IT'S FULTZ'S NIGHT AT GREENVILLE ON SATURDAY by Jeremy Troiano
Becomes All-Time Series Win Leader, Pulls Away In Points
When it's your night, it's your night. And Saturday night was Jeff Fultz's night at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.
Fultz's win in the AutoZone 150 resulted in two momentous accomplishments for the past champion. Coupled with JR Norris' mechanical problems and Erik Darnell's third-place run, Fultz was able to pull away to even an bigger points lead in the search for his second-career SES title. He now leads Darnell by 64 points with just two races remaining.
More importantly though, the 22nd win of his career made Jeff Fultz the all-time wins leader in the brief but storied history of the NASCAR Southeast Series (formerly known as the NASCAR All Pro Series).
“I don't know what it means to me just yet,” said Fultz of his record win after the race. “It means the world to me though for sure. No matter what happens, that (SES) championship (in 2002) means the world to me too. And winning here at Greenville last year after so many years of trying really meant a lot.
“Words can't describe it really. In the end, it is all about the team I guess. You can't do this on your own in five years. It is about the guys you have around you. They give me what I want and that makes winning much easier.”
It was Fultz's fifth win in 10 races this season, second-straight and fourth in the last five races. When he won at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) last weekend, he tied Wayne Anderson for the all-time lead in wins. Saturday's victory put him in a class by himself.
“It's really an honor to take the record from Wayne Anderson because Wayne is one of those guys that races for a living and everyone knows Wayne and what kind of racer Wayne is,” added Fultz. “I wish Wayne was still around here racing every week because it would have been fun to get it from him that way. I wish all of those old guys though, guys like Wayne, Billy (Bigley Jr.) and Hal (Goodson), were still here to race with us. That would make this racing that much tougher. It is fun racing with them.
“I don't know though. You never know when Wayne might try to come back and take it back. We'll keep working to get more of them though.”
It wasn't only about the record though. Fultz was able to extend his points lead with the dominating victory, one which saw him lead 123 of the race's 150 laps.
“We focused really hard on the car and the race this week. We wanted to win here and get the record done so we didn't have to worry about it at Kentucky (Speedway) or Nashville (Music City Motorplex).
“The championship is our big picture. The win means a lot, but we want the title. We already got one and have just missed a couple of others, so we are really focusing on that. If we can't win the race, we are going to run in the top three.”
Fultz won six of 10 races in 2003, but failed to win the championship from Charlie Bradberry due to a couple of DNFs.
All eyes (and cameras) were on Fultz as he climbed from his car as the all-time SES career wins leader.
“To win six races out of 10 and not win the championship was fuel to the fire. It is too bad that JR had some problems out there and Erik was behind because they are good racers.
“But things ain't anywhere near over. One bad race and they are all right back in it.”
Fultz was rarely challenged after earning the pole, starting in eighth due to the mandatory series invert and taking the lead on lap 28 from local driver Randy Gentry. Gentry challenged Fultz for a couple of laps off of one early restart, but a long green flag run allowed Fultz to open up nearly a half-track lead on the field.
Another restart, late in the race, allowed the eventual second-place car (and Fultz's teammate) Kevin Prince to have a shot at Fultz, but it was to no avail.
Fultz blew the crowd away with a number of donuts while celebrating win number five of the 2004 season.
Even though Prince was closing on Fultz at the end, Fultz still won the race by over two seconds.
“We had a real good car,” said Prince after his best finish of the season. “I think on the long runs, we were a little bit better than Jeff. But everyone always says you run out of laps. I'm not going to say that. You have 150 to do it and if you can't do it in 150, then you can't do it. We were closing. We just came up short.”
“Kevin has an identical car to us and maybe his was a little better at the end,” said Fultz, whose JCR3Racing team built Prince's car in the off season. “He was running us down there at the end. My car was getting a little loose so I was just taking it a little easier at the end. I just wasn't pushing it which allowed him to catch up some at the end.
A broken upper A-frame on JR Norris' car put him out early and well behind in the points race
Darnell battled back from a very ill-handling race car to finish third and moved to second in the championship point standings. JR Norris, the series' leading rookie and second-place points man for much of the season, suffered a broken suspension part in the right front of his car early which put him a couple of laps down and eventually out of the race in the 20th position. He fell to third in the points, 119 behind Fultz.
Johnny Brazier and Justin Wakefield rounded out the top-five finishers.