Anderson, Darnell, Prince, Norris, Richardson, Faulk, Pope & More

Wayne Anderson returned to the NASCAR Southeast Series at Caraway Speedway.  Was it to help protect and add to his all-time lead in Southeast Series victories (21), which current point leader Jeff Fultz is just one away from?  Or was it because the Florida Short Track master just needed somewhere else to race during his busy years?
Either way, Anderson made an impact in his first series start in a couple of years.

Driving Eddie Mercer's #72, Wayne posted the fastest time in qualifying and finished third.  While he didn't win (and neither did Fultz), it was obvious Anderson had a very good time.

“We've got the tire marks to prove it too, don't we?” said Anderson when asked if he had fun in his return.  “Eddie (Mercer) isn’t getting this car back clean.  He is getting it back with tire marks on both sides.”

Exactly how did Anderson get the ride?
“I was talking to Eddie and he said he had one car sitting in the shop ready to go.  I said 'why don't you let me race it' and he said, ‘come and get it.’  I let it go for a couple months and asked him again, and he said, ‘come and get it.’  We had a middle of the week race and knew we could come here and run decent, and that is what we did.  We came here, set fast time, ran third and passed cars on the outside.  I feel like we drove the wheels off of this thing.

“This is Eddie's car that he hasn't run; I come in here, set fast time and run third.  I don't know what my expectations were, but I am pretty pleased.

“We'd like to run some more, but I've got conflicting dates in Florida, so we will have to see what the owner wants to do.  It was just a great effort by these guys to come up here and get away with a good run.”

We've talked about how busy Erik Darnell has been this year.  But exactly how impressive has the 21-year-old been?  Check out these stats.

In 12 NASCAR Elite Division (Southeast and Midwest Series) starts, Darnell has yet to finish outside the top-10.  He has one win (coming at Caraway), six top-fives and two poles.  Add in three other Super Late Model races, all of which have resulted in finishes in the top-10 including one win (in Wisconsin Challenge Series at Dells Motor Speedway).

“It has been a hectic year,” said Darnell.  “Going from Wisconsin to Carolina to Georgia to Carolina to Minnesota back to Carolina.  It has been hectic but it has been a lot of fun. And it will only get more and more busy as the years go on.  I couldn't have done it without my crew.

“I hope this (the Caraway win) isn't our only win this weekend.  We
Wayne Anderson talks with our Bob Dillner before the start of Wednesday's race. (51 Photos)
are going to go up to the (Wisconsin) Dells this weekend to run a $10,000-to-win, straight-rail late model race.”


Erik Darnell wasn't the only driver looking for career win number one at Caraway.  So was Kevin Prince, who looked like he was well on his way to that win before a miscommunication by his spotter caused Prince to slow down for smoke when NASCAR hadn't thrown a caution on the track.

Prince eventually finished second, but was pretty bummed after the race because of what happened.  Price says he still believes there should have been a caution because of the amount of smoke in the air even if there weren’t any cars stopped on the track.
Eric Darnell is on pace for one of the best years in Short Track racing for any driver out there.
“You see things that happen and the caution comes out, and you think there is really no reason there should have been a caution.  Then there are times when things happen and no caution comes out, and you really think there should be one.  I think that is one of those times. 

“This is like the one that got away.  But we've been close a bunch of times.   We had Bristol (Motor Speedway) won a couple years ago and got wrecked with a few to go.  We are just being tested right now.  It was a good points night for us.  It just seems hard to get this first career series win.  Maybe after this first one the others will come easy.”

Southeast Series Director Les Westerfield gave NASCAR's take on why there was no caution.
Kevin Prince dominated most of the event, but he couldn't come out with the win.
“We evaluate that whole scenario real quick,” said Westerfield.  “The #83 (Pat Brewer) started smoking; smoked for a second; three or four cars went through it with no problems and the smoke was dissipating.  In our judgment, we didn't feel that there was a caution necessary.  So in our judgment, we didn't feel there was a need to throw it.”

After falling back to second, it wasn't over for Prince, though.  On the last lap, Wayne Anderson took a run at second, getting Prince completely sideways coming off of turn two.  Luckily, Anderson backed out and fell back into third and Prince kept the car pointed in the right direction.

“Wayne Anderson is a class guy,” said Prince.  “I've raced Wayne Anderson for years and he's gotten into me and I've gotten into him.   I don't blame Wayne at all.  It was the last lap.  I am doing what I am supposed to do to keep him back there and he is doing what he is suppose to do to try and loosen me up and get by me.  I lost the lead; I wasn't going to lose second.

“Hell, I thought I had him,” said Anderson.  “He slid up there a little bit and we just ran out of racetrack.  Hell, I wasn't going to turn him, though.  I was just looking for a piece of real estate that wasn't there.”

It wasn't as if NASCAR Southeast Series rookie Chris Davidson had enough on his mind as it was.  After a long weekend that included racing on Friday night, his sister's wedding on Saturday, the Fourth of July holiday on Sunday and a long road trip on Tuesday back to North Carolina from his home in Texas, Chris got to Caraway Speedway on Wednesday and, just 20 laps into practice, lost the primary engine in his primary car.

After losing the rest of practice while changing powerplants, Davidson qualified 14th for the Firecracker 150 and just tried to bide his time through the race.
Chris Davidson signs autographs for some of his "biggest" fans.
However, just before the halfway point, the replacement powerplant showed signs that it was failing as well and the Turner Motorsports team gave it up, opting for a 20th-place finish.

“Boy, it went from bad to worse,” said Davidson after the event.  “Definitely not the night we'd hoped for.  We started off breaking a motor and qualified horrible because we only got 20 laps of practice.  Then the engine we stuck in there wasn't quite up to par obviously. 

“We just had hell all night long.  We then just parked it under that red (flag).  It was getting hot and was spitting out all of the water.”

“Those things come and go.  If you can’t work through this kind of stuff, then you don't need to be in racing because this kind of stuff is going to happen on a daily basis.  But this kind of stuff is the lowest of lows and when you win it is the highest of highs.  So we will just go back, regroup and see what we can do at Myrtle Beach.”

J.R. Norris might not have won at Caraway Speedway on Wednesday night, but the Southeast Series Rookie of the Year points leader came away looking like a shining star, running one of his best, cleanest races of the year en route to a fourth-place finish.

“Richie (Wauters, Norris' car owner) and I worked our tails off for two days getting ready for this race,” said Norris, who currently sits second in the SES points standings.  “I owe a lot of it to him.  I had a great race car tonight.  I had a better car than what I finished.  It is so hard to pass at this track. 
JR Norris (#5) put up a great battle with Wayne Anderson (#72) and several others.
“Sure, we could have made it up a couple of more positions, but I am not going to just hit someone and knock them out of the way for third place.  If I am going for a win then, yeah I'll race them hard but I'm not going to do that for third or forth or whatever because you might come back next weekend and they are behind you on the last lap and the table could be reversed.

“I lost some points to Erik (Darnell, the race winner) tonight.  You are going to lose and you are going to win in that situation.   When I got in front of Fultz and Jason (Hogan, fourth in the points), I knew I couldn't do anything stupid.  That is why I didn't try to overdrive the car. 

“Man, I hate points racing, though.  It shows character and patience, but sometimes it feels like it takes racing out of racing.   We are looking at the big picture.  We have a very good, three-way points battle right now.  You have to be smart now.”

CLICK HERE To View The Second Part Of SES Leftovers: Caraway