Andy Seuss defended his victory in the late summer NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Caraway Speedway (NC) on Friday night. In victory lane, Seuss exited the car to see many of the same faces that were there one year ago. But things couldn’t have been more different from the one victory to the next as there were some new faces there as well…and one very notable friend missing this time around.
In 2010, Seuss was driving for the storied Southern Modified team of Riggs Racing. In decades of competition, the family team that was run by father David and son Jeff scored countless victories and earned multiple championships out of their modest facility in Martinsville, Virginia. Cars were prepared first in a carport and then finally in a small garage. Engines were assembled in the basement. The racing budget was smaller than small. Yet, drivers like Seuss, Junior Miller, Tim Arre and even the late Dale Earnhardt (on one occasion) all chomped at the bit to drive for the family’s team.
Yet times changed. As 2010 wound down, the team was finishing out its run. Big budget operations changed the landscape of short track racing and David was getting ready to retire. Jeff was looking forward to stepping back just a little bit and pursuing new opportunities in racing as a package deal with Seuss at a new team. Plans were being made for the future and the Riggs team was getting ready to close up shop. Caraway 2010 would be its final victory.
It would also be Jeff Riggs’ final victory. Later that fall, on a day where he spoke to Seuss by telephone to work on plans for the 2011 season, Jeff fell ill at home and passed away unexpectedly. The loss was shocking. It was also inspiring. Seuss and several crew members from the Riggs team pursued other opportunities, but stuck together. After a few stops along the way, they ended up finding a home with the team owned by Eddie and Howard Harvey. After just a few races together, the group won at Caraway in the 2011 version of the late summer event there.
Making the victory even more special was the fact that Seuss was driving the same Riggs Racing creation that he won with in 2010. The Harvey team borrowed the car, which was rebuilt after a late season wreck at Charlotte Motor Speedway last season, for the Caraway event. The Riggs family was also at the track, together there for the first time this season, to cheer Seuss on.
“This win is huge after the adversity that we faced over the last eight months,” said Seuss. “We lost Jeff Riggs and then we didn’t know what car that we were going to drive. I was in a few cars at the beginning of the year and then found a home with Ideal Racing and their #11 car thanks to Eddie and Howard Harvey.
“David was in victory lane, Jeff’s wife Pamela was here tonight and Margaret, who is David’s wife, was here. We’ve all become real close over the past few years. Even away from the track, being at their home with their family is something that I really enjoy.
“We are treating David Riggs’ car as a second car at Ideal Racing. To bring that to victory is awesome. We were fastest in practice - with just limited practice. Then we qualified on the pole. Then we won the race in our first race back with the car. It was clipped after Charlotte. We definitely had some help from above.”
Seuss, his team and the Riggs family felt that assistance all weekend long. Just getting to the racetrack wasn’t going to be easy, so to win this time around was going to require a little bit of help from a high place.
“I spent last night with the Riggs, as well as a few days over the season,” said Seuss. “We all knew that coming here would be hard. I can’t imagine what it was like for the Riggs family. We didn’t know how hard it was going to be until we got here, but then things started to fall into place. I thought then that it could be a fairly tale weekend. It turned out to come true.”
Rain, wrecks, oil on the track and a medical situation in the pit area led to numerous caution periods and even a few red flags during the race. Seuss started on the pole and led early before yielding the top spot to L.W. Miller on lap 14. He retook the lead again at lap 50 and had to wait out the delays before going on to the victory.
“The red flag came out on lap 69 and that was Jeff Riggs’ number for years and years and years,” said Seuss. “So all that I could think about was Jeff messing with us and delaying things a little bit longer. I know that he was upstairs watching us all.”
Riggs, along with the fans in the stands, got to watch a good race too.
Seuss and L.W. Miller have become somewhat fierce rivals on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in the past – with incidents taking place between them at Ace Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway [Click Here to Read About Their 2010 Incident at NHMS] and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
At Caraway, the two drivers traded the lead early on, but there was little trouble between the two drivers though. Slight contact was made early on when Seuss got into the back of Miller, but then back off to led him regain control of the car, but the fireworks stayed grounded in this race. Miller passed Seuss clean for the lead and Seuss retook the lead clean. Still, there seemed to be a little bit of extra pride for Seuss in beating his rival, who he did not mention by name in a post-race interview.
“Clearly, some guys just wanted to lead laps and get points, but didn’t have as good of a car that we had,” said Seuss. “So I just had to not let them get inside my head. I set my own pace and knew that the car would be there at the end…and it was.”
While Jeff Riggs was not at the track for the latest of Seuss’ nine career NASCAR WSMT victories, there was no doubt that he was there in spirit – and knowing that made victory even sweeter for Seuss and his team.
“We would do anything to have him back, but tonight we got to pay our respects finally,” said Seuss.
TIM BROWN OK AFTER SMOKY FINISH
For Tim Brown fans, the race took a scary turn when the #02 car came to pit road filled with smoke.
"We had some sort of fire in the car," explained Brown after the race. "It was fine when I was sitting over there in the car under the red flag, but it was when they pushed the thing off is when it started. I was trying to drive back over here to get some help and by the time I got in here and I was telling them ‘Hey it’s on fire, I’ve gotta get out. By then I was consumed in the smoke and pretty much blacked out because the oxygen was gone. By the time they got me out I couldn’t breathe and got my lungs full of smoke and all.
“The rescue squad and everybody here did a great job. They got me some oxygen and got me cleaned up. I’m not 100-percent. I’m still tight in my chest and nose and throat and all, but I’m fine. I’ll be ok."
Brown ended up 12th. He hopes for better luck heading to Langley.
GB3 KEEPS UP STRONG 2011 SEASON WITH A SECOND-PLACE FINISH
George Brunnhoelzl III was a bit disappointed after he qualified eighth for the Caraway 150 on Friday. It was only the second time this season he started outside top five. GB3 quickly got to the front in the race and eventually settled into second to post his sixth podium finish of the season to improve his average finish to 3.1. Brunnhoelzl was also happy that it was a one-two finish for Ideal Racing.
JASON MYERS GETTING CLOSER EACH WEEK
The final 30 laps of the Caraway 150 featured a hard charging driver out of Walnut Cove, North Carolina. No, where not talking about Burt Myers, but his brother Jason had a solid run going and was the fastest car on the track, but used up his tires catching the leaders.
"We came up about 20 laps short,” said Myers. “Racing hard for fourth and fifth back there, before I got to third, was really what knocked about 20 laps off my tires and I knew it. I could see the 11 (Seuss) and the 09 (Brunnhoelzl) up front and they’re not racing each other, they’re just running one-two and just taking it easy. Then they kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger and I was running them down. I really thought we were going to have a shot at them. Those are both two really good racecars and they’re both really good down here at Caraway, so if you can out run Georgie and Seuss down here at Caraway, you’re doing something."
Myers took some big momentum in a muti-week stretch that will see the Southern Modifieds in action for five consecutive weeks.
"The schedule picks up pretty heavy now," explained Myers. "We raced Bowman Gray really heavy but it’s 20 minutes away from home and you run the same car every week, you’re not changing rear ends and you don’t have near the headache in the travel and everything. But we’ve got our plate full these next few weeks and right now is when we’ve got to step it up. We were fourth in the points coming in tonight and we might have passed LW, I think he had a little problem, I don’t really know. But I know second, third and fourth in the points are really tight and unless Georgie has some bad luck, you know he’s got a real good lead but we’re digging for second. We’re going to try to get the podium."
IN ANY OTHER YEAR
If this was any other year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if John Smith would be the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour point leader with his strong run of solid finishes that include seven top 10 finishes in eight starts. His average finish of 5.6 has him second in points despite not having wins yet this season.
HEMRIC TAKES TOP ROOKIE HONORS
In his second start in the NASCAR Modified ranks of the week, Daniel Hemric captured Rookie of the race honors at Caraway Speedway. Hemric also ran Bristol earlier in the week, but had a rough go of it and did not finish the event.
DEFENDING CHAMP OUT OF LUCK
A sour week that saw a broken rocker arm, a broken rear end and finally an engine failure at Caraway was not at ideal finish for the Burt Myers team. After winning last season's title, the only luck that Myers has found was at Bowman Gray Stadium, where he was the track champion.