- Last Updated on 08:51 AM 03/12/13
- BY Joe Chandler
Put the nation’s top NASCAR Late Model Stock Car drivers together and you get a battle that doesn’t disappoint.
That’s what fans attending Saturday’s season-opening Danville Toyota NASCAR Whelen Late Model Twin 100’s saw, as defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series National and State Champion Lee Pulliam and C.E. Falk, who finished third nationally and second in the state last season, split wins.
Pulliam took the lead from 2011 NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Philip Morris on lap 83 after 10 laps of hard side-by-side racing and edged Morris by .906 second to win the first of the day’s pair of 100-lap races.
Falk, who started eighth, rallied to finish third, with rookie Bobby McCarty finishing fourth after winning the pole and former NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Peyton Sellers rounding out the top five finishers.
For Pulliam and Morris, the battle in the opening race ranked right up there with previous ones between the two drivers.
“That was good classy, hard racing,” Pulliam said.
“I was lucky to come out on top this time. Philip gave me plenty of room. That’s how I’ve wanted to race him my whole life. We didn’t cut each other any slack, but we didn’t touch each other. I tried to race him clean with plenty of respect and he returned the favor.”
Morris concurred, but said he would have preferred a different outcome.
“It was good to race with Lee, right back off of our break,” Morris remarked.
“The only thing that would have been better is if we could have gotten the 26 up there ahead of him.”
The former South Boston Speedway and national champion said he was glad to keep the car in front as long as he did.
“We took some big swings at the car before qualifying,” he pointed out.
“We didn’t know what the car was going to do. I’m really proud it stayed out front as much as it did, just shooting from the hip.”
Falk made a strong bid, moving into the top five at the halfway mark and rallying to pass McCarty, last year’s South Boston Speedway Limited Sportsman champion, for third place with 30 laps to go.
“We passed a lot of cars and made some good moves, which is always fun,” Falk said.
“We just weren’t quite there with the 1 (Pulliam) and the 26 (Morris). They were up front and we just had too much traffic to fight.”
Falk, however, was there with Pulliam and Morris for the second 100-lap race, which had an inverted start among the pair.
After having slipped past Pulliam to take second place on the 16th lap, Falk set his sights on Morris. The Virginia Beach resident passed Morris for the lead on lap 31 and gradually started inching away.
Morris’ bid ended when he was forced to the sidelines on the 66th lap as the result of power steering pump failure. The result was a 15th-place finish.
Falk was in command until the last of the race’s pair of caution flags flew on lap 81, setting up a 15-lap battle between Falk and Pulliam for the win. It was Falk that got the better restart, and from there. Falk drove to a .727-second win over Pulliam.
“It means a lot to me to come here and win,” said Falk, whose car was sponsored by race sponsor Danville Toyota.
“It’s always tough and you have the best cars on the East Coast here. It’s a great feeling.”
The last caution flag, Falk said, made things tough.
“I was sweating bullets,” Falk remarked.
“I really didn’t want to see that last caution. Just to have enough at the end to hold him (Pulliam) off is great.”
Pulliam said he tried to make a run at Falk, but came up short.
“I drove my heart out racing with Philip in the first one, and I think I just wore the tires off of the thing,” Pulliam explained.
“I did everything I could. I needed just a tick more to get to him. C.E. had a great car and deserved to win. It was a great points day. Any time you can come to the racetrack and get a 1-2 finish you can’t complain.”
Austin Thaxton of Cluster Springs rallied from a sixth-place finish in the first race to finish third in the nightcap, with McCarty and Dennis Holdren of Roanoke rounding out the top five finishers.
Pulliam averaged 87.486 mph in winning the caution-free first race. Falk averaged 75.156 mph in winning the second race, which was slowed by two caution periods.