NATIONAL CHAMPIONS TAKE TWINS
Sellers snares first win in eight years; captures championship lead – JW Martin
The weather wasn’t the only unpredictable part of Saturday night’s Pine Ridge Nursery Twin 125s.
Just when Lee Pulliam appeared to be coasting toward his second sweep of the season in the Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car division, a fluke malfunction derailed his chances for victory…
…and possibly a track championship.
Threatening skies dissipated into a brilliant evening of racing as the season’s fourth event began as billed. Pulliam snapped Sellers’ stranglehold in qualifying by becoming the only other driver to claim the Price’s Body Shop Pole Award this season in the first feature. Sellers started alongside the No. 1 for the 125-lap race, and after a spirited battle for the top spot, Pulliam surpassed his top competition for first.
Pulliam led unchallenged in a race slowed by only one caution flag. For the fourth time this season, Pulliam and Sellers finished first and second at the line. Defending track champion Josh Berry claimed third.
The inversion following race no. 1 shuffled the entire top ten, and by virtue of the re-draw, Hunter Devers and Michael Maresca -in his first career outing at Motor Mile Speedway- started on the front row. Motor Mile Speedway veteran Dennis Holdren capitalized on the ensuing scramble for position as the green flag unfurled, and for the next 64 circuits Holdren enjoyed the point unpressured.
The standouts from the first feature were mired in the field at the outset of the nightcap due to the inversion, but as the race matured, those same machines began to march back toward the front.
Sellers and Pulliam started the finale ninth and tenth, respectively, but by lap 70, the pair of national champions were back in command. Holdren surrendered first to Pulliam on the sixty-fifth circuit, and shortly thereafter succumbed to Sellers. Holdren would finish the feature with a solid fifth-place effort.
Still in pursuit of Pulliam, it appeared as if Sellers would be forced to settle for second until the event’s lone yellow was brandished on lap 96. The caution would change the complexion of the contest.
As the field entered turn one following the restart, Pulliam’s no. 1 machine abruptly faltered.
“I heard him sputtering getting down in the corner, and I didn’t know what had happened. Then they said he might have run out of gas,” recalled Sellers.
Pulliam’s night came to a stunning halt as the frontrunners rounded the corner. Pulliam’s Chevrolet lost power, forcing the entire pack to take evasive action to avert disaster. The issue relegated Pulliam to the garage, retiring from competition to post his first DNF of the 2013 season at MMS.
“Broke a fuel pump,” Pulliam later confirmed. “Everybody behind me did a great job; I know they weren’t expecting it. Nothing anybody could do, just a mechanical failure.”
Sellers became the beneficiary of Pulliam’s misfortune. Seller’s no. 99 bolted out to a four car-length lead in the aftermath, and he would maintain a comfortable advantage through the remainder of the race.
Berry and Deac McCaskill trailed Sellers at the finish.
For Sellers, the win marked his first victory lane appearance at the .416-mile since 2005, when he netted two victories during his national championship campaign.
“It’s been a while,” said Sellers. “We’re here to win, too. To finally catch a good break and get this win…It’s an unbelievable night.”
The latter 125-lap feature reflected significant ramifications in the division point standings. Entering the event with an 18-point lead, Pulliam’s dismal seventeenth-place outcome equated to a 32-point swing in the standings, as Sellers now controls the track championship race by 14 markers with just two nights of racing remaining in the 2013 regular season.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Nursing a broken right leg, defending Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division track champion Preston McGhee notched his first career victory at Motor Mile Speedway in Saturday night’s 50-lap heat.
McGhee forestalled Matt Taylor to take top honors. Tam Tompam rounded out the top three.
Scooter Hollandsworth captured his second consecutive victory of the season in the Carpet Factory Outlet division feature, with Chucky Williams netting his second win of the season in the New River Nissan MOD-4 race.
Scotty and Ricky Howell produced the best finish of the season thus far in the 15-circuit UCAR feature, as the brothers crossed the stripe in a photo-finish. Ricky Howell was deemed the winner, and in post-race inspection Scotty Howell and third-place finisher Rodney Howell were disqualified for rules infractions.