the PASS South “Firecracker 125” event. What they weren’t aware of is just what type of fireworks show they would get as Alex Haase went to victory lane while Jeff Fultz and Justin Wakefield fumed over what could have been their trip to the top honors of the night.
Corey Williams (top) and Jeff Fultz (bottom) both were factors at the end of the PASS South event. (51 Sports Photos)
The night started off well for Wakefield. He set fast time, drew the third position on the redraw, and then drove to the lead on the first lap of the race. It wasn’t until about 50 laps to go in the race when he relinquished the lead to Fultz with Haase hanging behind in third.
A charging Corey Williams, who started at the rear of the field after not turning a qualifying lap due to a spring issue during practice, then made his way by all three drivers by running a groove no one else was using.
“For some reason I like to run up top close to the wall at race tracks,” said Williams. “I actually did it by accident. I was passing a car on the outside. I sunk it in there so deep and it actually stuck. I got on the radio to find out if anyone else was running there and they weren’t. We found something there. I was pretty confident we were going to seal this one up.”
A few late-race cautions set up a restart with just a couple laps remaining. Fultz, who was able to squeeze his way back around Williams prior to the yellow, lead Williams, Haase and Wakefield to the green flag. When they got to turn one, Fultz wasn’t leading, Wakefield was in the wall and tempers flared amongst the top drivers.
“I didn’t see nothing; I was leading the race,” said Fultz. “All I know is that I went down in the corner and under braking I got turned in the right rear quarter, straight in the fence. The only car on the outside of me was the 98 (Wakefield), and they said he was on the inside of the 47 (Williams) and the outside of me going into one.”
Wakefield had his take on the restart, and was extremely irate with Haase. He claimed the incident was his fault.
“I just got wrecked by a little punk,” said Wakefield. “That is all there is to it. He drives in there like he doesn’t care about his race car. He just wants to run in there and knock the crap out of you. He cut me off twice on the restart before that. I got position on him. He just drove in there and run all over Fultz and wrecked the crap out of me. He totaled our car.”
Haase, who eventually took the checkered flag after beating Williams back to the line on a final restart, wasn’t quite sure why Wakefield was mad at him for the incident.
“I bumped the 67 (Fultz) on the start. He (Fultz) said no big deal about that,” explained Haase. “The next thing I know the 98 (Wakefield) is trying to make it three wide getting down to turn one. You know you cannot do that here. It isn’t a two-groove race track. I am confused what his view was on it, but we aren’t too worried about it. We will go on and keep doing this.”
Even though Williams was a part of the top-four, he was up high on the track and too far out to see what happened behind him.
“I didn’t see much of it. I happened to peek up in my mirror and saw a blue car,” said Williams. “I wasn’t sure what was going on because I was on the outside. The next thing I heard was a big wreck in turn one. It was just one of those racing deals where we were all running each other hard. Stuff like that happens sometimes. It is unfortunate.”
The officials realigned the field for the final restart, and once the checkered was thrown Fultz was credited with a third-place finish, a few positions shy of where he wanted to place.
“I am not crying about it,” said Fultz. “That is a part of it, but it is a shame. We drove our butt off and we came home third. This is about our fourth third this year and we just want to win one.
“At times he (Wakefield) was a little better, but on the restarts I was better and he was blocking and dooring me,” continued Fultz. “We had a lot of issues on restarts. He would just run and hit me in the door, so I would just let him go and put a little pressure on him to burn his stuff up. Finally I just beat him and got by him. I know Justin real good and he is a real good race car driver, but he isn’t going to drive me that way and he is going to race against me a lot.”
With the waving of the checkered flag, the fireworks on track concluded, maybe set to reignite at the next PASS South event at Orange County Speedway (NC), which is a $10,000.00-to-win event. Regardless how he got there and the circumstances surrounding it, Haase became the first repeat winner in PASS South Super Late Model competition this season. As the fireworks exploded in the air, Haase was thrilled with his victory.
“I think the last two restarts we had the luck there starting on the inside,” said Haase. “It usually is balls out there for the last few laps (of a race), and that is what it was. That was the hardest three laps the whole race that I drove. We were trying to save tires the whole race and I think we did that pretty good.
“I can’t thank my guys enough. They work so hard. A lot of people said we won the last one (at Wake County Speedway) because there were only 12 cars. We will see how it goes now. We have a couple big races coming up. We can’t seem to gain points on Corey because he seems to finish right behind us or right in front of us, so hopefully something will happen where we can gain more points. I think we moved up to second tonight, so that is good. The car is running great and we have a good thing going right now.”
Justin Wakefield (98) and Alex Haase (51H) played nice during practice, but at the end of the race the battle for the top spot ended with some harsh comments. (51 Sports Photo)