- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Justin Johnson took another step toward the South Boston Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car Division title Saturday night as he and Lee Pulliam of Semora, N.C. split wins in the night’s pair of 75-lap Late Model Stock Car races. Johnson won the nightcap, edging runner-up David Latour of Advance, N.C. by .584-second in a three-lap sprint to the finish that followed the race’s last caution period.
The win, Johnson’s eighth victory of the season at South Boston Speedway, allowed him to continue a streak of having won the second race of each of the twin-race events staged at the track this season.
“This helps open up the points lead a little more,” Johnson remarked.
“I feel pretty comfortable about the championship. We’ve just got to stay on our game and pull it off at the end.”
Johnson started on the pole and relinquished the top spot to South Boston’s Stacy Puryear, the runner-up to Pulliam in the first race, at the outset. However, Johnson sped back in front on the fourth lap and never lost the lead again.
The only problem Johnson had on a night in which he scored a win and a third-place finish was a malfunctioning steering box.
“I didn’t know what it (the car) was going to do from turn to turn,” Johnson pointed out.
“We just freed it up where I couldn’t help but turn left. We’re going to come up here this week and test and fix this problem.”
While Johnson was cruising, things got hectic behind him. On lap 69, Puryear and Deac McCaskill tangled and spun while battling for second place. That opened the door for Leigh Caruthers and defending national champion Philip Morris up behind Johnson for the ensuing restart. Two laps later, Morris and Caruthers made contact with Caruthers smacking the wall in the second turn.
Latour advanced to second place for the restart on lap 73 with Michael Hardin of Pomfret, Md. behind him in third place. Johnson held off both Latour and Hardin in the final sprint to take the win.
“With the way our season has gone, this second-place finish feels like a win,” Latour said.
“We had nothing for Justin today. The car was off quite a bit tonight. I was just trying to stay out of trouble. I just wanted to finish the race and bring the car home in one piece.”
With the field starting the first race based on the division points standings, Johnson jumped in front and led the first seven laps. Puryear battled his way to the top spot on the eighth lap, opening the door for Pulliam to slide through as well and drop Johnson to third place.
Pulliam made a run at Puryear and squeezed by on lap 61 to take the lead. Once in front, Pulliam held on to record his second win of the season, edging Puryear by.905-second with Johnson finishing third.
“It’s fun to be able to beat a veteran like that,” Pulliam remarked.
“He (Puryear) was real tough. He’s been doing this a long time. I just got a good run on him. He made it a little hard on me but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Puryear said Pulliam had the better car.
“I thought we had it (the win),” Puryear said.
“The car wouldn’t turn on entry to the corner. That’s where Lee beat me.”
McCaskill finished fourth in the opening race behind Pulliam, Puryear and Johnson with former South Boston Speedway track champion and NASCAR national champion Peyton Sellers of Danville rounding out the top five finishers.
In the nightcap, it was veteran driver Eddie Johnson of Midlothian and South Boston’s Bruce Anderson, driving a car owned by Sandy Stigall of Roxboro, N.C., rounding out the top-five finishers.
What started as a good night for Pulliam turned sour in the nightcap when his car slapped the wall in the second turn on the ninth lap following contact with McCaskill. The mishap sidelined Pulliam and relegated him to an 18th-place finish in the 19-car starting field.
Pulliam averaged 46.558 mph in winning the first race that saw two lead changes among three drivers. Johnson averaged 37.500 mph in winning the nightcap, which was slowed by four caution periods.