- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Lee Pulliam has raced well enough at times this season to win at South Boston Speedway only to have Lady Luck turn her back on him.
Saturday night, Pulliam was not to be denied. Pulliam held off three-time and defending NASCAR national champion and former South Boston Speedway track champion Philip Morris on the final lap to win the first of the night’s pair of 75-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car Division races, the headline races of the night’s CenturyLink Night Twin 75s racing program.
In the nightcap, track points leader Justin Johnson of Roxboro, N.C. rallied to overcome Morris and Woody Howard and pull off the win. Johnson edged Morris by 2.733-second to score his seventh win of the season.
Pulliam’s win was the more dramatic of the pair. He fended off Morris in an eight-lap sprint to the finish that followed the last of the race’s two caution periods.
Morris appeared to have the opening he needed when Pulliam spun his tires on the last restart. The reigning national champion glued himself to Pulliam’s rear bumper until he dove to the inside with two laps to go to make a bid for the lead.
The pair were in a dead heat when the final lap began, but Pulliam found some momentum on the outside coming off of turn four for the final time and edged Morris by less than a car length to score his first win of the season.
“Growing up as a kid and watching Philip Morris race…..it’s like a dream come true beating the best guy in the nation,” Pulliam said with a huge grin.
“He didn’t cut me any slack. He doesn’t cut anybody any slack and that’s the way he’s supposed to race. I was driving the wheels off it every lap. I didn’t know if I was going to win the race or not.”
Morris said Pulliam’s spinning his tires on the final restart hurt both his and Pulliam’s momentum.
“It got me and him all messed up,” Morris said.
“I had a shot at it, but he had to make a little bit more of a mistake. He didn’t do it. He deserved to win.”
South Boston resident Stacy Puryear started sixth and raced his way to a third-place finish in the 28-car field, one of the largest and strongest fields of Late Model Stock Cars to assemble at South Boston Speedway this season.
Puryear said he got into Morris a little bit on the last restart.
“It might have messed him up,” Puryear said.
“I don’t know. He had a good run on Lee. My car was good on restarts. I had a good run. I passed as many cars tonight as I’ve passed all year.”
Howard finished fourth and Johnson raced from his eighth starting spot to finish fifth.
Johnson made it seven wins in his 11 starts at South Boston Speedway this season with his win in the second 75-lap race. In doing so, Johnson kept a live a streak in which he has managed to win the second race in each of South Boston Speedway’s twin race events this season.
“It was a pretty good night for us,” Johnson remarked.
“We were just “off” the first race. We had some brake problems and I never really recovered from a deep starting position.”
Johnson recovered well in the nightcap, taking control of the race for the final 20 circuits after wrestling the lead away from Howard, who bolted into the lead on the opening lap from the outside pole.
Much of the race was a tight three-car battle between Howard, Morris and Johnson. Howard rode the high side of the track while Morris and Johnson kept pace at the bottom. Shortly after Johnson took the lead, Howard faded with a cut tire and finished 14th.
Morris tried to make a race of it, but Johnson quickly pulled away and won handily.
“I think Woody was holding up Philip and I,” Johnson said.
“Both of them were holding me up. When I got past them, I was able to pull out to a two and a half second lead pretty quickly. I just sat back and rode from there.”
Morris said his battle with Howard was the key to the race.
“I got into Woody a few times and pretty much had to stop to let him get back in front of me so we could try it again,” Morris pointed out.
“He’s such a great competitor. I didn’t want to pass him like that. That could have been the race decision. I thought we were fast enough because we were getting away from the 44 (Johnson) as long as Woody was getting around the track pretty good. I could see I was catching him (Howard). I was trying to delay the process a little bit because I was hoping to get a bigger lead off of the 44 before I tried to pass Woody. Woody drove the wheels off of it on the high side. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Howard said he had something going on the outside line.
“If I had had a few cautions to go along, I think I could have held them off,” Howard said.
“We ended up running over something. We found the right rear (tire) was leaking down to almost no air when we came in. That’s why I dropped back real bad at the end.”
Puryear started third and finished third with Michael Hardin of Pomfret, Md. and Latour rounding out the top five finishers.
Pulliam had a disheartening misfortune in the nightcap when he and Oakley got together and spun on the backstretch on lap 37. The pair were battling for fourth place at the time of the mishap. Pulliam finished 17th.
“Anybody that’s got any talent could have let off and let me save my car,” Pulliam remarked.
“I was lapping a car. That was real frustrating. I just wish we could have come out with a top five in the second race. That was my goal coming in here with this new car. It’s awesome getting a win in it, and disheartening tearing it up."