SES: Championship battle preview
FULTZ EXPECTS TO HAVE HANDS FULL IN DEFENSE OF SOUTHEAST SERIES TITLE WITH RETURN OF ANDERSON, BRADBERRY IN 2005 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 24, 2005) -- Defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz heads ...
FULTZ EXPECTS TO HAVE HANDS FULL IN DEFENSE OF SOUTHEAST SERIES TITLE WITH RETURN OF ANDERSON, BRADBERRY IN 2005
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 24, 2005) -- Defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz heads into the 2005 season in a prime position to make it two titles in a row. Yet the two-time Southeast Series champion from Cincinnati, Ohio knows that the competition level this year will be at an all-time high with the return of former champions Wayne Anderson and Charlie Bradberry.
The trio of Fultz, Anderson and Bradberry account for five of the last six Southeast Series championships and a total of 44 victories. While those three drivers head into this year's Southeast Series tour looking as favorites on paper, that's not even taking into account the return of last year's stars who gave Fultz all he could handle.
"Having Wayne Anderson and Charlie Bradberry back in the Southeast Series is very cool and it's going to make things a lot more competitive," said Fultz. "I'd rather it be harder to win a race in this series and be able to race great drivers like Charlie and Wayne. I'm very glad that both of those guys are coming back to the Southeast Series. The better the competition, the better a racer it makes you. If you race against the best in the series it makes you better as a driver. That's the way I've always looked at it. It's going to be tough."
Anderson returns to the series with a goal of re-claiming his Southeast Series all-time win record from Fultz, who took the all-time record from him last year at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway with his 22nd career victory.
"I would absolutely love to regain the most victories record in the Southeast Series. I guess you could say I'm on a mission," Anderson says with a laugh. "The Southeast Series has changed a little bit since the last time I ran full-time. I'd like to run the entire schedule and I hope it works out to where we can be at all the Southeast Series races. I've just got to see how my different schedules are going to end up working out for me and the teams I drive for.
"As long as there are no conflicting dates with some of the other divisions I race in, yeah, I will be back in the Southeast Series on a full-time basis. That's what the plan is right now. I have missed the Southeast Series a great deal. I love this series. I know we're going to the first race and if we run well then we'll go on to the second one. It's hard to say because I have so many different racing commitments down here in Florida. I'm just looking to see how things work out."
If things work out like Anderson would prefer, he will add a third title to his racing resume as well as regain his position as the most victorious Southeast Series driver that he lost to Fultz last fall. Anderson remembers hearing the news that he had been knocked -- at least temporarily -- from the top spot when Fultz surpassed his slot in the Southeast Series record books with his 22nd victory.
"Records are made to be broken," Anderson says rather matter-of-factly. "We had a good car last year at Myrtle Beach, but unfortunately the race got rained out and I couldn't make it back. That team and Jeff Fultz are very deserving of all the success and records they've accomplished. I know how much work I put into winning 21 races so I probably appreciate what they've done a little more than a lot of people should. Those guys were around when I was racing so I know how tough it is to race against Jeff and his team. Those guys deserve it. I can't complain at all about what I've accomplished in the Southeast Series because it means a lot to me."
Fultz won last year's Southeast Series crown, his second in three years after coming up a mere 27 points behind Bradberry in 2003, as a man who knows all too well about coming up shy when the final points are tallied. Fultz, who works for the MB2 Motorsports NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team which fields the No. 01 US Army Chevrolet for Joe Nemechek, has finished second in the final Southeast Series point standings on three different occasions by a combined 45 points. One of Fultz's runner-up efforts was by only two points behind the legendary Hal Goodson in 1997.
Fultz says that while the addition of Anderson and Bradberry to the Southeast Series is a major addition to the sport, it's also important to keep a keen focus on some of last year's young talent that is only getting better with age and experience.
While Erik Darnell will not be in the Southeast Series on a full-time basis as he plans to race in as many different divisions as I can, including the superspeedways in the Southeast Series,"
J.R. Norris, Kevin Prince, Jason Hogan, Robert Richardson II and Chris Davidson are all looking to step things up another notch. Other Southeast Series regulars expected to be in contention this year include Justin Wakefield, Greg Pope, Allen Karnes, Dusty Williams, Randy Pedley, Wayne Bowen and many others.
"You've got to worry about everybody in this series because the competition is so close," Fultz says. "I can't just be worried about Wayne and Charlie, or even the big names that show up on occasion because those guys racing around the Top-10 are going to see that and try to take advantage. We just have to race the races like we've always approached them by trying to win and let the points take care of themselves. The one thing we can't do as a team is beat ourselves. We lost the championship in 2003 because we beat ourselves, but we didn't do that last year and ended up on top."
Bradberry, after taking a hiatus from the Southeast Series to try his hand in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, has high hopes for the 2005 season.
"We're definitely thinking about running for the championship again," said Bradberry. "We're going to start out with the plan of running all the (Southeast Series) races and hopefully take it from there. We're probably going to end up running for the championship this year in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series."
A major part of Bradberry's racing career took place in the Southeast Series and he relishes in the fact that he will be a part of the tour for many years to come.
"I always knew that if another deal could be worked out for me to race in the Southeast Series again, that was something I was going to do," said Bradberry. "Jeff Fultz and I have a lot of fun of the track. Then again, when me and Jeff are on the track together we don't cut each other a bit of slack. Not only that because all the teams in the Southeast Series are truly family. I know because my dad is my owner and my brother (Gary Bradberry) ran in the Southeast Series in the early 90s. It truly is a family series and what I enjoy about it. I have fun, but it's a very competitive series."
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