SES DRIVERS TAKE TIME TO TEST HICKORY by Jeremy Troiano
Norris Blows Them Away When It Comes To Lap Times
With spring officially upon us, so is the full-fledged racing season. Almost all of the top touring Short Track Series in the country have begun their seasons, or soon will. One of those, the NASCAR Elite Division Southeast Series (formerly All Pro Series), sits in the latter category, and will open their year on April 17th at the Music City Motorplex (the old Nashville Speedway USA) in Nashvile (TN).
But before the official season opens, the series took time to have an open practice session at the historic Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway, which will host the SES on April 24th. The series had a practice session during the afternoon, but also allowed the teams to practice under the lights between features of Hickory's weekly program.
“This place is much different at night as compared to the day,” said 2002 SES Champion Jeff Fultz, one of 10 drivers that showed up to take advantage of the practice. “It gets much slicker, so this was a great opportunity to get some practice in.”
A couple of teams, that of JR Norris and Allen Karnes, left before the evening practice started.
“There is no reason to stick around when the car is this good,” said Norris, who will be competing for Rookie of the Year honors with car owner Richie Wauters in 2004. “We were two- to three-tenths faster than everyone, so we're just going to load her up and go home.”
With no official times being kept, NASCAR relied on the teams to record their best laps times. Norris' time was (unofficially) 15.04 seconds, two-tenths faster than second quick Karnes, who turned a lap of 15.28 seconds.
Karnes left because he was experiencing engine problems.
Other drivers who were at the test included Michael Faulk, Randy Pedley, Michael Britt, Johnny Brazier, Kevin Prince, Justin Wakefield and Dusty Williams.
Faulk, the 2003 Florida Pro Series Rookie of the Year, took over the famed-#00 ride that was piloted by David Reutimann the last several years.
Reutimann was on-hand for the first practice session Saturday to offer his help.
JR Norris, in Richie Wauters' slick #5, was the fastest in practice at Hickory (NC) on Saturday.
“It’s kind of a new deal for Mike and I had the opportunity to come over here and help him out a little bit,” said Reutimann. “Although I’ve never been here before (at Hickory), I just wanted to help get him acclimated to what’s going to happen, so when he gets to the first race of the season, it’s not so new to him and he’ll be a little more comfortable.
“I think he’s got a real good shot at winning the Rookie of the Year and he’s got a shot at winning some races. They’ve got really good cars and a really good team. Obviously, I think the team is capable of winning and Michael has won in all kinds of cars that he’s been.”
The Southeast Series will make their return visit to Hickory on April 24, only the second time the series has held a race at the famous 0.363-mile oval. The last and only previous time came on September 19, 1995 when Ron Barfield Jr. swept the pole and the race. Billy Bigley Jr. finished second, followed by Eddie Goodson, Rick Crawford and Freddie Query in fifth-place.
Kevin Prince's brand new car was built by Jeff Fultz.