NASCAR AutoZone Midwest racer Brian Hoppe swung south to test the competitive waters of th
There's something about the historic racetrack at the fairgrounds in Nashville that suits Brian Hoppe. The Madison, Wisconsin, racer won a big event at the track last year, so he had to be salivating at the opportunity to run there again. He got his wish when the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series schedule was unveiled. The newly named Music City Motorplex would be the scene for the season opener.
The track has been the scene of epic battles for stock car racing throughout the ages. Now sanctioned by NASCAR and under the watchful eyes of Joe Mattioli and Jack Deery, the track was a suitable place for a new beginning.
The covered grandstands of the Music City Motorplex would fill with fans as race time appr
North Carolina racer Greg Pope snared the pole after an inversion of eight and held the lead for 56 laps in the 150-lap chase. Hoppe made some moves early, but settled in to let racing take on its tenure for the day. "I was working on the No. 7 car really hard and wanted to get by him, then I just decided to save my tires and let everybody's stuff wear out," Hoppe said in his post-race interview. "For the last 100 laps, we were able to set our own pace and put the Gildan Activewear car in Victory Lane. That's what we wanted to do."
Pope's day would end with a blown engine on Lap 100. The intense smoke would cause consternation for some of the top series competitors who ended up driving through a fog in close quarters.
"It's cool to win in another series," relates Hoppe. "That's something I wanted to do for a while. To have an opportunity to come down here for this race with a car this good, I'll take it."
Three-time series Champion Jody Ridley is now working as crewchief for Justin Wakefield. The Georgia team struggled through the series opener.
Fast qualifier J.R. Norris collects his thoughts about the race and his eighth-starting position after the inversion while his girlfriend Kimberly rubs his head.
Series stalwart Kevin Prince shows his disgust after an early race accident ends his day. Prince had qualified Third, but that was little consolation after the eight-car melee put him on the hook.
Early race leader Greg Pope (63) sees his hopes go up in smoke late in the race. The billowing smoke from Pope's car made driving a bit treacherous for Johnny Brazier (74), Robert Richardson Jr. (33), and Cecil Chunn (48).