Peyton Sellers wasn’t in much of a celebratory mood Saturday night after having won his fifth career South Boston Speedway NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division championship and tying the late NASCAR Modified and Late Model Sportsman legend Ray Hendrick of Richmond for the second-most South Boston Speedway NASCAR feature-division championships.
Minutes before the championship presentations were made, the Danville resident had seen his bid for the 2019 NASCAR Whelen All American Series national and Virginia championships apparently go out the window after track officials penalized him for causing race leader Lee Pulliam of Alton to spin as they raced into the third turn while battling for the lead and the win on the final lap of the second of the twin 75-lap races of the GCR Presents LS Tractor USA Twin 75s.
Pulliam, seeking a sixth straight South Boston Speedway victory after having edged Sellers in the opening 75-lapper, and Sellers waged an intense battle over the last 30 laps of the race that kept fans on the edge of their seats.
As they raced into the third turn on the last lap, Sellers’ car made contact with the rear of Pulliam’s car, and Pulliam spun between turns three and four. Sellers appeared to win the race, but he was penalized by track officials for causing the incident.
He was awarded 10th place, the last position among the cars that finished on the lead lap. Pulliam righted his car and finished seventh.
“I’m very, very disappointed,” Sellers said softly.
“I’ve never seen a win taken from anybody here. I had to do what I had to do to win a national championship. It was nothing personal. It was hard racing. Any red-blooded American would have taken an attempt at it. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to try to win a national championship for me, my team and for South Boston Speedway.”
Sellers contended Pulliam spun him on purpose.
“Lee Pulliam never tried to save his car,” Sellers pointed out.
“He spun it on purpose, and it’s going to cost us a shot at a national championship.”
Pulliam, standing among team members at his car while waiting for track officials to conduct post-race inspections, politely declined to comment on the incident.
Sellers and Mike Looney, who has had the hot hand at Motor Mile Speedway, entered the weekend tied for fourth place in the national standings with 558 points. They were 10 points down to national leader Nick Panitzke. Philip Morris, who won twice at South Boston Speedway this season, was tied with Midwesterner Jacob Goede with 560 points.
Morris started the weekend with a two-point lead over Sellers and Looney for the Virginia championship.
Young Atlanta, Georgia, resident Drew Dollar was the unofficial winner of the race. Results will not be declared official until possibly Tuesday or Wednesday.
Dollar edged South Boston resident Austin Thaxton by about a half a car length, as they raced to the checkered and caution flags on the final lap. The win was Dollar’s first career win at South Boston Speedway.
“It was a blast,” Dollar said after the win.
“This was the best Late Model car I’ve had this season. I thought we lost our shot to win it early on. On one of the restarts we got the toe-in knocked in or out. I was having to use the apron the whole time and maintain third place, because I knew those leaders (Pulliam and Sellers) are the best there is here.
“I knew they would be racing really hard,” added Dollar.
“I thought maybe a little bit of something would happen at the end. It just all worked out for us.”
Thaxton was disappointed to finish second after being so close.
“It just wasn’t in the cards,” Thaxton remarked.
“I really wanted to win for my guys. We’ve worked really hard this year. We’ve had a good season. It just sucks, it really sucks.”
Thomas Scott of Efland, North Carolina, finished third, Blake Stallings of Danville was awarded fourth place and Nick Smith rounded out the top five finishers in the nightcap.
The opening race was close as well, with Pulliam taking the lead from Dollar on lap 44 on a restart following a caution period and edging Sellers by less than a second to collect his fifth straight South Boston Speedway win.
“It’s a real hard thing to do,” Pulliam said of the accomplishment of scoring five wins in a row at the .4-mile oval.
“I didn’t think we had the car to win at the start. I just didn’t have the grip I needed. As the sun went down, the track started to tighten up and come into my favor.”
Sellers said some changes made to the car’s setup prior to the start of the race hurt his effort.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Sellers pointed out.
“We changed some big stuff right before the race, and it wasn’t quite what the car needed. We gave him (Pulliam) a run for his money at the end, but I knew I would be better off saving some tires for the next race.”
Thaxton finished third, with Trey Crews of Halifax and Scott completing the top five finishers in the opener.