While Andy Seuss stumbled on the track and lost valuable championship points in Saturday’s Zooland 150 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Caraway Speedway, George Brunnhoelzl, III’s only stumble came in victory lane.
Brunnhoelzl made an errant step as he tried to exit his winning No. 28 Modified in victory lane and nearly took a tumble, but that was the only hiccup on a night that the four-time NWSMT champion picked up his second win of 2014.
Brunnhoelzl made good use of a short-pit strategy by coming in for his new right-rear tire on lap 62 along with pole sitter and early leader Brian Loftin. Burt Myers inherited the lead after the pit stops, but seemingly lost it when Seuss got the better of him on a lap 70 restart, but Seuss was promptly black flagged for jumping the start and was penalized with a pass-through penalty for a second time when he did not properly use the pit road exit access road. Both times, Seuss was saved by a caution flag and was able to serve his penalties under caution without losing a lap.
Meanwhile, Brunnhoelzl was working his way forward after the pit stop and took the lead from Myers on lap 85. Myers, who never pitted for his new right-rear tire, was not able to mount a challenge in the final laps as Brunnhoelzl picked up his 22nd career NWSMT victory.
The only thing slowing down Brunnhoelzl was his misstep in victory lane.
“That was harder than the race,” joked Brunnhoelzl in victory lane.
The race, though, was smooth sailing for the four-time series champ.
“It actually played out the way we were hoping,” added Brunnhoelzl, who started second. “The outside groove just wasn’t there tonight and I got shuffled back. So at that point I just dealt with what I had and did the best I could and try to short pit.
“We weren’t quite perfect in the beginning of the race. That was our chance to make the car better. Once I got the lead, I just tried to save tires as much as I could. At the end there, I used everything I had.”
While things went well for Brunnhoelzl, it was a night of frustration for Seuss. Seuss entered the race with an 18-point advantage on Brunnhoelzl and despite the two black flags, he was still able to manage a fifth-place finish. Still, Brunnhoelzl’s win and having the most laps led on the night cut Seuss’ point lead to just nine with two races left to settle the championship battle.
“There’s been all kinds of games on these restarts and I lost the last race here to Burt Myers for something way more blatant than that,” said Seuss. “I sat in the NASCAR trailer, they told me they owe me one, all that stuff. They penalized me at Langley and there’s video of the next restart that’s 10 times worse, but they award that guy (Burt Myers) the win. I’m the only one to get penalized on it this year.”
Seuss was penalized with a pass-through penalty for jumping the start, but a caution flag flew quickly and he was allowed to serve the penalty under caution. After serving the penalty, he went to the rear and later changed a tire under the same period. He pitted on the one-lap-to-green circuit and barely beat the leaders to turn one by skipping the access road. That gave him another pass-through penalty, which he served when the caution flew again.
“For some reason between this time and the last, the penalty has escalated from give it back to having a pass through. Did Burt Myers make me look bad? Yeah, because he went then he stopped. He made me looked back and it looked like I jumped. But what I’m upset about is the inconsistency in the officiating. I gave it back as soon as I saw my number posted.
“Clearly I don’t know if there’s favoritism or what going on, but we’re not the ones with the favoritism.”
Late cautions allowed Seuss to get back into the ballpark for a strong finish, but made Brunnhoelzl earn the victory. Even though Myers, in second, had older tires, Brunnhoelzl still had to maintain the lead through the cautions and one final green-white-checkered restart.
“A leader never wants to see all those cautions,” said Brunnhoelzl. “On a green-white-checkered, anything can happen, but it worked out for us. The guys gave me a great car and dad put a great setup under it.”
Myers finished second, an impressive feat considering the other cars around him all put on a new right-rear tire at one point or another through the course of the race.
“We stayed out and said we need to way until (lap) 100. Because coming in at 85, they didn’t have enough laps on their tires to for me to take advantage of coming through the field with a fresh tire.
“When we got that last caution, I said, ‘Boys we’re all in now. I’m just going to hang it all out.’ We had a second-place car and that was without putting the right-rear on. That’s a milestone for us. It says a lot about this new car and about what this team has done the last four, five, six races.”
JR Bertuccio finished third behind Brunnhoelzl and Myers. Danny Bohn and Seuss rounded out the top five.
Two races remain in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season. Next Saturday, October 4, the Tour returns to Caraway. Then on Thursday, October 9, the champion will be crowned at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield. Photo credits: Brenda Meserve/Speed51.com