HOGAN KEEPIN’ THE FAITH IN HICKORY by Matt Dillner
Norris Suffers Hardship After Hardship But Rallies For Third
Just hours before the start of the NASCAR Southeast Series race at Hickory Motor Speedway, drivers gathered in sweltering heat between two trailers for the drivers meeting. At the end of the meeting the drivers were led in prayer. “After last week in Nashville I think we need to say a bunch of prayers,” were the first words uttered as the drivers bowed their heads in silence.
When Norris looped it, Hogan barely got his car stopped in time, coming inches from having his hopes for a win dashed.
“The first lap there were cars stopping in front of you,” added Hogan of his near misses. “Then about 15 laps into the race some lapped car gets into JR. All the sudden I see this bright orange car in front of me, like a big pumpkin in front of me spinning out. I said man if I smash that pumpkin Richie Wauters isn’t going to be too happy. Luckily my good AP brakes landed real good when I got on them. We got stopped just in time. It was a close call.”
Well, the prayers were answered, at least for some. Yeah, the race saw a few instances of impatience and tempers on the track, but clean racing prevailed at the old North Carolina track. The man who had most of his prayers answered was Jason Hogan.
Faith and and maybe a little divine intervention paved the way for the 21-year old’s first career Southeast Series win.
“I thought I was done for right at the start,” said Hogan. “We took the green and I think Fultzy (Jeff Fultz) blew his motor. They were going and then they stopped and I hit the brakes and hit the dude in front of me. Then someone jacked me up in the back. I said to myself boy this isn’t a good way to start the race. Somehow we got through that and things wound up pretty good.”
Hogan's #92 somehow escaped seemingly inevitable trouble all day at Hickory.
Hogan’s help didn’t stop there. Perhaps his biggest competition, rookie JR Norris, who visibly had the fastest car all night, ran into a slue of bad luck of his own.
Norris and Hogan both made it through the clog up at the start of the race. But shortly after JR took the lead, his luck ran out. While motoring around two lapped cars, the 29 of Allen Karnes decided to make it three wide and contact between the three cars in turn three sent Norris’ Richie Wauters-owned #5 spinning.
“I had to give him a little hug there in victory lane. He had it too easy! So I hopped on him. I had to embarrass him somehow, ya know?”
Hogan shrugged off the friendly ribbing and said that he wasn’t sweating the charging rookie's advances at races end.
After a caution with just a few to go, Norris gave Darnell a run for his money in the shootout but could only cash in at third. JR said that his Victory Ford #5 car was the car to win and jokingly teased Hogan about the circumstances.
“My buddy…I had to give him one,” laughed Norris after his up and down night. “I hope you print that in big letters 'I GAVE HIM ONE.' He drove a good race and he kept his nose clean. I wanted to see a yellow there at the end of the race to get up there but once it was inside 10 laps I knew I wouldn’t have anything for Hogan.
Erik Darnell was impressive in holding off Norris.
“I wasn’t worried about him,” said a happy Hogan. “Heck…rookie stripes! I’ve been in that car and I know what that car can do and how capable it is of winning. He’s getting better each weekend and they are starting to work well together. You’ve gotta be worried about them because they were fast but I think we were just as fast. I’ve worked just as hard as that kid has. You’ve got him up there and all your fastest cars in the top five right now. I wish we had Fultzy up there. I don’t want him to blow up. I want to beat him on the race track not in the pits.
“I’d rather run down JR and beat him by passing him and not because he got spun out by a lapped car. But, it’s a win and we will take it any way we can get it.”
Hogan was pumped after his first series win.
No matter how it happened; luck, fate or divine intervention…at the end of that hot day Jason Hogan got to visit racing’s hightest altar, Victory Lane, for the first time.
With the big Hickory win after a runner-up run at Nashville, Jason Hogan says that they are a legitimate title contender.
Meanwhile, Hogan capitalized on Norris’ misfortunes and then battled Wisconsin young gun Erik Darnell for the top spot. The two drivers raced as clean as two choir boys for several thrilling side-by-side laps with Hogan eventually taking the lead.