FINCHUM, PULLIAM SHARE SPOTLIGHT IN NASH FM 107.1 TWIN 75’S
On-track setbacks befall a multitude of contenders in LMSC twinbill – JW Martin
Chad Finchum and Lee Pulliam dominated. But attrition reigned.
Saturday night, it was more about outlasting the field than out-running it. The NASH FM 107.1 TWIN 75’s were survival contests for the fifteen O’Reilly Auto Parts Late Model division competitors entered in the marquee event.
Lee Pulliam snared the Price’s Body Shop pole award in the first 75-lap sprint, leading the opening two circuits of the contest before Brandon Butler assumed command of the top spot on lap 3. Butler paced the race for 18 circuits before a hard-charging Chad Finchum muscled Butler’s no. 02 from the bottom groove in turn two on lap 20. Finchum wrestled the point away from Butler on lap 21; it proved to be the pass for the win.
Reminiscent of his April 23rd triumph, Finchum gravitated to the top side of the .416-mile oval, amassing a 1.862-second lead at the checkers in an uncontested victory over Pulliam. Butler claimed third.
Although caution-free, five cars recorded DNF’s in the first feature; four cars were sidelined short of the scheduled distance due to mechanical issues. Underbody trouble was terminal for Ryan Repko and Derrick Lancaster; neither driver made it to the grid in the nightcap.
A four-car inversion placed Philip Morris on the pole for the bookend 75-lap dash. In contrast to the first feature, the nightcap was plagued by a rash of cautions at the outset of the race, with the first yellow flag of the evening claiming the newly-minted winner on lap 8.
Starting fourth due to the inversion, Finchum was embroiled in a battle in the back-half of the top five with newcomer Enrique Baca when contact from Baca’s no. 6 launched Finchum into the outside retaining wall in turn three. The damage sustained in the crash relegated Finchum to the garage.
The second yellow flag unfurled five laps later. Maddie Crane’s no. 2 tangled with Bryan Reedy on the back straightaway, sending Reedy’s no. 17 careening into the inside wall on lap 13. The incident produced the second casualty of the race, with Reedy unable to return to the track.
Morris led 34 of the opening 37 circuits, with much of the early portion of the contest punctuated by close-quarter, side-by-side racing between Morris and Pulliam. In vintage form, the seven-time track champion aggressively forestalled repeated pass attempts from Pulliam’s no.5. Following a brief assault on Morris in the wake of the third and final restart on lap 22, Pulliam was resigned to tracing the tire tracks of Morris’ no. 01.
The pair of national champions began staging a spirited duel for first… until misfortune descended on Morris’ red Chevrolet on lap 36. Two laps later, Morris joined Finchum, Reedy, and Butler in the garage.
“It was just getting ready to get good, but the fuel pump went out on the car. It just wasn’t meant to be,” Morris said. “I hate letting one of these slide, because I felt like we were working towards a ‘W’.”
Pulliam later commented on the burgeoning race that never completely materialized.
“It was shaping up to be a really good battle,” acknowledged Pulliam. “[Morris] was driving the crap out of it. It was going to be a good show.”
With his top competition spectating, Pulliam began constructing an insurmountable lead. Mike Looney emerged as Pulliam’s chief threat as the laps began to dwindle, and while Looney’s no. 87 could maintain Pulliam’s pace, Looney failed to reel in the leader. Pulliam coasted to his fourth win of the season 1.383-seconds ahead of Looney. Garrett Bunch, in just his third start in 2016, rounded out the podium.
After struggling with the setup at the beginning of the year, Looney’s runner-up effort marked his best outing thus far in 2016.
“We’re probably one of the most under-funded teams out here, but I couldn’t be more happy with [the car.] First night out we got lapped twice in 150 laps. We tested one time… now we’re sitting here second. That’s a pretty good gain.”
After weathering the twinbill, Pulliam summed up the prevailing theme of the night.
“We had a little luck. The car never really turned from the get-go of the race like it needed to. It was good enough to get it done,” remarked Pulliam. “We don’t wish any bad luck on anybody, but we’ll take a win when we can get it.”
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Karl Budzevski edged out Dylan Saul to capture his second Collision Plus Limited Sportsman win of the 2016 season by a minuscule .250-seconds at the stripe. Saul overcame a one second deficit to contest Budzevski for the victory in the final frenzied laps.
An infraction in post-race inspection negated Saul’s on-track effort, however. Scott Lancaster was credited with second, and Richard Caldwell was awarded third.
Budzevski and Lancaster are currently deadlocked atop the standings after four races.
Doug Williams netted his first win of the season in Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock competition Saturday night. Casey Cupp tallied second, with Nick Cole rounding out the podium in a race slowed by three cautions.