A NIGHT FIT FOR A KING
Morris authors historic comeback in CMC Supply / Pine Ridge Nursery 150 – JW Martin
It was a renaissance race for the King of Motor Mile Speedway.
Philip Morris collected his ninety-sixth career Late Model win Saturday night in a record-setting return to victory lane. Morris’ triumph in the CMC Supply / Pine Ridge Nursery 150 marked his first win since September 8, 2012. At age 51, Morris’ storybook performance was a statistical career-best at Motor Mile Speedway.
The seven-time O’Reilly Auto Parts Late Model track champion orchestrated an historic rout of the 12-car field, winning by a colossal 12.744 seconds over runner-up Brandon Butler—the only other driver on the lead lap at the finish.
The accomplishment is a Motor Mile Speedway-era Late Model record dating back to the advent of timing and scoring archiving in 2005.
“I’ve never seen second place in a race here at Motor Mile Speedway. I can’t even remember having more than a five or six second lead,” Morris explained. “That was huge…. it was pretty amazing.”
Morris started the 150-lap nightcap alongside Price’s Body Shop pole-sitter Lee Pulliam. A heavyweight bout between the pair of NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series national champions appeared imminent, but a duel failed to materialize. Pulliam’s no. 5 Chevrolet succumbed to underbody complications on the second circuit of the race, with Morris inheriting the lead in turn three as Pulliam’s machine struggled to maintain a competitive pace. After limping the Kiker Motorsports entry around the .416-mile oval through the opening 22 circuits, Pulliam was relegated to the garage with what was later diagnosed as a faulty fuel pump.
“We’ve had good luck here, but everywhere else we’ve had bad luck, and it finally got us [at Motor Mile Speedway.] The fuel pump went out,” Pulliam said. “It’s a little aggravating; the car was real good. One of these days me and Philip are going to be able to race each other for a win.”
Following an extended stay in the garage, Pulliam returned to place tenth, 28 laps down.
With his top competition out of contention, Morris began constructing an insurmountable advantage over the field. The exit of Mike Looney on lap 53 further bolstered Morris’ lead; a terminal engine issue sidelined Looney, who was running second after starting the contest fifth.
Butler assumed command of the runner-up spot in the aftermath. On lap 94, Ryan Repko’s third-place car surrendered a lap to Morris, enabling Butler to entrench the no. 02 in second place as the laps began to dwindle.
In the closing circuits, the question wasn’t whether or not Butler could catch Morris. It was whether or not Morris could catch Butler. In vintage form, Morris continued his blistering pace, with the gap eclipsing ten seconds by lap 120.
Despite the unprecedented 12.744-second deficit at the finish, Butler tallied his best result of the season. Yet, the caution-free feature left Butler contemplating the potential outcome of a late-race yellow. With the aid of a caution, did Butler have anything for Morris?
“I’m not going to say I did,” Butler acknowledged. “It would’ve been interesting….probably a little beating and banging. I was riding early, but when I really wanted to get after it, I couldn’t quite get after it like I wanted to. It probably would’ve been hard to get him.”
Repko placed third at race’s end, with newcomer Dylan Murry finishing fourth in his second-ever Late Model start. Kyle Dudley completed the top five. Both Murry and Dudley were two laps down at the checkers.
With the victory, Morris snapped a ten-race winless drought spanning four years. The record achievement bested Pulliam’s 5.505-second benchmark established on September 15, 2012—one event after Morris’ last win. As a result, Morris has closed to within 32 points of Pulliam in the division standings with ten races remaining.
“Nothing ever came easy when we weren’t winning years ago. I knew we just had to work it out. Even tonight I thought we were going to be just a tick off, and it turned out the track was heavy and we were right on it. It was meant to be,” grinned Morris. “This is great …it brought back a lot of memories.”
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Karl Budzevski snared his third consecutive win in Collision Plus Limited Sportsman competition Saturday night despite starting sixth per the Two Wins in a Row policy. Scott Lancaster and Dylan Saul rounded out the podium.
Chucky Williams captured his second MOD-4 win of the season in the aftermath of an epic, white-knuckle duel with division counterpart Doodle Lang during the midway portion of the 30-lap contest. With the win, Williams tied Lang for first in the division standings. Joshua Gobble completed the podium, tallying his fourth consecutive third-place finish.
Scooter Hollandsworth and Doug Williams split the 30-lap Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock twinbill Saturday night. Casey Cupp and Keven Cox placed second and third, respectively, in pursuit of Hollandsworth in the first feature. Hollandsworth finished second to Williams in the latter race; Cupp took third.