Lee Pulliam and Philip Morris Split Twin Bill in 2019 South Boston Season Opener

Lee Pulliam power through turn four during practice for the Danville Toyota Twin 100. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer)

South Boston, VA– It was time to knock the dust off the racing boots and clean those helmet visors because it was time to get back to good ole American asphalt short track racing this weekend at one of NASCAR’s most historic short tracks – South Boston Speedway.

As been tradition, South Boston Speedway kicked off the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season with a pair of one hundred lap twins. Seventeen cars from all over Virginia and North Carolina made the trip all hunting for the first wins of the season. It was no surprise to see names like Philip Morris, Lee Pulliam, and Peyton Sellers on the entry list. It was also no surprise to see those names at the top of the leader board. Peyton Sellers being the fastest in first practice while Pulliam paced second.

It was Peyton Sellers who earned not only the honors of leading the field to the green flag for the first race but also broke the track record with his 14.676 (98.119 MPH) lap. Lee Pulliam, Philip Morris, Mike Looney, and Mike Jones were the fastest five cars during euro style qualifying. Race number two would be set per the NASCAR rule book for when twin races are run – no less than an eight-car invert.

As usual race number one was tame. Drivers settled in line early and gave more room than usual. Peyton Sellers got to the gas quick, assumed the lead early, and set the cruise control. The defending track champion looked poised to take the first win of the year and set a precedent that he was here to defend his title. As the laps counted down the field got strung out which prompted NASCAR to throw the yellow flag, bunch up the field, and allow the drivers to take the cone. As the control car, Sellers took the outside which proved to be a sound strategy throughout the race; Pulliam and Morris elected to stay low.

When officials threw the green flag it didn’t take long for things to heat up. Sellers had to go on the defense as Pulliam wanted to take the lead and Philip Morris was there to capitalize should things go south. He looked like he was going to be able to use the high line to do just that but would eventually succumb to Pulliam’s perseverance losing the lead on lap 45.

The second caution of the race came just shortly after when Jason Barnes looped it out of turn two. Unfortunately, Justin Carroll locked up his brakes to try and avoid and ended up sliding right into the tires and water barriers at the entrance to the back pits. NASCAR decided to stop the field on the front stretch to take care of the tires. Pulliam took control once the race went back green and that was all she wrote. Morris made more than an honest attempt to take second from Sellers but was not able to and would have to settle with a third-place finish. Mike Looney and Austin Thaxton would round out the top five.

Pulliam was very happy climbing out of the car in victory lane for the first time in years.

“Well, this is the first new car I have had in nine years, I have been driving an old car,” Pulliam said in victory lane. “Got to thank Mr. Kiker for giving us the opportunity to build this thing, I have been dying to get in a new one for a while. Man, it feels good to have what these guys have and be back in victory lane. This is a special day for me.”

Pulliam was also asked about the quality of drivers and what was more difficult getting around or staying in front of [Philip] Morris and [Peyton] Sellers.

“It was tougher to pass them than stay ahead of them,” Pulliam explained. “We had a really good car right there. Philip [Morris] is always tough, he’s trying to protect the bottom and ride the brake, I had to move him because I knew he was going to be pretty impossible to pass riding that brake pedal. Peyton and I had a good battle there side by side and we were giving all we had. I knew if we could get out front it would be over, had to get that clean air. Feels good for sure. I hadn’t gotten a win at South Boston since 2016, it was my first on this new pavement. Gotta think my fans, my family, my crew I can’t do it without all of these guys.”

Nine cars were inverted for the start of race two handing the front row over to Mike Jones and Mark Wertz. Both drivers ran into issue quick, however. Jones had to come down pit road so his crew could torque all four tires. Because of NASCAR rules, Thomas Scott and the rest of the inside row moved up. Mark Wertz soon ran into issues of his own when something seemed to go south in the power plant. Luckily he was able to make it to pit road without causing any damage – Thomas Scott assumed the lead and tried to put distance between him and the rest of the field.

However, Philip Morris had other ideas for this race and took the lead from Scott by lap fifteen. The first caution of race two came once again at the hands of NASCAR when officials threw a competition yellow at lap thirty-two to bunch the field up once again. Morris did Philip Morris things on the ensuing restart and jumped back out to the lead and never looked back. A great battle for second ensued between Thomas Scott, Peyton Sellers, and Lee Pulliam sometimes even going three wide. That is when things went south for Pulliam who got into the outside wall hard causing enough damage to end his afternoon early.

Morris took care of business once again when the green flag waved for the last time clearing Scott going into one. Took Peyton Sellers two laps to clear Scott himself which was just enough time for Morris to create a gap that was virtually impossible to collapse. That being said the best show of the afternoon in our opinion was the eventual battle for third place between Austin Thaxton and Thomas Scott. Thaxton was able to use the top groove like most others to hold off Scott for three-quarters of the race. However, a slip out of two with a handful of laps left forced him to surrender the position to Scott.

Philip Morris was asked about his dominance last year and what that means looking forward to another NASCAR National Championship this year.

“Last year we didn’t get a win till after April so I feel great about today and this brand new car,” Morris said in victory lane. “The car responded to all the changes after the first break. I don’t even know my car would have been able to keep up with those guys in the first race, they were really fast, hats off to Peyton [Sellers] and those guys for digging hard. “

Knowing he is going to make another run at a National title Morris was asked where he is going to race this year. Pretty simple answer, anywhere the cars are.

“We are going to go where we can,” Morris explained. “South Boston has a few dates, we will be at Langley, Dominion, Motor Mile; anywhere we can get the car count. Thank god we had some cars here today, South Boston has always been good with that.”

South Boston Speedway will be back in action in just two weeks for the NASCAR Whelen Modified 150-lap feature. Tickets can be purchased at the track or online at http://www.southbostonspeedway.com

(Featured photo: Philip Morris celebrates first of many victories to come in 2019. Andy Newsome/Loose in Tight Off)

 

Race 1 Results;

  1. #5 Lee Pulliam; 100
  2. #26 Peyton Sellers; 100
  3. #01 Philip Morris; 100
  4. #87 Mike Looney; 100
  5. #12 Austin Thaxton; 100
  6. #11 Jeff Oakley; 100
  7. #8 Thomas Scott; 100
  8. #55 Mark Wertz; 100
  9. #39 Mike Jones; 100
  10. #91 Justin Carroll; 99
  11. #28 Jason Barnes; 99
  12. #50 Raymond Pittman, III; 98
  13. #22 Eric Winslow; 64
  14. #09 Trey Crews; 49
  15. #90 Terry Carroll; 37
  16. #14 Dusty Ellington; 31
  17. #9 Chris Denny; 24

 

Race 2 Results;

  1. #01 Philip Morris; 100
  2. #26 Peyton Sellers; 100
  3. #8 Thomas Scott; 100
  4. #12 Austin Thaxton; 100
  5. #28 Jason Barnes; 100
  6. #9 Trey Crews; 100
  7. #11 Jeff Oakley; 100
  8. #91 Justin Carroll; 99
  9. #50 Raymond Pittman; 97
  10. #22 Eric Winslow; 57
  11. #5 Lee Pulliam; 38
  12. #55 Mark Wertz; 9
  13. #2 Chris Denny; 1
  14. #87 Mike Looney; DNS

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