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Lee Pulliam wins fourth straight ‘200’

Lee Pulliam paused a couple of moments after his win Thursday night in South Boston Speedway’s annual pre-Fourth of July 200-lap NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division race.

It took a moment for it to sink in that his victory in the Dr. & Mrs. Maresca of St. Lawrence Radiology Presents Thunder Road Harley Davidson NASCAR Late Model 200 was his fourth in a row in the pre-Fourth Of July spectacle.

“It’s unreal,” the two-time defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion remarked after the win that netted him a $5,000 payday.

“Four in a row, that’s just unbelievable.”

Making the victory sweeter was the fact that the Alton resident accomplished it with a car that was all but destroyed in a crash the previous weekend at Motor Mile Speedway.

“Just to have it (the car) rolling is unbelievable,” Pulliam remarked.

“My team, we all busted our butts all week. To come out here and pull off a win is big.”

Pulliam’s win, his fourth victory of the season at South Boston Speedway, came with some late-race drama.

A minor spin involving Chris Johnson with two laps to go resulted in the race’s ninth caution period, and erased Pulliam’s lead over former NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Peyton Sellers, sending the race into extra laps to accommodate a green-white-checker finish.

Sellers got out ahead of Pulliam for a few brief moments on the restart, but Pulliam battled back to regain the lead before the white flag flew to signal the final lap. As Sellers and 15-year-old Massachusetts teenager Kaz Grala became embroiled in a frantic battle for the runner-up spot, Pulliam pulled away. Grala edged Sellers for the runner-up spot on the final lap, leaving Sellers to finish third. 

“Peyton actually beat me on the start,” Pulliam noted.

“He beat me getting into (turn) one. I just had to get a really good run off of (turn) two. My car was just awesome all night off the corner.”

Sellers, who restarted on the outside of the front row next to Pulliam, accomplished what he initially needed to do, but couldn’t hang on.

“I knew if I was going to beat Lee I was going to have to really get up on the throttle off the corners,” Sellers explained.

“I knew I could roll in (into the corner) a little better than he could, but I had to get the gas down good. There is just no grip up there on the high side tonight.”

Sellers said he moved up to the outside lane looking to make a bid for the win.

“I’m here to win,” Sellers pointed out, “and we finished third because of it. We could have maybe taken a little different approach and finished second, but it’s just the way it is.

“We had a good solid car all night,” he added.

“We didn’t have the fastest car, but we had a good solid car. At the end, it was a second-place car.”

For Grala, who trailed Pulliam by .344-second at the finish, the runner-up finish was one of his bigger accomplishments of the season.

“This is so huge for me,” Grala said with a huge smile.

“I’m only 15-years-old, so being able to run with and be battling these NASCAR national champions and Camping World Truck Series guys side-by-side is so cool.”

Grala said the intense battle between Pulliam and Sellers opened the door for him to get inside of Sellers and wrestle second place away from Sellers.

“I was just hoping I could hang on and be along for the ride,” Grala said of the last restart.

“Like I was expecting, the 5 (Pulliam) and the 99 (Sellers) were racing really hard. That allowed me to get an advantage on the 99 going down the backstretch.”

Josh Oakley of Rougemont, North Carolina, the winner of two of the previous three Late Model races at South Boston Speedway, finished fourth and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Timothy Peters of Danville, Virginia rounded out the top five finishers.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Deac McCaskill of Raleigh, North Carolina, four-time former NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Philip Morris of Ruckersville, Virginia, South Boston’s Bruce Anderson, Matt Bowling of Ridgeway, Virginia and South Boston resident Austin Thaxton.

The race lead changed hands five times among Pulliam, Morris and Sellers. Morris, the pole winner, led the first 70 laps of the race that was extended to 206 laps to accommodate a green-flag finish. Sellers grabbed the top spot for a couple of laps only to have Morris regain the lead on lap 73. From there, Morris led to the halfway break, which came at lap 103.

The top five drivers at the halfway mark were inverted for the start of the second half of the race. Morris got hung up in traffic and was never able to get back to the top spot. Pulliam, who started second for the start of the second half of the race, quickly jumped into the lead. 

Following the restart after the race’s seventh caution period, Sellers took the lead from Pulliam on lap 137. Pulliam rallied to regain the lead from Sellers on lap 142 and led the rest of the way. In all, Pulliam led twice for a total of 88 laps.