Revisiting Motor Mile Speedway’s four championship campaigns – JW Martin
On Saturday, September 20th, every driver in every points-paying division at Motor Mile Speedway was racing for a first-place trophy.
Ten drivers were racing for a championship trophy.
For the first time since 2009, all four Motor Mile Speedway track championships remained undecided entering the final night of the 2014 season, staging winner-take-all title matches in every division feature.
Championships climaxed as the checkers fell, with four drivers rising to claim division crowns.
When it comes to racing for track championships at Motor Mile Speedway, Lee Pulliam is perfect.
The consummate champion, Pulliam has won the Bull & Bones Late Model division track title at Motor Mile Speedway in each of his three full-time seasons.
In the standings, Pulliam has been peerless. He’s been almost as invincible on the track. In five seasons, Pulliam has logged 61 total starts. Of those races, the Semora, NC, leadfoot has amassed 42 wins, equating to a staggering 69% winning percentage.
This season, half of the Bull & Bones Late Model division races hosted by Motor Mile Speedway were claimed by Pulliam, with the 26 year-old notching a total of six victories. And while Pulliam’s victory lane appearances waned this season –Pulliam’s six first-place trophies marked his lowest total in three full-time seasons– checkered flags proved the deciding factor in the 2014 Bull & Bones Late Model division track championship.
Three wins in the final four contests propelled Pulliam past Peyton Sellers, who faltered after a two-month tenure atop the standings. A 30-point advantage evaporated on September 6th when Sellers’ no. 99 was swept up in a two-car collision on the white flag lap of the nightcap feature. The 34-point swing left Sellers trailing entering the final night of the season—a deficit that proved insurmountable.
“This season has been huge,” Pulliam acknowledged September 20th. “We’ve both had bad luck. [Sellers] is a heckuva competitor. If there’s somebody you want it to come down to the end with, it’d be him. Peyton will go down as one of the greatest in a Late Model Stock Car. He’s one of the best, so it feels real good to be able to pull it out…”
For Sellers, the outcome in the track championship race was a lamentable repeat of his 2013 championship bid. It was on the penultimate night of the season last year when Sellers surrendered command of the points lead following a 26-point re-shuffling of the standings. Sellers failed to recover, falling short of the title to Pulliam by 20 markers.
The 2013 track title tilt between Sellers and Pulliam marked the closest finish in Motor Mile Speedway’s marquee division in five seasons…until this year. The duel for the 2014 track championship culminated with a slim eight-point advantage for Pulliam—the equivalent of four positions on the track.
The final standings reflect a Late Model season that showcased nearly unparalleled competition. Pulliam won the crown, but parity reigned.
The 12-race Late Model season featured 5 different winners—the most diverse tally among Pulliam’s three championship campaigns. The parity was highlighted by three consecutive photo-finishes decided by a margin of 0.03 or less. The midsummer spectacle left Pulliam admitting that “it’s getting a lot tougher to win around here” following a losing effort in a dead heat with Payton Ryan on July 25th.
Statistics reflect Pulliam’s observation. A two-month winless streak endured this year was Pulliam’s longest drought of his three full seasons of competition; the four-race shutout far exceeded his previous documented dry spell of two races. And not only did Pulliam’s single-season win total dwindle this year, but his margin of victory in the track standings dipped to its lowest amount spanning his three championship seasons.
Although it could be argued that Pulliam’s stranglehold on the .416-mile oval is slipping, the accolades acquired this season suggest otherwise. His performance en route to his second consecutive Motor Mile Speedway Bull & Bones Late Model track championship proved instrumental in securing the NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series Virginia state title. Coupled with a North Carolina State Championship aided by his second straight Dirty Dozen crown and a runner-up finish in the NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series national standings, Pulliam’s brimming 2014 resume suggests his competition still has quite a bit of catching up to do.
Scott Lancaster’s Limited Sportsman career was in its infancy the year Derrick Lancaster captured his second division crown. Lancaster’s three unheralded starts in 2007 were dwarfed by his brother’s dominating nine-win season and correspondingly colossal 66-point rout in the track standings.
In hindsight, it was a watershed year for the driving duo from Christiansburg, Va. 2008 marked Derrick Lancaster’s debut season in Motor Mile Speedway’s Late Model class, leaving Scott poised for a more pronounced role in the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division. And he didn’t disappoint. Lancaster enjoyed a breakthrough season, snaring three wins in just ten starts.
Now, like his brother before him, Scott Lancaster is one of the most recognizable names in Limited Sportsman racing at the New River Valley short track. Since 2008, Lancaster has recorded at least one victory per competitive season, with a total of 10 wins to his credit.
In 2012, Lancaster posted his second career runner-up finish in the track standings, capping off the year with back-to-back victories in the division’s final pair of races. Teeming with momentum, Lancaster was instantly considered a contender for the title in 2013. Instead, his victory lane appearance in the 2012 season finale ushered in a hiatus lasting the entire 2013 season. Championship ambitions were put in neutral.
Lancaster returned to Motor Mile Speedway on April 26, 2014 with renewed optimism and the same unrelentingly aggressive determination that has become the trademark of driver no. 22.
“We knew we’d be good,” Lancaster says. “My guys had found a package there that works really well, so we were excited about it. We felt like we could definitely have a shot at the championship.”
Lancaster began the season with a victory inherited by virtue of a disqualification in post-race inspection. The leader of the division standings from the outset of the season, Lancaster expanded his advantage over the four succeeding contests, amassing a 26-point cushion entering the season finale.
A deluge of setbacks precipitated an abysmal twelfth-place showing in the final race of the season, but the atypical outing was enough to clinch the division title due to mirroring woes incurred by his chief threat in the championship battle, Bryan Reedy, who managed only a sixteenth-place finish.
Lancaster captured his first track championship by 16 markers over Karl Budzevski, tying MOD-4 racer Richard Doss for the largest margin of victory division-wide. Lancaster’s championship campaign was bolstered by a three-win season; dating back to 2012, team no. 22 has scored victories in five of the last eight Limited Sportsman races hosted by Motor Mile Speedway.
For Lancaster, his newly minted 2014 track championship means more than the single season the accomplishment represents. It signifies the continuation of a family legacy forged over nearly a decade of driving in the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division.
“It’s awesome to have the title of track champion,” says Lancaster. “To be called a track champion…that feels good. But to accomplish something that my brother has also accomplished— I think that’s pretty cool.”
Motor Mile Speedway’s Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division produced an average of eight cars per race in 2014. But drivers proved it’s about quality, not quantity.
The division featured four winners in six races this year— the most parity since the restructuring of the schedule format following the 2012 season. Even more impressive, the class orchestrated the best championship battle division-wide…again.
“Even though there may not be as many cars in our division, the front-running cars are very equal,” explains Scooter Hollandsworth, the 2014 division champion. “We had Doug Williams right there in it. If Matt Gusler would have had his car there every race, he very well could’ve won the championship just as easily as I did. There was definitely a lot of competition.”
On the heels of his first-ever Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock track championship, Hollandsworth entered the 2014 season as the favorite, eyeing a repeat of his spellbinding 2013 championship campaign. But while he would be an undeniable contender, a second consecutive title was no guarantee.
Check, Va., leadfoot Chad Conner was embarking on his first full season since 2011, when he tallied five victories en route to a third place finish in the standings. 2012 Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock Track Champion Barry Gregory was back after forgoing the 2013 season. Then there was Doug Williams, flashing considerable speed in the no. 73 machine.
The season opened with three different winners, illustrating the caliber of competition on display in the division. Anybody was capable of capturing a victory—both on the track and in the standings.
A disappointing eighth-place finish in the opener preceded a string of impressive outings for Hollandsworth. Over the next four races, Hollandsworth collected two wins supplemented by two runner-up efforts. Consistency -the hallmark of team no. 16- had Hollandsworth on the cusp of a title once again.
The Street Stock finale was a microcosm of the 2014 season. Hollandsworth entered the night with a slim advantage over Conner in the standings, but Williams, looming in third, proved to be the biggest threat. Williams dominated the final 30-lap heat, coasting to a colossal 6.8-second win over Conner and Hollandsworth, who were battling for second and preoccupied by points.
Hollandsworth was awarded his second consecutive track championship by a razor-thin two-point margin over Conner, with Williams just 4 points outside of first. The outcome marked the closest points finish at Motor Mile Speedway spanning all divisions for the second straight year. In the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division, it was the narrowest margin of victory in the standings since the track ownership change in 2004.
Reflecting on his historic repeat, what does Hollandsworth attribute to the success?
“Consistency,” says Hollandsworth. “In the seasons leading up to the last two years, I would still be getting my feet underneath me, and eventually we’d hit our stride toward the end of the season. But by then we’d have too much of a deficit to overcome to be in contention.
“It’s gratifying. Ten years ago or more when I started driving in UCARs I never thought I’d be winning races and championships in Street Stock,” continues Hollandsworth. “It’s hard to look back on where I was then and picture myself where I am now.”
Championships aren’t achieved in one season. They’re a lifetime in the making.
Just ask Richard Doss.
“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to drive a race car. I always felt like it was a dream to just be able to race and fulfill a childhood dream, much less win a race or even a championship,” Doss reflects. “This championship is just outstanding.”
It was perhaps the feel-good story of 2014. A longtime fixture of Motor Mile Speedway’s New River Nissan MOD-4 division, Doss broke out in 2014, methodically compiling the most consistent record in the division en route to his best career season at the .416-mile oval.
“Starting out the season, our goal was to win a race. We had accomplished previous goals of running in the top ten and finishing in the top five, so the next goal was to win,” says Doss. “We were fortunate enough to get that on the second night out. Then, when you end up on top of the points, I guess you move on to the next goal.”
The next goal: a track championship. Doss’ largest obstacle impeding the attainment of his championship objective: Chucky Williams.
Absent from the first two division contests, Williams returned on June 27th and embarked on a three-race winning streak that remained active with the season finale approaching. Eyeing an unprecedented perfect record in four starts, the defending New River Nissan MOD-4 Track Champion appeared to have the edge entering the final night of racing, despite a 12-point deficit.
“We ended up going into the last race thinking [Chucky Williams] could possibly win the race, and if he did, we knew we needed to finish sixth or better,” Doss states. “So that took a little pressure off, and I actually felt like we ran a strong race.”
Undeterred by Williams’ late-season surge, Doss remained focused. And in an unpredictable twist, the championship race was over the moment the green flag unfurled.
Williams incurred misfortune on the first circuit of the 30-lap contest, suffering a mangled front-end in a chain-reaction dustup on the initial start of the race. A few laps later, Doss’ improbable bid at a track championship became a reality.
In five career MOD-4 seasons, Doss’ best previous ranking in the division standings was fourth in 2011. Doss captured the 2014 class crown on the strength of one win and a division-high six top five finishes. Williams ended the year second in points, trailing Doss by 16 markers.
Motor Mile Speedway congratulates our 2014 Track Champions: Lee Pulliam, Scott Lancaster, Scooter Hollandsworth & Richard Doss