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Morris holds off Oakley to win GV 150

Philip Morris called his win in Saturday night’s Gazette-Virginian NASCAR Whelen Late Model 150 at South Boston Speedway one of the hardest wins he’s had at the historic four tenths-mile oval.

Morris held a three-car length lead over challenger Josh Oakley of Rougemont, N.C. when he and the race’s frontrunners suddenly found themselves in the middle of an incident involving a handful of lapped cars on the final lap of the race.

As they were approaching the lapped cars, one of the lapped cars spun into the inside wall. Not having enough room to stop, Morris ran into the back of a lapped car directly in front of him. Oakley checked up, got hit by another car and banged the outside wall nose first, opening the door for Austin Thaxton and Peyton Sellers speed past him.

After the caution flag flew, track NASCAR officials gave Oakley his position back despite questioning from Thaxton, who felt he should have been awarded second place for the ensuing restart.

Morris was able to get a good jump on Oakley on the restart on lap 155 and pulled away to edge Oakley by .640-second and pick up his first win of the season and his 53rd career win in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock car Division at South Boston Speedway.

The win was Morris’ first win at South Boston Speedway since his dramatic victory last October in the track’s 300-lap season finale.

“I was pretty much counting myself out because the (lapped) car was broadside in front of me,” Morris said.

“Luckily, the lapped car got in front of me, and we kind of shoved our way through there. It didn’t hit the tires, but it messed the aerodynamics up. It was certainly an interesting last couple of laps.” 

Oakley said he was glad to finish second, especially after having been shuffled back into the field at the start of the race and having had to race hard to get back to the front.

“If I could have started up front, I think I could have run with him all night,” Oakley said.

“Being that we had to come back from eighth or ninth at the start, I had to burn my tires up a little more. Still, I thought I had something for him up until the last 10 laps. We went around a lapped car and I got up into the marbles and got something on the tires. He got away from me by about two car lengths and I didn’t have anything for him.”

Oakley said he was fortunate to have made it through the last-lap mishap.

“I got nosed into the wall a little bit with guys wrecking in front of me,” Oakley noted.

“After that, I had something dragging (on the car). I was glad we got second. Philip is tough.” 

Thaxton said he was pleased with his third-place effort, but felt he didn’t get the right call after the mishap.

“Philip went low, and he got a little damage,” Thaxton pointed out.

“Josh slid trying to miss it, and kind of stopped and I went on by him. The rulebook says if you lose forward momentum you have to go to the back.

“I was pretty happy with the way we ran,” added Thaxton.

“We kind of got screwed a little bit on that last deal. But, I’m happy for both of them (Morris and Oakley). They’re both real good guys and hard racers.” 

Former NASCAR National Champion and South Boston Speedway Champion Peyton Sellers of Danville finished fourth. Jeff Oakley of Prince George rounded out the top five finishers in the 21-car field.

South Boston Speedway points leader Matt Bowling of Ridgeway, Dennis Holdren of Roanoke, Bruce Anderson of South Boston, Eric Winslow of Danville and 15-year-old Quin Houff rounded out the top ten finishers.

There were two lead changes among three drivers. Morris took the lead from Sellers on lap 12 and led the final 146 circuits of the race that went 157 laps to accommodate a two-lap green flag run at the end.

Morris averaged 64.616 mph in the race that was slowed by five caution flags that consumed a total of 31 laps.

One of the night’s incidents came on lap 39 when teammates Bowling and Sellers, who are battling for the South Boston Speedway championship, made contact while racing for second place. Sellers spun in the third turn to bring out the race’s second caution period, went to the rear of the field, and raced his way back to a fourth-place finish.

Bowling said he was trying to get to the lead and trying to win the race.

“I had a really good race car, and I was itching to get up there and get a win,” Bowling said.

“We got some contact, and it messed it (the car) up a little bit. It happens. It was just racing.”

Sellers said he, too, was looking for a win. 

“I was going to finish second or third,” Sellers noted.

“I just got turned around and taken out. It’s a shame it happened like it did. I felt like I would have gotten a little more respect from my teammate than what I did.”