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Pulliam hot at SBS

South Boston News
Lee Pulliam (5) and Philip Morris (3) battle for track position early in the feature 200-lap late model race at SBS Thursday. (James Price photo) / July 07, 2014
Lee Pulliam certainly knows how to celebrate the Fourth of July at South Boston Speedway.

Pulliam repelled challenges from Kaz Grala and Peyton Sellers andwon NASCAR feature late model race Thursday night at SBS.

It was Pulliam’s fourth consecutive.

Pulliam had to overcome a green-white-checkered finish that ultimately pushed the feature race into overtime. Pulliam officially finished 206 laps by a 0.344-second margin over Grala, who barely held off Sellers.

Josh Oakley finished fourth and NASCAR Truck Series regular Timothy Peters rounded out the top five. Pulliam averaged 49.125 mph en route to the win.

The reigning two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American series national champion seemed to have a comfortable win in his grasp, but a final caution brought out by a mini-spin from Chris Johnson just before the white flag flew bunched the field and forced a final GWC.

Pulliam got sufficient horsepower and held off Grala ands Sellers in the final two-lap dash for the $5,000 payday.

“It’s going to help out, that’s for sure,” said Pulliam.

“Every race team out here is (spending considerable bucks on late model competition.) This is a very expensive sport. I’m just thankful to have good sponsors and be able to compete. Everybody down here on pit road is sending quite a bit of money and to be able to win a little bit back never hurts,”he said.

Pulliam panned the final GWC.

“A spin is when a car stops on the race track and he (Johnson) never stopped. I think the caution was just to try to make it exciting. Just got lucky we didn’t tear up a lot of race cars right there and were able to hold on,” said Pulliam.

“Yes, it was hard, clean racing at the end. But it could have been different. You just never know for $5,000 and the biggest race of the year here now,” said Pulliam.

“Anything can happen. We got wrecked racing for the lead at Motor Mile last week. Those late-race cautions are always dangerous and it’s not a driver on pit road that likes to see them,” said Pulliam.

Four-time national champion Philip Morris had the strongest car before a mid-race break and an inversion to shuffle the field.

Morris held off a brief challenge from Sellers and dominated the first half. Morris won the restarts in the first half. He also held off Sellers after a Greg Edwards spin on lap 81, blasting to the lead until the mid-race break.

The drivers took time to make adjustments to the cars, with five cars inverted for the second half dash for cash. Austin Thaxton led after the inversion and the restart on 103, but neither he or Morris were serious threats to win at the end.

Thaxton had a good run and finished tenth. Morris never regained the momentum from the first half of the race and finished seventh.

Pulliam quickly charged to near-complete control of the race after the inversion, with a strong lead at 116. Sellers made it interesting later by leading briefly, but Pulliam regained the point with a backstretch charge at lap 142. He never relinquished the lead again.

Tyler Ankrum spun in turn 4 on lap 163, but Pulliam used an effective low line and won the restart.

By lap 195, it appeared Pulliam was home free.

But Johnson briefly got loose. He lost control briefly, and created a puff of smoke, enough for the flagman to reach for the yellow just as the field was preparing for the white flag lap.

Johnson never lost complete control of the car.

But the officials threw the yellow, setting up the final dash.

McCaskill took sixth, Morris grabbed seventh, Bruce Anderson finished eighth, former SBS track champion Matt Bowling was ninth and Thaxton tenth.

Dennis Holdren finished 11th, with C.E. Falk, Myatt Snider, C. Johnson, and Mike Maresca rounding out the top 15.

17 cars finished on the lead lap.

Pulliam estimated he carried a car restored to “at least 90 percent” after this car had gotten torn up at Motor Mile the previous Friday.

“I don’t think you’re ever 100 percent, but we were at least 90. That’s pretty spectacular considering how bad this car was torn up. I was worried about it,” he said.

Pulliam said the win in a full-car count (there were 28 entries taking laps) was “huge” in the national title hunt.

“It’s a big night all around for us. It gets back on the right step. We’d been quite a few weeks without a win,” said Pulliam.

Pulliam has a part-time K&N Pro East gig, and he’s also been busy getting other race cars ready in his burgeoning shop business.

Tthe national champion is certainly not out of the hunt for a third consecutive national crown in late model.

Pulliam was third in the national points last week, and now has a 12th win this season to savor.

Former NASCAR late model national champion Peyton Sellers remains the clear favorite to win the South Boston Speedway track title this season.

SELLERS REPORT - Sellers owned a 396-325 edge in the late model points before his third place finish at SBS.

Grala, a newcomer, took second.

Pulliam is no threat in the track title race, and Sellers only needs reasonable second half consistency to nail down the SBS title.

“Everybody ran clean, the fans got their money’s worth, and I came up on the short end of the stick,” Sellers said.

“I didn’t have the drive-off that I needed. That’s just the way it is.”

Sellers said it is still too early to discuss the SBS title chase.

“We’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to be smooth,” said Sellers. “We’re fourth in the nation right now, we keep racking away good runs.

“We’ve got to have a little more wins right now,” said Sellers.

Sellers led briefly in the first half, and kept his nose clean all night.

“I picked the inside (lane) a time or two, and probably should have picked the outside, just tried to be patient,” said Sellers, who kept the no. 99 car relatively clean.

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