National champions stage stellar shootout in Shively Electric TWIN 75s opener – JW Martin
Lee Pulliam was on a losing streak unlike any he had endured before.
It ended Saturday night with a win unlike any he had experienced before.
Admittedly winless in the state of Virginia since September of 2016, Pulliam entered the Shively Electric TWIN 75’s presented by NASH FM 107.1 shouldering a four-race drought at Motor Mile Speedway. The dry spell culminated in a deluge of excitement following an intense, jaw-dropping joust with Philip Morris in the waning circuits of the opening 75-lap O’Reilly Auto Parts Late Model division feature.
The riveting racing action left Pulliam proclaiming with unbridled enthusiasm that his 64th-career Motor Mile Speedway victory was his greatest triumph ever at the track.
“Yeah, baby! This is my best win ever!” Pulliam exclaimed. “We’ve been getting our tails whooped. It feels so great to be back in Victory Lane. This has been the longest drought of my career in the state of Virginia… I wanted that one bad.”
Morris collected the Price’s Body Shop pole award in qualifying, but was handicapped to sixth on the 13-car grid per the “Two Wins in a Row” policy. Pulliam inherited the pole, and proceeded to pace the race uncontested through the lone yellow flag period of the contest on lap 43.
Morris had methodically marched to second prior to the caution, and restarted alongside Pulliam on lap 43. Morris shadowed Pulliam for the next 20 circuits as the lead duo awaited the imminent battle for first. By lap 63, the race for the win was on.
“I think we were both running the flat and saving tires… we knew we were going to get to race there at the end. With ten to go I knew it was go time,” said Morris. “I took it in there a few laps, and found out the outside had some momentum. Even after I got around him, I knew I was in trouble because I couldn’t get back to the bottom.”
Morris began his bid for first from the top groove of the track. With Pulliam entrenched on the bottom, Morris began sailing the no. 01 Chevrolet to the outside of Pulliam in the corners. Four laps of close-quarter racing, replete with ample contact, ensued.
The first lead change of the race occurred on lap 68, with Morris muscling past Pulliam down the back straightaway. But Pulliam proved resurgent.
The grappling escalated as the laps dwindled, with Pulliam relentlessly pressuring Morris in the corners. After a barrage of calculated impacts to Morris’ rear bumper failed to unseat the leader, the assault climaxed as the pair of NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series national champions took the white flag.
The race reached a fever pitch as the final lap began. Pulliam welded the nose of the no. 5 Chevrolet to Morris’ rear bumper down the front stretch; the leaders were inseparable entering turn one. Both machines washed up into the top groove of the track through the corner, with Pulliam’s nose affixed to Morris’ left-rear quarter panel. The tactic afforded Pulliam the momentum down the back stretch, and as the pair plunged into turn three, Pulliam edged into the lead.
Pulliam opted for a higher line through turns three and four, relegating Morris to the attic of the track through the apex of the corners. Morris faded as Pulliam capitalized on the maneuver. Pulliam sprinted past Morris in the drag race to the checkers, snatching the win by a slim .290-second margin of victory.
“It was unreal,” declared Pulliam. “He wasn’t cutting me any slack, and I wasn’t cutting him any slack. He’s one of the best there’s ever been; it feels good to get one on him, because it doesn’t happen often.”
Morris commented on the white-knuckle ferocity of the final few circuits, and the expert driving displayed.
“We can trust each other. I don’t have to worry about him taking me out; he knows I’m not going to take him out just for a win,” explained Morris. “They’re all very important, but sportsmanship is worth a whole lot more.”
For Pulliam, the win was an incomparable Motor Mile Speedway accomplishment.
“You can’t race that hard with very many people. He’s just that talented, and I think he feels the same way about us. That was as hard a-racing as you’ll ever see anywhere in the country; the fans should’ve got their money’s worth,” Pulliam said. “That was pretty special for me.”
Kyle Dudley completed the podium, with Anthony Alfredo and Trevor Ward rounding out the top-five.
Morris dominated the nightcap, capturing the win over Mike Looney by a sizable 2.673 margin of victory. Alfredo placed third, with Bryan Reedy and Ward finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in a race slowed by two cautions.
Pulliam placed ninth after succumbing to underbody issues on lap 61.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Amber Balcaen finished first in her first start of the year in the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, native bested Richard Caldwell and Chris Phipps to score her second career win at Motor Mile Speedway.
The Carpet Factory Outlet MOD-4 division contest culminated in a spectacular door-banging photo finish, with Chucky Williams edging Doodle Lang by a mere .046 margin of victory at the stripe. Cory Dunn placed third.
Doug Williams tallied his sixth consecutive Super Street victory Saturday night, with Scooter Hollandsworth and Dan Martin rounding out the podium.
Photo Credit: Shane Green