NIGHT SEES JEFF FULTZ & JR NORRIS HONORED by Jeremy Troiano
Kevin Prince Become Series Most Popular Driver
The NASCAR Southeast Series drivers, teams, officials and sponsors gathered together to officially wrap up their 2004 season on Saturday night. And like most times this year, Jeff Fultz came out on top.
Fultz was officially crowned and honored as the Southeast Series champion while his closest chaser in the standings, JR Norris, was officially crowned the series' Rookie of the Year at the Awards Banquet held in Charlotte (NC).
For Fultz, it was his second career championship. His first came in 2002.
“This is just a great honor and a great feeling,” said Fultz at the podium on Saturday night. “There have been so many great drivers that have been a part of the series and just to say you are among the best is humbling to say the least.”
Among Fultz's 2004 accomplishments were five victories, three poles and eight top-five finishes in 12 races. He also became the series all-time wins leader by passing Wayne Anderson's mark of 21 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC).
“There are really no words to describe this and how I feel right now because it’s pretty emotional. I’ve got the best team behind me and they make my job as a driver look easy. I know I probably drive them crazy. I really want to thank each and every guy on this team who put in a lot of time on this race team that they could be spending with their families and friends to make this happen.
“I’ve got to congratulate J.R. Norris because with him coming in as a rookie this season, I thought he’d tear up a lot of stuff but he proved me wrong. The rookies in this series have a bright future ahead of them.”
Fultz struggled in the season finale at Nashville's Music City Motorplex, but captured the crown over Norris by just 21 points.
Norris shocked many people with his Rookie of the Year season. He also earned three Bud Poles and also a win at Nashville Superspeedway. He finished with nine top-five finishes.
“Jeff Fultz and all of the guys in this series at class acts,”
Jeff Fultz caputred his second SES championship in three years this year. (51 photos)
said Norris. “It’s been a really great year with a lot of ups and downs. I’d like to thank Ritchie Wauters for putting me in the best equipment all year. Thanks to all the crew who came to each race. We really did not have a set crew all year.
“Most important I want to thank is my dad (Evans Norris) for putting me in the right situation. I couldn’t have done it without all the people that have stood behind me all year.”
Norris was both the second-place points finisher and Rookie of the Year.
Norris was presented his Rookie of the Year trophy by former Southeast Series driver Rick Crawford. Norris' father sponsored Crawford in a Southeast Series race several years ago when Crawford was a regular.
Erik Darnell finished the season third in the standings, but was not at the event because he was competing with the Midwest Series in LaCrosse (WI). Darnell won races in both series this year while running the full Southeast and most of the Midwest schedule.
Other award winners on the night included Kevin Prince, who took home both the Most Popular Driver and Featherlite Most Improved Driver Awards.
Fultz won the season-long Bud Pole Award after tying with Norris with three poles each.
Norris got his Rookie of the Year trophy from former series standout Rick Crawford.
The winner of the POWERade Move of the Race award went to Johnny Brazier while Allen Karnes picked up the Driver Improvement award. Dusty Williams was presented with the 2004 Sportsmanship Award while the Southeast Series Dedication award to Roy Earley.
Williams also got the news that he will be heading to Irwindale Speedway (CA) to represent the Southeast Series in the All Star Showdown. The top-10 drivers are invited but if one of the 10 turns it down, the next spot goes to the 11th-place driver on back. Only Jason Hogan turned the invite down, giving Williams a shot to glory in Irwindale.