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Morris builds on resume, scores big holiday check

South Boston News
Philip Morris (01) battles Nick Smith (12) and Stacy Puryear (17) in the SBS late model race Saturday. / July 03, 2017

Philip Morris has built an incredible resume in NASCAR short track racing. Morris has been at this for more than 20 years, with some major highlights at South Boston Speedway.

He celebrated another landmark win Saturday night in the finale of the late model all-star show.

Morris has four national titles in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, four Virginia championships and nine late model track titles. Victory lane was renamed in his honor in 2012 and now Morris has 61 wins here, including four this season.

“Fireworks in the background sounds good, don’t it?” he said.

“A lot of people talk about me being 51 years old. I feel like I’m in my prime tonight,” said Morris, who was waiting for a distance race this season and the opportunity to show what he had in that scenario. He relished the opportunity to race against hard chargers like Nick Smith.

“Wasn’t giving up an inch tonight. Feel like we had to do it door to door,” said Morris, who battled his way to the point with 42 laps left and eventually held off two very talented racers, Smith and local driver Stacy Puryear.

“I feel like it’s a transition in my career of using some other tools I have to get into Victory lane. The biggest tool tonight was my chassis,” said Morris. He was strong in the first half but then had added side grip and forward bite in the closing laps to get the job done.

Morris has his fourth win this year and has 180 wins everywhere, by his estimation.

“What this means to me is I don’t think I’ve ever won this race (the Indepedence show) and …. It’s pretty special,” said Morris.

Normally, at this point, he’s had to sit with his wife in the stands and watch the fireworks.

“I can’t tell you how special this is,” said Morris.

NO REGRETS: Puryear has had a number of excellent, near-misses in NASCAR late model racing. He dealt with another Saturday night, taking second in the 200 lap all-star race, with Morris claiming a .635-second win.

“I feel like we ran second. I’ve raced with Philip Morris, Nick Smith a long time. They’re good, no doubt about it,” said Puryear. “We had an awesome race car.

“We were catching him (Morris) there at the end.”

He’s still learning the no. 17, built for stepson Caleb Dyer. Puryear recently campaigned here in late model action and again showcased an excellent car here in the 200-lap late model feature. Puryear had a good start to the Triple Crown and said he might have to go to Langley later this month for the second leg.

Puryear just got a little too far behind at the end.

Smith had a shot at this win, but fell off the pace just slightly with the race on the line.

“We just got hard racing, and I think I was better than him (Morris) on the outside. I was either going to have to get loose, or he was going to have to rub me up.

“I was surprised we ran as long as we did side-by-side,” said Smith, referring to a terrific late race wheel-to-wheel duel between himself and the former national champion.

Smith was strong in clean air.

Smith was grateful to get a top three out of this deal. Smith and his team fought hard to nab a podium spot.

Smith believed he could win once he got past the mid-race inversion, working in clean air, but with about 50 to go, Morris had all but reeled him in. Morris led the final 42 circuits.

Smith finished eighth in the first 100-lap segment and got inverted to the pole.

Meanwhile, another former national champion, Peyton Sellers, had an excellent run. Sellers led at halfway, and had a powerful car. But he was inverted back to eighth on the mandatory mid-race stop.

“Hot out there … It was a good night for us and just didn’t work out. We couldn’t get rolling, couldn’t pick the right line. Had the best car out there, I feel like, and it just never played out,” said Sellers.

The racers delivered a very competitive night of short track racing, under very warm conditions. More than 7,000 people showed up and fans had to park almost all the way to the road. The night was capped off by a fireworks display to usher in the Fourth of July holiday.

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