Brunnhoelzl continues to raise the bar
October 17, 2013, RJ Kraft, NASCAR.com
Four-time champ in a class by himself on Whelen Southern Modified Tour
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CONCORD, N.C. -- Dynasties are rare these days, but George Brunnhoelzl III is working on just that on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
On Oct. 10, Brunnhoelzl secured his fourth title in five years simply by taking the green flag at the start of the UNOH Southern Slam 150 on the quarter-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Southern circuit's season finale. The 30-year-old, who will turn 31 on Oct. 28, finished third in the race.
The titles aren't the only things that tell the story of his dominance on the Southern Modified Tour, though.
Consider this: Over the past three seasons, Brunnhoelzl has had the points lead for all but one race. During that same stretch of 37 starts, he has won 14 races. He is the all-time wins leader on the tour with 20 victories in 79 career starts. His four titles (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013) are a tour record and he is the only driver in modified racing history to win three consecutive championships. The latter was a fact Brunnhoelzl was surprised to learn when it was brought to his attention at a post-race press conference.
"I would love to climb the ladder and go higher, but in the same respect, I am very thankful and happy to do what I do now."
-- George Brunnhoelzl III
"That’s pretty amazing," he said. "I didn't realize that 'til just now. That's definitely pretty cool to hear that. There's a lot of great modified racers throughout the years and to be able to be there with three consecutive championships and to be there in the same conversation as some of those people is pretty cool."
In short, Brunnhoelzl is the Southern Modified Tour’s version of Jimmie Johnson. And his follow drivers are well aware of just how tough he is to race.
"George is really hard to beat. He's one of the fastest every week," said Kyle Ebersole, who finished second in points for the season and second in the UNOH Southern Slam 150. "I wish we could have applied a little more pressure to him."
The lone title Brunnhoelzl did not win in the past five years was in 2010, when Burt Myers won the championship. Brunnhoelzl competed in only three races on the circuit that year.
Myers, who won the Charlotte finale, conceded that to win the title you have to beat Brunnhoelzl.
"The 28’s been really laying it down on the tour," Myers said. "I hope to beat them all but to beat the 28 or to win a championship, you are going to have to beat the 28 to do it."
Yet, despite the end result of the title, this season wasn’t as easy as it may have appeared for Brunnhoelzl.
"We struggled a bit at the start of the year, just the first couple races," Brunnhoelzl said. "We went back to our own family team (Brunnhoelzl Racing) from where we were the past two years at Ideal Racing and hadn't really been using our equipment, so the first couple races we kind of had a little struggle to just re-learn our own equipment."
The team also had to build a new race car after his winning car at Caraway Speedway in April was destroyed from a late-race tangle with Tim Brown following the checkered flag. The car was rebuilt during the nearly three-month break between races and at the following race, which was also at Caraway, Brunnhoelzl won again.
With the numerous challenges and obstacles, the fact that this title was with his family team made it all the more satisfying for Brunnhoelzl.
The family team, Brunnhoelzl Racing, is owned by his father, George Jr., who also serves as the crew chief. Racing is in the Brunnhoelzl’s family DNA. Brunnhoelzl III is a third-generation driver. His father ran 105 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and won twice. The family runs Brunnhoelzl Racing Inc., which is a racing performance business that primarily makes and develops equipment for pit stops in Mooresville, N.C.
In fact, it was his family’s racing history up north (he is from North Babylon, N.Y.) that led to Brunnhoelzl to race primarily on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2010, right after he won his first championship on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2009.
"One of my dreams was always to run the Northern tour," Brunnhoelzl said. "My dad, my grandfather, all my family had run at those tracks, so we really wanted to do it. And then we did it and had limited success but for our first time there, did fairly well."
But logistical concerns (he had relocated to North Carolina in 2000) and the desire to start a family led Brunnhoelzl to go back to the Southern circuit.
So, Brunnhoelzl returned and dominated. With his success on the Southern Modified Tour, could a move up be in Brunnhoelzl’s future?
"I would love to climb the ladder and go higher, but in the same respect, I am very thankful and happy to do what I do now," he said.
For now, Brunnhoelzl is focused on staying atop a circuit that is getting tougher and tougher.
"Each year, the competition has gotten stiffer and stiffer and we have had to improve our performance and step up our game to stay on top. We are looking to develop some new ideas over the offseason and hopefully, step it up another notch for next year."