- Last Updated on 07:25 AM 07/22/13
- BY Joe Chandler
Sweat-soaked Lee Pulliam twice bent over the railing of the podium in South Boston Speedway’s Victory Lane during post-race ceremonies to grab a swallow of a cold drink and try to force some air into his lungs.
The defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion had raced his way out of a five-car logjam to edge runner-up Peyton Sellers in a nine-lap sprint to the finish that followed the race’s last caution period to win Saturday night’s SVHEC NASCAR Late Model 150.
“That’s all I had,” Pulliam remarked after scoring his 11th win of the season at South Boston Speedway and his 17th win overall for the season.
“This is probably the hardest race I’ve ever won anywhere. That’s all I’ve got as a driver.”
It was a torrid finish, the best of the season at the .4-mile oval, as the lead swapped hands four times between Pulliam, Bobby McCarty and Bruce Anderson over the final nine laps, with Pulliam wrestling the lead from Anderson on lap 146 and holding on the rest of the way to edge Sellers by .401-second.
While Pulliam celebrated after narrowly escaping with the win, McCarty was left with the disappointment of having come so close to his first NASCAR Late Model Stock Car race win only to have to settle for a fifth-place finish.
McCarty led twice for 138 laps and looked to have the race won, but saw things unravel after a broken wheel hub sent Dustin Storm’s car crashing hard into the second turn wall on lap 133 to bring out the night’s final caution period.
The Summerfield, N.C. resident chose the outside line for the restart with nine laps to go, giving Pulliam the inside lane. Pulliam and McCarty made contact as they battled for the lead, with McCarty’s car slamming into the wall. Anderson, Sellers and Austin Thaxton saw they had a shot at the win and took it.
When the checkered flag fell, Pulliam edged Sellers, with Anderson, Thaxton and McCarty rounding out the top five.
“It was a pushing contest, and he (Pulliam) got us,” McCarty said.
“When I got into the wall it really messed the aero up on the car. It wouldn’t turn after that. I figured he (Pulliam) would race with a little more respect than that. When the shoe is on the other foot, I don’t want any hard feelings.”
Pulliam said he was surprised McCarty gave him the inside line for the final restart.
“I couldn’t believe he gave me the inside,” Pulliam remarked.
“When he did that, I knew I was going to make a race of it.”
For Sellers, who appeared to be on the verge of having to settle for a fourth-place finish prior to the last caution period, the runner-up finish made for a good night.
“I kept bottom feeding and those guys were sliding around on the top side and we just kind of motored through there,” Sellers said.
“We had that long green-flag run there and everybody’s tires got shot. Everybody was kind of hanging on.”
Anderson, whose car had been damaged early in the race, was tickled to come away with a podium finish.
“We weren’t as good as we need to be, but we had a good night,” remarked the South Boston resident.
“I made my mind up at the end of the race that if we had a shot, I was going to go for it. It’s awesome. I had a ball tonight. We’ll take it and keep building and see what happens from here.”
Ronald Hill of Rougemont, N.C., Thomas Scott of Mebane, N.C., Storm, Josh Oakley of Rougemont, N.C. and Bugs Hairfield of Chesterfield completed the top ten finishers.
Pulliam, the defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion, led the race three times for a total of 10 laps, emerging with the lead for the final time with four laps to go.
Pulliam averaged 75.322 mph in winning the race that was slowed by two caution periods that consumed 12 laps.