Nobody expected that Fultz would end up racing in the event so soon after a family tragedy. But less than one week after his son's death and on the day before leaving to head to the Midwest for the services, Fultz headed to the racetrack. He wasn't just there to race his own car either - he also kept busy helping out his teammates Cassius Clark and John Hickens.
In true storybook fashion, Fultz drove the race of his life to win over newly crowned CRA Super Series champion Johnny Van Doorn and teammate Clark. After the victory, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
That performance allowed Jeff Fultz to be named as the winner of a weekly Speed51.com Quarter Master Clutch Performance of the Week award.
Fultz didn't wrap up his season at that point either though. He also brought a team of cars to the Snowball Derby, where he went through a frustrating week of bad luck on the racetrack. Fultz ended up missing the show in that event, but just being there showed his true grit.
Our voters remembered those late season performances by Fultz when they cast their ballots for the 2009 Quarter Master Clutch Performer of the Year and Jeff Fultz was our choice to win the 2009 version of the award.
Fultz did have some tough competition for the award. Any driver who won a weekly Quarter Master Clutch Performance of the Week award during the season was in the running for the yearly award. A few select drivers even won multiple weekly Quarter Master awards in 2009. 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Donny Lia and PASS South's Jay Fogelman were the only three time weekly winners of the award in 2009 while ARCA champion Justin Lofton, ASA Midwest standout Chris Wimmer and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour points runner up Andy Seuss all won the award twice over the course of the season.
Here were the other drivers who gave Fultz a run for his money with our judges who decided the winner of the 2009 yearly award:
2. Eddie MacDonald (CW East and ACT) - The 2008 winner of the Quarter Master Clutch Performer of the Year award almost won again in 2009. That would have been fitting, as it seemed that he won just about every other major trophy in racing.
MacDonald once again spanked the Cup-affilated teams and won a NASCAR East Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2009. He also came through in the clutch and became the first winner of the ACT Invitational at the track - an honor that some great racers from both the United States and Canadian set out to try and earn.
And then there was the TD Banknorth Oxford 250. That event is all about coming through in the clutch - from advancing through the heat races to holding off a hungry Patrick Laperle in the closing laps to win the race, Eddie MacDonald did it all in the 2009 version of this racing classic.
Did we mention that MacDonald only has a fraction of the budget that some short track superteams work with in a year? Getting big results from short resources - now that is really coming through in the clutch!
3. Parker Kligerman (ARCA) - 2009 was not supposed to be a pressure-packed season for Parker Kligerman. The Connecticut native was set to run the first few ARCA races and then see what happened next. But as he got to the end of his tentative schedule, the young man found himself leading the point standings.
So then there was the pressure of trying to maintain that lead when Kligerman wasn't even sure if he'd be at the next event. Next came the pressure of breaking through to win his first race...and then his second...and then his third one. By the end of the season, Kligerman ended up with nine ARCA victories - including a streak of four in a row. He even won his first start on dirt at the Illinois State Fairgrounds (and his second start on dirt at DuQuoin as well). Kiligerman came up just a bit short in the race for the championship, but he won the season finale at Rockingham - which should that he didn't bow to any rookie pressure in 2009.
4. Jay Fogelman (PASS) - Neither bad luck, illness or Ben Rowe could keep Jay Fogelman down for long during the 2009 PASS South season. He might have not won the championship, but that wasn't due to lack of effort or the ability to come through in the clutch.
His epic performance came when he won the Quarter Master Clutch Performance of the Week award in the fall and earned this write-up on Speed51.com at the time:
"Before Jay Fogelman even got through the pit gates at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC), he day turned bad. Fogelman got extremely sick and headed to a local hospital with flu-like symptoms. His team enlisted Toby Porter to get into their Super Late Model as a fill-in.
"But Fogelman didn't want to give up his seat, so he hopped into the car anyways. He didn't just ride around either in the Howler 125 PASS South race. He finished a strong second to race winner Johnny Clark - coming through under pressure and under the weather."
Fogelman won PASS South races at Wake County, Greenville-Pickens and Newport - and anytime you can best such a strong field to win a race, you know you've come through in the clutch.
Finally, Fogelman also headed up to the PASS North race at Thompson - something that Southern Super Late Model drivers have never gotten up the nerve to do and he showed well in a PASS Modified when he tried out that division.
5. Justin Lofton (ARCA) - At one point in the 2009 season, Justin Lofton and his Eddie Sharp Racing team got tired of rookie Parker Kligerman beating them. So they had a team meeting and made a pact to come through in the clutch. They did just that and trucked on to an amazing second half of the the season that resulted in the 2009 ARCA championship. The battle came down to the final laps of the season's last race too, showing just how pressure-packed the title fight was.
6. George Brunnhoelzl, III (SMT) - The Brunnhoelzl name is a big deal on Long Island. The family has raced for Modified victories over the course of decades on the Island. Their youngest active member, George Brunnhoelzl, III actually tried out fendered racecars instead of Modifieds for awhile and showed plenty of promise on the Pro Cup circuit. But Modified racing is in the kid's blood, so he eventually found a home on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
In 2009, Brunnhoelzl fought a spirited battle with Andy Seuss for that Tour's crown. It was very common for both drivers to finish first and second in any given race. The question was only if it was Brunnhoelzl or Seuss who won on that given night. Brunnhoelzl ended up with the championship though after making hardly any mistakes on the track all year long and having a bulletproof car underneath him. The ability of Brunnhoelzl and his team to come through in the clutch made them NASCAR champions in 2009.
7. Derek Ranstrom (PASS North and CW East) - Derek Ranstrom didn't have it easy in 2009, yet the personable young racer always managed to post impressive numbers against adversity.
In the summer, he made up for a heartbreaking 2008 run that came up short of victory at Thompson International Speedway, by finally winning a PASS North race at his hometrack. That was the site of another major success for Ranstrom too. In addition to being a PASS North regular, Ranstrom found the time to cobble together a championship-winning effort in the Super Late Model class at Thompson.
Late in the summer, Ranstrom made his road course debut by keeping all of the fenders on his car in the Camping World East Series race at Lime Rock and then drove across three states after the race to hop into his PASS North car at Seekonk Speedway (MA). Without any practice, spare parts or many tools, Ranstrom drove the car that arrived on an open trailer, to a strong fourth place finish.
8. Ross Kenseth (LMs and SLMs)- Being the son of a NASCAR Cup champion can't be easy. But it's even harder when you start racing in a region where your Dad was a legend before making it to the big leagues. Yet Ross Kenseth did a fine job of following in the footsteps of his father Matt this past season. He won all but one of the Big 8 Series races that were contested in 2009. He won a pair of ASA Late Model events. He battled his Dad for the victory in the Slinger Nationals and he earned the outside pole position for the Snowball Derby in his first trip ever to Five Flags Speedway.
Kenseth also came through in the clutch off the track. He managed to earn the most fan votes of any driver in the country to win the 2009 Speed51.com ARBodies.com Late Model Most Popular Driver Award.
9. John Donahue (ACT) - Once upon a time, guys like John Donahue were common in short track racing. Donahue is a farmer and puts in long hours working with his hands during the week. He then blows off steam by driving racecars on the weekends. Work hard and play hard is the battle cry of men like this.
But as big money has come into racing, there are now a lot more rich kids trying to get to Cup and a lot fewer working men in the sport. The working men still have fun, but don't always run up front. Donahue is an exception to that rule though. He strapped into his ACT Late Model in 2009 and used his talent and the guidance of a great team with Dale Shaw as the crew chief to win races. He couldn't get to the front with a better engine or better shocks - both items are spec pieces in ACT - so he just worked harder and drove harder to win The Milk Bowl, placed high in the TD Banknorth Oxford 250 and finish third in the ACT Late Model standings for the season.
10. Donny Lia (WMT) - Donny Lia didn't expect to be fighting for a championship on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this past season. In fact, he planned on skipping the event at Spencer Speedway to attend the wedding of his sister. But when that event was rained on, it became game on for Lia, who also won the 2007 Tour title. Lia played head games with Tour tough guy Ted Christopher to determine the outcome of several racecars. Sometimes, this led to a huge wreck at the finish line, like at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June, and sometimes it led to wheel-to-wheel action, like at Bristol Motor Speedway in the late summer.
Lia and TC fought an epic battle for the championship and it wasn't a friendly one. They traded paint and insults, but Lia came on through and captured the crown, along with a total of four victories on the season, to win the title - proving that he knew how to really come through in the clutch.
Quarter Master salutes Jeff Fultz on the 2009 Quarter Master Clutch Performer of the Year award.