If a Hollywood screenwriter happened to be at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 9, he found box office-golden material with Andy Seuss’ ride in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season finale.
Seuss, the lead protagonist in the storyline, experienced everything a Hollywood blockbuster needs to appeal to all audiences – action, romance, tragedy and triumph.
Seuss clinched his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship with a fifth-place finish at Charlotte. The dethroned George Brunnhoelzl, III, the winner of four NWSMT titles in the last five years, but it took holding on during a final green-white-checkered finish to ensure the crown.
“To say it was a dream is the truth,” Seuss said after his championship race. “I really didn’t think it was a goal or attainable, but I’ve got a bunch of crazy people pushing for me behind me that help me when I think it’s not possible.”
One of those people who had pushed Seuss for years was David Riggs. Riggs, who hired Seuss to drive for his NWSMT team in 2008, passed away earlier in the week after a battle with cancer.
Seuss drove for the Riggs Racing team until 2010, when Jeff Riggs, David’s son and team crew chief, passed away unexpectedly. David and many of the Riggs Racing team joined Seuss after the driver teamed with the Eddie Harvey-owned Ideal Racing team in 2011 and remained there through the championship season.
With the emotion of Riggs’ passing just days prior to his championship race at Charlotte, Seuss relied on a valuable tip from his late car owner to help get him into the NWSMT record books as a champion.
“I think he really did help me the last few days, if nothing else but by telling me to, ‘Shut up and drive,'” said Seuss of Riggs. “I couldn’t think about it. It was thrown at me a few times, but for the most part I didn’t really bear the burden. It would’ve been awesome to have him here, but it’s really cool to dedicate it to him as well.”
Seuss’ whirlwind championship season continued on its Hollywood script when he went to a knee to ask his girlfriend Jenn DeMarco to be the future Mrs. Andy Seuss. She said, ‘Yes,’ making Seuss’ championship celebration even more memorable.
“I hadn’t told anybody,” Seuss said of his proposal plans. “Me and my mother had texted about it, we hadn’t even spoken about it. Maybe because of the pressure I put on myself, but I wanted it to be an extra-special day with the championship. I didn’t know what I was going to do had it not been the championship, but it’s extra-special.
“It’s a ring that’s been in the family. I sold a truck recently and my mom and I were texting about what was my future with Jenn. I said I’d probably use that money towards the ring. She thought one step further, which just makes it that much more amazing. Obviously she approves of Jenn if she offered that up.”
Seuss and the Ideal Racing team set the tone for their championship early on in 2014. He led every lap of the NWSMT season opener at Caraway Speedway (NC) and went on to three wins in the first five races. A last-lap crash at Bristol Motor Speedway at the season’s halfway point set off a winless second-half, which put some doubt into his championship hopes.
Just as Brunnhoelzl started to pick up the pace in search of a fifth title, Seuss had a series of uncharacteristic finishes, including a lackluster eighth-place result at the end of September at Southern National (NC).
In the season’s home stretch, Seuss ran consistently with top-five finishes and Brunnhoelzl crashed out of the penultimate race at Caraway in October, allowing Seuss to cruise to the title with a fifth at Charlotte.
“It’s very special to be the only people to dethrone the (Brunnhoelzl) team because they’ve been so strong. I’m sure they walk around thinking they’ve got a target on their back because everybody’s shooting for them.
“We had a great end to last year and in the off-season we gained some more and we knew we had to come out winning. We did. We had a perfect day in the season opener at Caraway, led every lap. Another great day at South Boston early on and that just kind of set the tone. The second half of the season was actually not what we’re used to used to as far as win-wise. We usually come out a little stronger. Maybe it was the point situation or what, but we knew we had to come out of the gate swinging and this team was just up to the task.”
The championship was the third NWSMT for Ideal Racing, but first with Eddie Harvey’s No. 11 team. Ideal won two titles with George Brunnhoelzl, III in a car owned by Howard Harvey, Eddie’s father. The Harveys had run with Brunnhoelzl and Seuss as teammates since Seuss joined the team in 2011, but became a one-car operation with Eddie’s No. 11 only in 2013.
And if Eddie Harvey has his way, there will be sequels to the movie scripts penned in 2014 with Andy Seuss.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve said it 100 times and I’ve put it out there in print, that red 11 car is Andy Seuss’ ride as long as Andy wants that ride,” said Harvey. “If Andy decides to quit one day or have the opportunity to move up, that’s one thing. But until he tells me anything different, I’ve told him that’s his ride for the rest of his life.”
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield
– Featured photo credit: Brenda Meserve/Speed51.com