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Lee Pulliam wins third straight holiday ‘200’ at SBS

It wasn’t the most dominant performance Lee Pulliam has staged at South Boston Speedway this season. Still, it was good enough.

Pulliam, the defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion and current South Boston Speedway points leader, drove past Josh Oakley of Rougemont, N.C. with 35 laps to go and held off defending South Boston Speedway track champion Matt Bowling by four car lengths to win Thursday night’s Dr. and Mrs. Maresca of St. Lawrence Radiology Presents The Sellers Construction 200 at South Boston Speedway.

The win marked the third straight year in which the Semora, N.C., resident has won South Boston Speedway’s annual pre-Fourth of July holiday race. A rainout of the event on Wednesday night forced track officials to put the race over to Thursday night, making it the first time the event has been held on July 4.

“This is unbelievable,” Pulliam said after the win that netted him a $5,300 payday that included $5,000 for the race win and $300 from BK Pantry for winning the outside pole in qualifying.

“Just to win one of these races is amazing, but to win three of them is a true dream come true.”

Pulliam’s win, his 10th of the season at South Boston Speedway and his 16th victory overall for the season, allowed him to regain the lead in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series national points chase.

Pulliam and Deac McCaskill of Raleigh, N.C., who competes primarily at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C., were tied for the national points lead entering Thursday night’s race at South Boston Speedway.

McCaskill finished 10th, two laps down, after having encountered a mechanical problem with his car just before the halfway break in the race. 

“It’s great,” Pulliam said of regaining the national points lead, “but I’ve got a lot of work to do the rest of the week.” Pulliam was looking to compete in Friday night’s race at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro, N.C. and in twin 100-lap races Saturday night at Southern National Motorsports Park.

This year’s holiday race offered a different twist from those of previous seasons – a 10-minute break at the halfway mark and a deep inversion ranging from as few as seven cars to as many as a dozen cars for the restart after the break.

Pulliam was running fourth when the halfway break came, and had to restart in fifth place after halfway leader, Peyton Sellers, drew an eight, resulting in the top eight cars at halfway being inverted for the start of the second half of the race.

He needed only 14 laps after the break to get to second place, but Oakley, who had taken the top spot from Austin Thaxton on lap 107, had forged a good lead.

The handling on Oakley’s car went away near the 160-lap mark, and Pulliam, who had been steadily closing on Oakley, made the pass for the lead on lap 165. Three laps later, Bowling, who had restarted sixth after the halfway break, got past Oakley and set sail after Pulliam.

Bowling got to within four car lengths of Pulliam in the closing laps, but that was as close as he would get.

“He (Oakley) almost made me work too hard,” Pulliam pointed out.

“I almost didn’t have anything left at the end to hold Bowling off.”

For Bowling, the runner-up finish marked his best effort of the season at South Boston Speedway.

“I was wondering if I was ever going to get back up front here,” Bowling remarked.

“I figured we were running out of laps. I just needed a caution really bad to see what we could do with him (Pulliam).

For Oakley, who finished third, the race marked one of his better efforts of the season.

“If it had been a 150-lap race, I’d have been in good shape,” he pointed out.

“It’s still a great run for us. We were off on the camber on the right front (wheel) a little bit. We’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

Sellers, of Danville, finished fourth and pole winner, former South Boston Speedway and multi-time NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion Philip Morris of Ruckersville, rounded out the top five finishers.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Timothy Peters of Danville, Bobby McCarty of Summerfield, N.C., Bruce Anderson of South Boston, Austin Thaxton of Cluster Springs and McCaskill rounded out the top 10 finishers.

The race was a competitive one, with four lead changes among five drivers. Pulliam led the race only once, that being the final 35 laps. Morris, who led the first 80 laps of the race, led the most laps of the race.

Pulliam averaged 59.407 mph in the race that was slowed by two caution periods that consumed eight laps.