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Morris edges Pulliam to win at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE  Philip Morris became the first three-time winner of the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300 NASCAR Late Model Stock Car race here Sunday, pulling away from defending champion Lee Pulliam on the final restart to win the day’s 150-lap feature race.

His margin of victory over Pulliam was .379-second.

“It feels amazing, it feels incredible,” Morris said.

The win was Morris’ third of the season, and it gave Morris a $27,000 payday, a payday that included $25,000 for winning the race and $2,000 for winning the Halfway Leader Award.

Morris took the lead from South Boston Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car Division Champion Matt Bowling of Ridgeway with 23 laps to go and held off Pulliam on the race’s final two restarts to take the win.

Pulliam, the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion, chose the outside lane for the last two restarts, but couldn’t make it work. Morris said he was surprised by the move.

“I’m going to be surprised by that one for a long time,” Morris said.

“Some of the choices that were made, I was kind of shaking my head,” Morris said.

“But, it’s not for me figure out.”

Pulliam said he based his lane choices on how far up to the front of the field he could get. His big mistake, he said, was making the wrong choice for the transmission he put in the car.

“It’s disappointing when you make a wrong selection like that and it puts you in a hole,” Pulliam remarked.

“I knew I was in trouble before halfway when I was struggling on restarts then. The car would almost stall out when he (Morris) kicked it. He could get a car length on me and pull me down the frontstretch. Then I would have to race the third-place car. It just didn’t work out.”

Pulliam said it was disappointing to come so close to winning the race and not being able to pull it off.

“It’s tough when you can see it and taste that thing,” Pulliam remarked.

“You know how it feels to win it and come up one spot short. Still, I can’t be disappointed too much with how the day went. It’s always a blessing when you can finish a race with your car in one piece and not have a lot of damage.”

B.J. Mackey finished third with Ryan Wilson and former South Boston Speedway Champion Brandon Butler rounding out the top five finishers. 

C.E. Falk III of Virginia Beach finished sixth and won the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series that consisted of three races that included the 300-lap season-opening race at South Boston Speedway, a July race at his home track, Langley Speedway in Hampton and the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

He edged South Boston Speedway Champion Matt Bowling of Ridgeway by six points to claim the $5,000 Triple Crown first prize. Bowling finished seventh after getting shuffled around in the closing laps and collected $3,000 as the Triple Crown runner-up.

Bowling had led 49 laps during the second half of the race and was in third place when the race was restarted for the final time following a competition caution with 10 laps to go.

Kris Bowen, Justin Boston and Adam Long rounded out the top ten finishers.

Morris led most of the first half of the race, taking the lead from McCall on lap 35 when McCall missed a gear on a restart on lap 34. McCall, who won the day’s second 25-lap qualifying race, had led 25 laps after taking the lead from Pulliam on the ninth lap.

Once in front, Morris was not seriously challenged except for on restarts following caution periods as Mackey and Campbell battled for second place. Pulliam settled back into fourth place and stayed there until the halfway break.

With the top six cars being inverted for the restart after the halfway break, Ben Rhodes assumed the lead with Bowling, Pulliam, Mackey and Morris trailing in order. Campbell did not make it back to the track after the halfway break as the result of an engine problem.

McCall also had engine problems in the second half of the race, dropping off of the pace and taking his car to pit road on lap 90. He did not return to the race. Mike Looney, who was running in the top five, blew an engine and spun in the third turn on lap 115 to bring out the first caution flag of the second half of the race and the seventh overall.

Bowling took the lead on lap 76 and held it until Morris charged past him to take the lead on lap 127. Pulliam made a valiant effort to keep pace with Morris, but even with a pair of cautions in the last 16 laps, he was not able to make the pass that would have made him the first back-to-back winner of the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300.