Newly-minted track titlists reflect on historic seasons – JW Martin
The 2013 season was swift. The same can be said for the season’s standout drivers.
Motor Mile Speedway’s truncated season, which restructured the race schedule to six events, proved to favor past champions and savvy veterans.
The new format placed a premium on winning. The magnitude of each event was magnified; fewer races meant fewer opportunities to overcome misfortune. Teams were forced to perform at their peak in each race, or risk becoming irrelevant in the race for track championships.
For once, consistency alone wasn’t enough. All but one champion in 2013 collected more than half of the total first place trophies available in their respective divisions. Yet, all but one class remained undecided as the 2013 season climaxed on September 22nd. And when the checkers fell, these drivers rose to claim their division crowns.
Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car Track Champion – LEE PULLIAM
Monumental. Extraordinary. Historic.
In the lexicon of Late Model Stock Car racing, these words have become synonymous with Lee Pulliam.
Yet, they somehow fail to adequately describe the Semora, NC, native’s 2013 Late Model season.
Stated plainly: Pulliam had arguably the best Late Model season ever.
Pulliam amassed five championships in 2013; each one history-making, some record-setting.
This season, Pulliam became just the second driver in the history of the NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series to collect more than one national championship, joining an elite short-list of drivers that includes only Philip Morris and Larry Phillips. It was Pulliam’s second consecutive national crown, earned with a total of 810 points—a “perfect record” according to NASCAR.
“Being mentioned in the same sentence with Larry and Philip sends chills down my spine,” Pulliam told NASCAR Home Tracks’ Paul Schaefer. “It’s hard to put into words how that feels. We’re extremely blessed. I’ll cherish this accomplishment forever.”
Pulliam bested Deac McCaskill by 16 markers for top honors in what became a uniquely rare national title race. The duel marked the first time since 1993 that the NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series national championship was decided between the top two drivers in the nation after competing weekly in the same asphalt Late Model races.
Accompanying Pulliam’s national achievement is his second straight Virginia State Championship, attained by a colossal 120 points over Langley Speedway racer C.E. Falk.
At the local level, Pulliam’s accomplishments were equally exceptional. Pulliam notched Late Model track titles at Motor Mile Speedway and South Boston Speedway— a feat that is believed to be unparalleled in the history of the two revered race tracks.
Pulliam’s second Motor Mile Speedway Bull & Bones Late Model division track championship was earned in his second full season of competition at the .416-mile oval. Pulliam boasted a profound 75% winning percentage, capturing nine victories in 12 contests. Coupled with eleven top fives and eleven top tens, Pulliam edged out Peyton Sellers by a 20-point margin on the final night of the season— the division’s closest championship finish in five seasons.
Pulliam capped his career-best season with a victory in the inaugural Dirty Dozen points championship hosted by Motor Mile Speedway and Southern National Motorsports Park. After a deadlock in the standings following the Motor Mile Speedway season finale on September 22nd, Pulliam nipped McCaskill for the Dirty Dozen title in tie-breaker for most wins.
“For us to accomplish all this in Late Model, it’s a dream come true for me,” Pulliam said on September 22nd. “I’ve got a lot of good people surrounding me. I’m just the guy that gets to sit behind the wheel. It’s a total team effort.”
Collision Plus Limited Sportsman Track Champion – MATT TAYLOR
Thaxton, Va., native Matt Taylor enjoyed his most dominating Collision Plus Limited Sportsman season of his career in 2013, sewing up his third division title prior to the season finale on September 22nd.
It was a season reminiscent of Taylor’s maiden Limited Sportsman track championship. In 2010, Taylor outpaced the competition by 28 markers to win his first class crown on the strength of eleven top fives and eleven top tens.
This season, Taylor’s most recent title came packaged in similar fashion. Taylor notched a pair of wins supplemented by six top five finishes to claim the championship by 38 points—the largest margin of victory throughout all divisions in 2013.
Taylor’s 2013 resume was nothing short of impressive. Team no. 7 placed first or second in every outing this season, for the exception of the finale on September 22nd— Taylor tallied a fifth place effort in that event. Overall, it was Taylor’s best career season statistically in the Limited Sportsman division.
Karl Budzevski and Bryan Reedy deadlocked at 142 points apiece behind Taylor’s winning record.
While Taylor admits his latest accomplishment is outweighed by his preceding titles, the significance of becoming a three-time track champion isn’t lost on the Motor Mile Speedway veteran.
“It’s hard to put it in perspective. In the Limited car, I’ve never had a season where there was no pressure in the last race,” Taylor says. “I feel very blessed to have three Limited Sportsman championships. But this one didn’t mean as much to me as the previous two.
“It still means a lot. There are a lot of people who would love to have a championship at Motor Mile. And I think back to last year—we got wrecked by a lapped car, and that took it away. It can be taken away that easy. A few years prior to that, I gave one away due to my temper. So I am very grateful to have three [Limited Sportsman] track championships.”
New River Nissan MOD-4 Track Champion – CHUCKY WILLIAMS
Chucky Williams entered 2013 a favorite for the New River Nissan MOD-4 track championship after a division-high five wins in 2012 produced the team’s second straight third-place finish in the point standings.
Williams answered expectations, delivering the no. 73 Kidd Motorsports team four wins, including three consecutive victories to close out the season in pursuit of their first MOD-4 division championship.
The title was decided on the final night of racing. Williams entered the event with a meager 2-point advantage on challenger Brittany Cockram, who was enjoying a breakout year with top five finishes in every contest, including her first-career division victory on June 1st.
“We were worried to death. I’ve watched [Cockram] progress and get better and better. She was right there in that last race. You have no clue how nervous I was,” Williams explains.
In the end, Williams eclipsed Cockram for the crown by an eight-point spread. It was the closest points margin in the division since 2011. Although Cockram compiled more top-five finishes than Williams, the victories Williams accrued were insurmountable.
“It’s awesome. It’s all I ever heard before we started was how if you win at Motor Mile, you’ve done something. When you go to these other tracks and you win a race, you’ve won a race. But when you go to Motor Mile and win a race, you’ve beat the best. And that’s what we finally did.”
Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock Track Champion – SCOOTER HOLLANDSWORTH
Spanning all points-paying divisions at Motor Mile Speedway in 2013, no division champion authored a more dominating season than Scooter Hollandsworth.
After beginning the season with finishes of fourth and second, respectively, in the first two contests, Hollandsworth logged four consecutive victories in the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division en route to his first division track championship at Motor Mile Speedway. The record Hollandsworth compiled equated to a staggering 1.6 average finish over six races.
Despite Hollandsworth’s season-long dominance, the championship remained undecided as the first-place battle in the point standings climaxed on the final night of racing. Entering the 30-lap finale, a mere two points separated Hollandsworth from Jessica Harmon, who had proven to be a formidable contender for the title.
“There was no room for error. I would have rather had it sewn up before then, just so I could have enjoyed the whole experience leading up to it,” Hollandsworth explains. “I was definitely concerned. [Harmon] is a good driver, and they’re always fast.”
The bout continued until the checkers fell, with Harmon placing second to Hollandsworth on the track and in the standings by a minuscule four points—the closest points battle division-wide in 2013.
It marked the first time since 2009 that the Street Stock division championship battle has ended in single digits. With Harmon’s no. 05 placing on the podium in every division contest in 2013, it was the win column that propelled Hollandsworth to the championship.
“It’s a dream come true, really,” says Hollandsworth. “It was something I had thought about—when you start out in a division, you never really know what to expect. You never know if you’ll get to that point; if you’ll get that competitive.
“After getting my feet wet for awhile, and getting more experience, it looked like it could be more of a reality. It was definitely worth it.”