CONCORD, N.C. - Tim Fuller’s racing fortunes have so completely changed for the better, he’s even looking forward to next months World of Outlaws Late Model Series events in the Southeast.
Thats a major shift in attitude for the driver from Watertown, N.Y., who normally views the national tours season-opening burst of action - a swing that this year features a record eight A-Mains over a two-week period at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. (Feb. 8-9), Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. (Feb. 15-17) and Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. (Feb. 21-23) - with the dread of a kid returning to the classroom after summer vacation.
“I actually can’t wait to get down there and start the (2013) season,” said Fuller. ”I’ve never gone down there with the right stuff in my Late Model career - and my results show it. But I can honestly say that this year Ill have everything I need, so for the first time ever I think I have a legitimate shot at going there and doing well.”
The unmistakable excitement in Fuller’s voice is understandable. For starters, he’s beginning his first full campaign driving for the high-profile Kennedy Motorsports team - a ride he calls, “The best racing deal I’ve ever been in.” He’s also already building momentum with some unsanctioned early-season racing in Arizona, winning a Wild West Shootout feature on Jan. 5 at Central Arizona Speedway in Case Grande and a Winter Extreme A-Main on Jan. 12 at Tucson Int’l Raceway. Both victories were worth $3,000.
“We’re off to a good start,” said Fuller, who has four more Winter Extreme starts remaining at Tucson (Wednesday, Friday-Sunday) before making the cross-country trip home. ”Its early, but were headed in the right direction. Last year I won a grand total of one race all year, so I’m happy.”
The Arizona events have provided Fuller, 45, a perfect low-pressure forum to become better acclimated to the Capital Race Cars - machines constructed by his teammate and fellow WoO LMS regular Shane Clanton and former dirt Late Model racer Marshall Green - he had never driven before landing the Kennedy Motorsports seat last July. He made only 18 starts in Kennedy colors last season after parking his own cash-strapped equipment, so a potential eight races in Arizona represents invaluable experience.
“We came out here to try something totally different,” said Fuller, speaking on Monday afternoon while enjoying an off day visiting the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. “We’re using some different shocks and stuff, and so far its worked out good. We’re running good with hard tires on slippery tracks and I’m comfortable in the car, so thats encouraging.”
The excursion to the desert has also allowed Fuller to race in front of his team owner John Kennedy, a native of the Jamestown, N.Y., area who now lives and conducts his business interests in Phoenix, and gain some much-needed confidence. Considering that Fuller’s WoO LMS performance has taken a steady nosedive since his breakout 2009 campaign (seven wins in 11 late-season events and a fourth-place finish in the points standings), he can use as much positive Karma as possible.
“There’s no question the last few years have been frustrating,” said Fuller, who enters the 2013 WoO LMS schedule winless since June 17, 2010, at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Ont., a span of 98 races. “It definitely feels good to win some races again. It takes a lot of the doubt away and shows that you can still do it although to me, the slump has never been an ability thing. I’ve always felt I could still win races, but I havent gotten my program right.”
”From cars to motors to shocks to not worrying about paying for diesel fuel to get to and from the races - you need everything right. When you have all that with your program you can just go race, and fortunately I’m finally there with Kennedy,” Fuller said. “I’ve never been in a situation like this in my Late Model career. I’ve never known what its like to have all the right stuff, so now I dont have the same concerns that I used to have.”
So it is that Fuller will kick off the WoO LMS season with his head clear and morale soaring, giving him high hopes for a solid February. It won’t take much success, of course, for Fuller to call his 13 season-opening trip the best of his career since hes never jumped out of the World of Outlaws starting gate with any semblance of satisfaction.
Since debuting as a WoO LMS regular in 2007, Fuller has entered a total of 15 tour events over six February’s, including 11 during the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia; three at Bubba Raceway Park (all last year); and one at Screven (the 12 Winter Freeze). He owns only a single top-10 finish (eighth in the first of two 09 A-Mains at Volusia) and has used a points provisional to start nine of the 15 features.
Just how much has Fuller struggled at Volusia? He has relied on points provisionals in the last seven WoO LMS events there (Race No. 2 in 09 and both A-Mains in 10, 11 and 12), including emergency provisionals (forfeit last-place money) in the last four races over the past two years.
Everything pretty much stems from going down there and not being able to time-trial good enough because we didnt have the right motors, said Fuller. Qualifying is so critical because youre lined up against a World 100-type field every night. That (UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit) is the toughest week of racing youll ever see, so if youre not out there at full strength youre gonna be left behind.
Fuller has never left Florida in February ranked higher than seventh in the WoO LMS points standings. That was in 2009, when he ended the Volusia doubleheader a modest 36 points behind the leader. His points position following his other five trips south reveal progressively worse deficits: 23 rd place (-46 points) in 07; tied for 16th (-62) in 08; tied for 16th (-64) in 10; tied for 21st (-78) in 11; and 15th trailing by a whopping 226 points after the expanded six-race swing in 12.
“We’ve dug ourselves holes in the points that we could never climb out of,” Fuller said of his traditionally slow WoO LMS starts. “We’re gonna try to change that this year. I think we can.”