CONCORD, N.C. — Recap and audio by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
George Brunnhoelzl III did everything in his power to claim a record-extending fifth NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship on Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It just wasn’t quite enough.
Brunnhoelzl started from the pole and led every lap of the Southern Slam 150, pulling away handily from race-long rival Ryan Preece on a green-white-checkered finish to score his 25th career NWSMT victory and second at CMS — but despite scoring maximum points, he fell three markers shy of the title, which was claimed by Andy Seuss for the second consecutive season.
The race was on pace for 148 laps to be the first caution-free affair for the series since the 2006 finale at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C. However, a crash on the frontstretch involving David Calabrese and Frank Fleming pushed the event to 160 circuits — 10 laps beyond it’s scheduled distance — and gave the field one shot to challenge Brunnhoelzl.
The wily veteran was unfazed, though, and motored home to a 1.134 second advantage at the checkered flag.
“We just had a great car tonight,” Brunnhoelzl smiled during post-race festivities. “Three wins though here at Charlotte, that’s amazing.”
“It is heartbreaking [to win the race and not the championship], though. We knew we had to come here, lead the most laps, win the race, and we did that. But just knowing that you do all that and still come away without the big trophy, it’s really tough. Had we had one more race I think it definitely could have been different.”
Rains washed out the season’s penultimate race at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, which was scheduled for this past Sunday (Oct. 4) and was a track where Brunnhoelzl had previously won on the NWSMT circuit.
As far as Thursday night’s race, however, it was no contest. Brunnhoelzl slotted in ahead of Preece through the early stages, leading by about a car length as the field diced it up behind him. The only major incident in the first 30 laps was on the 22nd circuit around the quarter mile, when James Civali slowed to a crawl in the Hill Racing Enterprises No. 79 Pontiac with a flat tire, sparks pouring from the rear of the car.
Civali lost seven laps in the pits, but was able to return before the end of the first half of the 150-lap event.
All the while, Brunnhoelzl diced in and out of slower traffic and never gave up an inch — or the lead — to Preece, and at the lap 75 halfway point of the race, it was that lead duo ahead of Danny Bohn and brothers Burt and Jason Myers.
But over the second half, Brunnhoelzl began to pull away and hide from the rest of the hounds. At the two-thirds mark (lap 100) his lead was 0.896 seconds, and by the time the caution flew just before GB3 made it to the white flag, he had nearly a two-second lead over Preece.
The final caution did make the leader nervous, however — he admitted that following the event.
“It put a ton of pressure on us, only having done one start all night,” Brunnhoelzl explained. “When you really don’t know what you have and then you have to go as hard as you can [on that final restart], it makes you a little nervous. We had a great hot rod, though, and that made all the difference.”
Preece, who chased Brunnhoelzl the entire distance,said he just “didn’t have enough” to run down the leader once the race hit the home stretch.
“I tried to jump [the last restart], but I think I made it pretty obvious (laugh),” Preece admitted after the race. “Honestly, we weren’t as strong as we’ve been in the past two years. We were just a tick too tight and a tick loose off, and with that combination on a tight quarter-mile like this it just didn’t give us enough. George had a great car tonight, so hats off to him. I didn’t want to put him or myself in a tough situation because he was trying to lead a lap and lead the most laps for the points down here and we’re a wild card entry, but we definitely could have passed him cleanly if I’d had a little more in the car tonight.”
“I just wish I knew when that first win here [at Charlotte] is going to come. In four starts, that’s the second time we’ve finished second here, and the other two races I feel like we could have won had it not been for mechanical troubles. Someday though, I’m hoping at least.”
The Kensington, Conn. young gun was also one of those surprised by the near-complete green-flag feel to the race, which for him was a prelude to next weekend’s World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park for the northern warriors of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Preece enters that event tied with Doug Coby for the championship lead, in a winner-take-all scenario for the duo.
“I’ll be the first person to say I never expected a 148-lap green flag run to start this race tonight. I hope Thompson isn’t like that. I hope there’s a lot of crashing (laughs). I think it’s going to take some beating and banging to be able to move forward if we don’t start there, but I’m excited about that one leaving here at Charlotte.”
Bohn crossed the line third at the checkered flag, followed by Jason and Burt Myers, who swapped their positions from the halfway point of the event.
Seuss ended up sixth, the final car on the lead lap at the finish after dropping a lap down with 40 to go and then grabbing the lucky dog under the late-race caution, but it was more than enough to sew up his second-career (and second-consecutive) series championship.
The charge came from last in points after the season opener at Caraway Speedway on March 15, after Seuss crashed on lap 14 and finished 19th on that day.
“As the old saying goes, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ I can’t think of a more perfect title for this team than how we earned it this year. After DNF-ing two of the first three races, we said we were just going to go after wins. To come back and get three wins down the stretch, come here with the lead and then not have an ideal day but do what we need to do is special. I’m just so proud of this team for not giving up.”
“To have [another] year like this is amazing for me and for Eddie Harvey and this team. I feel so blessed to be standing here again.”
Seuss becomes the third driver in the history of the Southern Tour to score multiple championships, joining Brunnhoelzl (four) and inaugural champion Junior Miller (two).
“It’s incredible. I thought the first one was big, but this is surreal. I thought all I ever wanted was to win one, and then when you get so close to a second one you just drive towards that. This is a really special night. I’m going to remember it just as much as the first one.”
Jeremy Gerstner, John Smith, Bobby Measmer Jr. and Dalton Baldwin rounded out the top 10.
Seuss will be officially honored for his NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Saturday, Dec. 12 in the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Audio with race winner George Brunnhoelzl III:
Audio with race runner-up Ryan Preece:
Audio with 2015 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modifed Tour champion Andy Seuss:
Audio with champion car owner Eddie Harvey:
RESULTS: NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour; Southern Slam 150; Charlotte Motor Speedway; October 8, 2015
- George Brunnhoelzl III
- Ryan Preece
- Danny Bohn
- Jason Myers
- Burt Myers
- Andy Seuss
- Jeremy Gerstner
- John Smith
- Bobby Measmer Jr.
- Dalton Baldwin
- Frank Fleming
- Kyle Ebersole
- Trey Hutchens
- Gary Putnam
- James Civali
- David Calabrese
- Mike Norman
- Cale Gale
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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