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Pulliam overcomes engine issue to sweep SBS twinbill

Lee Pulliam knew all was not right with his car’s engine in the initial laps of the first of the two 75-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car races of Saturday night’s NASCAR Hall Of Fame Night event at South Boston Speedway.

When the race’s first caution period came on the ninth lap after the engine in Ronald Hill’s car blew and caused him to spin into the third turn wall, Pulliam took the opportunity to hit pit road and take the car to the attention of his crew.

During an extended red flag period that ensued, Pulliam and his crew devised a plan of action. And, with caution-flag laps not counting, Pulliam’s crew had plenty of time to look at and address the issue.

“The motor was missing terribly,” Pulliam explained.

“It did it in qualifying, but I thought it would clean up and it never did. We came in and changed (spark) plugs and pulled the distributor cap. It looked like it (the distributor cap) got a little moisture in it when the rain came through earlier in the day. It (the engine) just wouldn’t run right, and they fixed it.”

Fix it, his crew did.

Pulliam restarted the race in tenth place and needed only 22 laps to get to the front. He passed Jeb Burton of Halifax to take the lead on lap 31 and led the rest of the way, speeding to a 2.948-second win over Tommy Lemons of Troy, N.C. in a 14-lap sprint to the finish that followed the last of the race’s four caution periods.

Burton, who led seven laps and was one of four drivers to lead the race, finished third after losing second place to Lemons with five laps left in the race.

Pulliam made it a sweep for the night by winning the nightcap as well.

After starting fifth as the result of a pre-race drawing for an inverted start, Pulliam darted past Lemons on the 11th lap and led the rest of the way, edging Lemons by 1.711 seconds in a 22-lap run to the finish that followed the last of the race’s three caution periods.

The wins ran Pulliam’s win total at South Boston Speedway to seven victories and upped his season win total to 12. He trailed by 25 points in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings entering the night, but likely took the national lead with his pair of wins.

“It was a dream race,” Pulliam said.

“To come here in our backyard and pull out two wins is as special as it gets. I can’t say enough about my guys and how hard they work. The guys worked their butts off. I felt like I owed this to them.”

Lemons, who led 13 laps of the first and seven laps of the second race, said he had a good car and had a shot at Pulliam at times.

“We just didn’t have quite enough forward bite,” explained Lemons who was sitting in seventh place in the Virginia state standings entering the night’s action.

“We’ve just got to get our game a little bit better. We beat him a few weeks ago. It can be done.”

Burton, who finished third in the opening race, his season-best result here, was glad to have a good run at South Boston Speedway.

“We got two thirds last year, and I was trying to get a second tonight,” Burton said.

“I lost it right there at the end. We didn’t need that last caution. It felt good to be up front. I wish the car had been like it was in practice. I think we could have had something for Lee.”

Track point leader Matt Bowling of Ridgeway finished fourth in the first race and pole winner Austin Thaxton of South Boston recovered from an early-race spin to finish fifth.

Former South Boston Speedway and NASCAR National Champion Peyton Sellers of Danville finished third in the nightcap, with Dennis Holdren of Roanoke and Thaxton completing the top five finishers.

There were three lead changes among four drivers in the first race and two lead changes among three drivers in the second race.