- Last Updated on 08:13 AM 09/16/13
- BY The Gazette-Virginian
Light blue balloons, twinkling lighted cardboard signs, youngsters wearing celebratory shirts proclaiming a national championship and plenty of smiles filled Victory Lane at South Boston Speedway.
As Lee Pulliam emerged from his car following his victory in Saturday night’s GCR presents Spaulding Equipment Co. 150 NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division race team and family members, sponsors and longtime supporters let loose with a burst of cheers.
For Pulliam, who a week ago had clinched his second straight NASCAR Whelen All American Series national championship and had a couple of weeks before locked up the South Boston Speedway NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division championship it was time to celebrate.
“We worked really hard for this,” Pulliam said of claiming his first South Boston Speedway championship.
“The South Boston Speedway title was at the top of the list with the national championship at the beginning of the year. We knew it was going to be mighty tough to win. My guys stepped up to the challenge. We all worked hard and it seemed that we made the car better each week. We couldn’t have ended it any better.”
The Semora, N.C. resident led all but one lap of the 150-lap race and pulled away for a 2.714-second win over runner-up Justin Snow of Danville in a 33-lap dash to the finish following the last of the race’s three caution periods.
Austin Thaxton of Cluster Springs, who finished third, challenged Pulliam briefly early in the race and Snow offered a brief challenge late, but Pulliam was able to clear himself of both challengers and speed to his 16th win of the season at South Boston Speedway and his 27th victory of the season.
“Justin Snow, with that crate motor of his, was really handling well through the corners,” Pulliam pointed out.
“It was a lot of fun racing with him because you know you can trust him.”
While the race seemed pretty much uneventful for the new South Boston Speedway champion, he said he spent the final laps praying that his car would hold up for the finish.
“We had some kind of issue with the power steering or valve cover or something,” Pulliam explained.
“The cockpit would fill up with smoke about every 10 laps and then go away and do it again. We had something leaking every once in awhile. I was just praying that that deal didn’t get any worse and I would be able to finish out the race.”
While Snow wasn’t able to match Pulliam late in the race, he smiled almost as if it had been he who had won.
“Lee Pulliam is in a league of his own, so I’d like to consider myself winning the race of everybody else.” Snow remarked with a grin.
“It was a really good run, especially to just show up right here at the last race of the year after these guys have been working and tweaking on their cars all year long. To show up and run a full race like we did and come in second is an accomplishment.”
Thaxton, with his third-place finish, edged Bobby McCarty in the battle for the runner-up spot in the track championship chase. He trailed McCarty by four points, the equivalent of two finishing positions, entering the race.
He squeezed past Blake Stallings of Danville with three laps to go to gain the extra position he needed to claim the runner-up spot in the points standings.
“We really had to be on our game,” Thaxton pointed out.
“I told my guys if we finish second it would be awesome, but I just wanted to win the race. We probably had a car good enough to win and I just messed it up in the race. I tried some stuff I really didn’t need to be doing and got myself all screwed up.
“Lee’s good, “ Thaxton added, “but I felt like we had a really good car tonight. It just didn’t work out.”
Stallings finished fourth and Josh Oakley of Rougemont, N.C. rounded out the top five finishers. South Boston’s Bruce Anderson, McCarty, Eric Winslow, longtime veteran driver Eddie Johnson and Tommy Peregoy rounded out the top 10 finishers. The top seven finishers were on the lead lap at the end of the race.
Pulliam averaged 74.052 mph in the race that was slowed by three caution periods that consumed a total of 13 laps.