Darnell's Hard Work, JR's Late Charge, Dusty's Wild Day & More
DARNELL AND HIS TEAM HAVE HARD WORK PAY OFF
On the Tuesday night before heading down to Myrtle Beach Speedway for the makeup of an earlier rained out Southeast Series event, Erik Darnell destroyed his primary NASCAR Touring Series car in a vicious wreck at Wisconsin International Raceway.
It was the same car the team had already planned to take to Myrtle Beach, so Erik hoped for the best and knew if the car wasn't hurt to bad, the team has some work ahead of them.
“We did quite a bit of work and I can't say enough of the crew,” said Darnell, who got the car fixed and got it to Myrtle Beach, where he finished third. “Thursday night we really went at it and didn't get done until about 5:30 Friday morning. We then left to come (to Myrtle Beach) about 11 on Friday afternoon. Without the guys we'd never been able to do it.”
Unfortunately though, it was something the team didn't get to which cost them the win.
“The car was great early,” said Darnell, who had a lead up to five seconds at one point. “I got out front and I wasn't even pushing it. I was just cruising. The car was just smooth. I was getting away from everyone. It felt good. Then, with about 45 or 50 to go, I got a real bad vibration in the car. I think something in the rear end broke. (The rear end) is the only thing we didn't get to check because we were so busy putting the car back together. I think it might have cost us tonight.”
FULTZ THANKS SHEAR
The last couple of time the Southeast Series has visited Myrtle Beach, Jeff Fultz has been the man to beat. In fact, in 2003, Fultz came from three laps down to win the race.
Saturday night, he continued his domination at the track and thanked legendary Short Track crew chief Joe Shear Jr. for the win.
“I used to really struggle here and I have one guy to thank for turning that around and that is Joe Shear,” said Fultz, who didn't have Joe Shear in attendance but had setup help from the crew chief. “Joe Shear really made this place for me. Since the first time he came here with me, I've been getting around this place better and better. He just showed me a lot of things about this place, from how to get around the track to the right setups to make the car get around the track easier.”
SOLID RUN BOOSTS RICHARDSON IN THE POINTS
This is what Erik Darnell's car looked like after its wreck at WIR Tuesday. (51 Photos)
Being 328 points out of the pointsw lead, Robert Richardson knows his championship hopes are all but over. So now, the young Texas rookie is focusing on one things... California.
“Right now, that is what we have to do is to finish in the top 10 or even the top five if we can get there,” said Richardson, who is 127 points out of fifth place. “We want to learn as much as possible and get a bid to go out to California. That is really our goal right now.”
Somewhere inside that cloud of smoke is Jeff Fultz doing a burnout to celebrate his win.
Richardson helped himself and jumped up in the standings to eighth after a solid fifth-place run at “the Beach,” a place he had never seen before. It was Richardson's second top-five finish of the season, the other being a fourth-place run at Kentucky earlier this year.
“This is exactly what we needed,” said Richardson of his fifth-place finish. “A top five is what we needed. Everyone raced me clean and I raced everyone clean. That is what we needed to keep on nipping away at the top-10 in points and hopefully head to Irwindale.
“Going into this race, I was kind of worried because I'd
never been here (to Myrtle Beach) before. I was real eager to see what everyone else's car looked like. I saw lots of people sliding around so I knew that we weren't really far off because our car had been loose as well.
NORRIS COMES CLOSE, GETTING BETTER
Rookie points leader J.R. Norris came up about 10 laps short of collecting his second-career SES victory on Saturday night, instead settling for another podium finish, a second-place effort at Myrtle Beach. Now, with just three races remaining in the Southeast Series season, Norris finds himself trailing points leader Jeff Fultz by just 42 points.
“We are doing pretty good and running well in the rookie deal but I really wants the championship as bad or more than I want the Rookie of the Year,” said the 24-year-old Norris. “We’ve got three more races to try and make it happen. Anything can happen. This is big time motorsports.”
Norris was in the middle of making a charge to the front after running most of the night in third-place at “the Beach” on Saturday night when the laps ran out on Norris. J.R. was able to get back by Erik Darnell at the checkers for second place and, with a few more laps, might have had something for eventual race winner Fultz.
JR Norris is becoming a bigger and bigger threat on the track thanks to a better maturity level behind the wheel.
“We had a good car. It stayed the same and they fell off a bunch at the end. On that last lap, I knew the only chance I was going to have to grab second was going to the outside of Erik (Darnell). I knew Erik as going to hug the bottom so I made a move to the outside and the car stuck pretty good so I was able to get him at the line. If I would have had a few more laps, I think I could have got ‘Fultzy’ too.
“I’m happy that I’m getting points but I’m losing points to him (Fultz) at the same point.
“It's hard to find the line between racing hard for the win and thinking about the points deal. You have to think the whole time ‘Do I need to do this? Do I need to do that? Is that a safe move?’ I had to make a couple of ‘safe moves’ out there tonight. I guess I’m pretty happy all in all.
“I’ve gotten a lot smarter this year. I drive a lot smarter. In Southern All Stars (where J.R. spent the last few years racing), you have to think but you have to run balls out or you’ll get run over. Richie (Wauters, Norris’ car owner) has taught me a lot on how to be there at the end of the races. I’ve learned how to race both smart and hard at the same time.”
WEIRD, STRANGE NIGHT BITES DUSTY WILLIAMS IN THE END
Just like when the Southeast Series visited Myrtle Beach back in July, one of the series regulars was handicapped after losing an engine in practice. Back in July, it happened to Greg Pope. This time, Dusty Williams.
It was just the start of a weird, strange and long night for Williams.
“We broke something in the engine," said Williams. "Not exactly sure what it was but we just had to put a different engine in the car. It pretty much sucked.”
So Williams and his crew worked on changing the engine
Dusty Williams and his crew change the engine in the #40 car prior to the race.
In the time they were changing the engine, they were also unloading their backup car for fellow competitor and rookie Michael Faulk to use after Faulk's engine also gave way during practice.
Robert Richardson's car was sliding all over the place at Myrtle Beach, but so were others.
Faulk and his team slapped a #00 on the side of Williams' backup and changed the setup to get it ready for race conditions.
Then, after all was said and done, as the teams and the drivers were sitting on the front stretch waiting for the local features to finish and the green to drop on the start of the Southeast Series race, a local Street Stock came tumbling down the front straight.
The Street Stock flipped no less than eight times after getting hung up with another car and digging into the front stretch grass. At one point as the car tumbled, it appeared to be 15 feet in the air. Each time the car crashed back to earth, it came down directly on the roof and roll cage.
This all happened right in front of the crowd and all of the drivers sitting on the pit wall along the front stretch.
Michael Faulk sits in Dusty's backup car.
When the car came to rest and with the officials frantically waving the red flag because of the severity of the flips, Williams was one of the first out there to see if the driver was ok.
“He just keep saying 'get me the hell out of here, get me the hell out of here,'” said Williams. “He was ok, he just wanted to get out of that car and I don't blame him.”
The driver of the Street Stock was fine and eventually climbed out of the car on his own and told the crowd the ride was “a lot of fun, but sucked at the same time.” His car was completely totaled.
Couple that with one of the NASCAR officials getting hurt by taking a tumble off pit wall and a near brawl in the pits following another of the local races, it had Dusty thinking.
Williams (left) walks away from Street Stock wreckage on the front stretch after track officials get to the scene.
“There are a lot of weird things going on out here tonight. Makes me a little nervous to go out there and run our race.”
Unfortunately, the Southeast race didn't pan out any better for Williams. He slowly fell back as the laps wound on and eventually brought the car into the pits and retired it with another engine problem after just 25 laps. He finished 17th.
LOW CAR COUNT AT “THE BEACH”
The fact that the NASCAR Officials locked it the starting field based on points following the rainout at Myrtle Beach in July kept anyone who might have had the weekend open from showing up, but that isn't a bad thing when 22 cars where in the starting field back then.
However, when the series returned to make up the race on Saturday night, only 17 or the original 22 cars in the field showed back up.
Michael Britt, Ronnie White, Randy Gentry, Wayne Anderson and Walter Sutcliffe all failed to show up for the makeup date.
The Street Stock was demolished.
Gentry was at Peach State Speedway competing with the USAR ProCup Series while Wayne Anderson was in Lakeland (FL), where the FASCAR Sunbelt Super Late Model series race was eventually rained out. Anderson is leading the points with the Sunbelt Series.
Sutcliffe hails from Connecticut and failed to make the long return trip back.
TIRE BITES HOGAN
Jason Hogan ran into bad luck yet again in his 2004 season on Saturday night when the right rear tire on his #92 Chevrolet shredded and he was forced to come in and pit under green at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
The tire problems resulted in a 16th place finish for Hogan at the half-mile track. Hogan remains fourth in the Championship Series points standings with just three races left.
“I feel like I was racing a Southern All Stars dirt race out there tonight,” joked Hogan after the race. “We had a good car to start with and for the first 40 laps, then the car got really bad loose and we picked up a vibration. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. It was chattering bad.”
The vibration, along with going two laps down to the leaders after running fifth up until the caution period forced Hogan to have to bring the car in under green.
“We had to come in and check everything out. The crew looked at the sway bar and everything. They looked at the right rear tire and it was just shredded. I don’t know if we
Jason Hogan (#92) races with Greg Pope (#63) at Myrtle Beach.
got a bad tire or what, but I know our set up wasn’t off that bad. I’ve never seen a tire come apart like that before.
With just three races to go and Hogan nearly 100 points out of the points lead, Hogan is going into the next few races focused on one thing.
“Now it is just go out and win the races and take what you can get. We’ve got nothing to lose. If I have to beat and bang for the wins, will do it. I’m still trying to fight to stay in the top five. We’ve worked hard on the speedway car and I think it will be a lot better.”
DAVIDSON CHANGES SETUPS, FINISHES SIXTH
Chris Davidson didn’t have a stellar race at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) on Saturday night, but it was a learning experience and a confidence booster for the NASCAR Southeast Series Rookie of the Year contender.
“I’m pretty happy with the progress the team has made this year considering where we were before the season,” said the 26-year-old Davidson. “We’ve been learning what to do and what not to do all year long.”
Davidson finished sixth Saturday a lap off of the pace.
“We decided to save tires but we had no clue it was going to do green so long. Had we had an idea, we would have pushed it a little harder at the beginning. We got lapped and they (the leaders) were faster. We let them go and just tried to be conservative. There at the end we decided to go and made up I don’t know how many spots.
Davidson was fast when the series first visited the track back in July, he was one of the fastest in practice before the rains came and washed the event out until Saturday.
“We came back with something different in the setup department. We almost got back to where we were back then. We learned and we’ll take that to Greenville.
“We learned a lot at Greenville earlier this year. We learned what not to do, what not to run and how not to drive the place we’ll be ok there I think.”