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Pulliam narrowly misses mishap; rolls to fifth SBS win

Racing has long been a game of inches. A move of a couple of inches here or a couple of inches there can make the difference between victory and a wadded up racecar.

Reigning NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam and 2011 NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion, Philip Morris found that out all too well in Saturday night’s Mobil 1 Presents NASCAR Whelen Late Model 150 at South Boston Speedway.

The pair were engaged in another of their classic racing battles for the top spot when rookie Quin Houff lost control of his car and spun down the frontstretch right in front of the two race leaders on lap 134.

Both drivers took evasive action. Pulliam missed Houff’s car by the most narrow of margins. Morris’ car and Houff’s car made contact and Morris’ car slammed hard into the first turn wall.

That mishap and the resulting red flag set up the race’s final restart with a dozen laps to go, and after three laps of hard racing, Pulliam pulled away from runner-up Dustin Storm of Huntingtown, Md., edging Storm by 1.816 second to record his eighth victory overall this season.

“All I can say is I was very fortunate,” Pulliam said after claiming his fifth win in seven starts at South Boston Speedway this season.

“I don’t know how I missed it. I slung the car into the corner and got the back end cocked around and barely missed him (Houff). It was a real tough deal for Philip. I knew there was going to be nowhere for him to go. He took a real tough hit and I hate that for him. We were racing hard and racing for the win and putting on a real good show for the fans.”

Pulliam and Morris almost found disaster a few lap earlier. On lap 128, as they battled side-by-side for the lead they made hard contact as they sped through the first turn. Both drivers almost lost control of their cars, but managed to straighten them out, with Pulliam grabbing about three car lengths of an advantage over Morris in the exchange and taking the lead in the race for the first time on lap 129.

“He (Morris) wasn’t cutting me any room, which I didn’t expect him to racing for the lead,” Pulliam explained.

“We got together getting into (turn) one, and I don’t know how either of us saved our car. We got control of them and reeled them back in, and I was able to pull away a little bit.”

For Storm, the runner-up finish was his best effort of the season. 

“It’s almost like a win to us,” Storm remarked.

“I knew Lee had a better car. My car was getting pretty loose the longer we ran. I knew I would have a couple of laps after the restart to try to slip by him. I got under him a couple of times but just didn’t quite have the bite up off of the corner. He could blast off of the corners and away he went.” 

Austin Thaxton of Cluster Springs finished third with division rookie Bobby McCarty of Summerfield, N.C. and Josh Oakley of Rougemont, N.C. rounding out the top five finishers.

Pulliam averaged 70.095 mph in the race that took 51 minutes and 21 seconds to complete. There was one caution period that slowed the action for six laps.