FULTZ WINS AS DARNELL SPINS by Jeremy Troiano
SES Points Lead Grows... Darnell Pissed
On paper, it looked as if Jeff Fultz walked away with Friday night's NASCAR Southeast Series race at Lanier National Speedway (a race that was postponed one day due to heavy rains in Georgia). But Fultz will tell you it was anything but easy.
The NASCAR Southeast Series points leader extended his points led by winning the Firecracker 150 and led all 150 laps of the event by working through lapped traffic, fending off Erik Darnell and fighting a “green” race track. It was much much tougher than the box score would appear.
“That was probably one of the toughest races we've had in a couple years,” said Fultz. “With the rain out on Thursday night and all of the rubber washed off of the track, there was no grip. The front and rear grip was horrible.
“We pretty much got through everything clean except for dealing with the #92 (Jason Hogan). He gave a bunch of people a bunch of fits out there. He was a bunch of laps down. There is no reason he needed to do that because he now has one against him. “
The hometown hero Hogan, who came into the night second in the points just four behind Fultz, was the talk of the track after the race.
Just seven laps into the event, Hogan, who was running fourth at the time, broke a panhard bar coming off of a restart. Thatbroke the drive
shaft and Hogan's car came to rest on the frontstretch. After a couple of questionable laps under green with Hogan's #92 still siting on the front stretch “deadstick,” NASCAR threw the yellow and Hogan and his ride were towed back to the pits.
The team got the car repaired and he returned to the track about 40 laps off of the pace. However, Hogan showed he had one of the fastest cars on the track and even passed Fultz a couple of times on the track.
But with just 30 laps remaining, Hogan, working to get another lap back, got around Fultz, who then preceded to get back by Hogan just a couple of laps later. With NASCAR officials adamantly throwing the move over flag, Hogan let Fultz get under him, but not the second-place and closing car of pole sitter Erik Darnell.
Hogan and Darnell got together causing Darnell to spin and effectively ruining his chances at the race win. Hogan, in turn, was shown the black flag by NASCAR.
“I don't know what happened,” said a visibly upset Darnell after the race, who ended up seventh. “Jason was a bunch of laps down and he was coming back through (the field) trying to race with the leaders. I know he was trying to get some of his laps back, but why? Fultz got back underneath him so I figured he'd know there was another car coming underneath him. I guess not. He just chopped down on me in the corner and spun me out.”
Darnell, the Wisconsin native who has been running both the Midwest and Southeast Series races this year, was mystified at Hogan's actions.
Jeff Fultz's victory may have looked easy.. but it was anything but. (51 Photos)
“I just kept thinking 'what the hell are you doing?' I was right on Fultz's bumper. He is claiming someone bled over his spotter. He knew I was right there behind (Fultz) though. He just came right down on me. I have his tire marks on my car right by my right side tires, so if I was that far under him, he should have been able to see me, regardless if he had a spotter or not.
“It just gets you pissed off. We had a good car. The car wasn't real good at the end, but I think we had enough to sneak under Fultz there. I just never got the chance to do it.”
“I never touched anybody passing them out there tonight,” said Hogan. “I got into Erik Darnell once, but there was a break in the radio. It was my fault. I hit him there was nothing I could do about that.”
Darnell was pissed after getting knocked out of the way by a lapped car late in the race.
Hogan was apologetic toward Darnell, but had plenty of words for the two black flags and other things that NASCAR did on Friday.
“I don't know. I guess they are just trying to give this (championship) to Fultz,” said Hogan. “Yeah I broke. But there is no reason to give me crap out there. If you are faster than someone and can pass them clean, then do it. I never touched Fultz when I was passing him. So there is no reason to do what they did by giving me those black flags. They can do everything in their power to help him win the points, but from now on, he is going to have to earn it.”
With Darnell out of the picture, all Fultz had to do was hold off second-place runner Donald Long and third-place Justin Wakefield.
The final restart proved no problem for Fultz, who picked up his third win in seven series events this season.
Jason Hogan watches as his crew makes repairs to the car.
“I'd wanted to win at Lanier because I've been coming here for a long time and I haven't won one yet,” said Fultz. “I didn't care if two cars finished. I just wanted to win this race. So to pick up my first victory at Lanier means a great deal to me,” Fultz said.
“We were fortunate to be able to start on the front row and grab the lead on the first lap. I had such a good car that all I needed to do was hit my marks and stay out of trouble. There were a couple of cars that had a shot at me, but we ended up with the most dominant car.”
Long finished second with Wakefield third. Leading rookie JR Norris finished fourth and Greg pope came home fifth.
Now, with a commanding lead in the points, Fultz will head to Caraway Speedway on July 7th, a place he won his first career SES race several years ago.
Fultz led Steven Howard (#19), JR Norris (#5) and everyone else at Lanier.
Will it be a run away or will it appear that way on paper? Or will Darnell, Hogan or even Norris take matters into their own hands? Only time will tell. But it should be good.