National title contenders Pulliam, McCaskill split Kesler Contracting Twin 125s – JW Martin
They were making memories at Motor Mile Speedway Friday night.
It could have been dirty. It could have been desperate. Or it could have been stellar short track racing. Regardless, it was a night to remember for the winners of the Kesler Contracting Twin 125s.
The losers vowed to remember it, too.
Two thrilling –if not controversial– moves propelled the top two drivers in the WHELEN All-American Series national points race to victory in the Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car division twinbill. In an event with national championship implications, the driving displayed in each feature reflected the magnitude of capturing the checkered flag: For Lee Pulliam, it was about protecting a burgeoning points lead. For Deac McCaskill, it was about making history on a history-making night.
For the third consecutive event, Peyton Sellers bested a 22-car field to claim the Price’s Body Shop pole award in the first feature. Sellers comfortably paced the event through the opening 88 circuits prior to the first caution flag of the race. A brief green flag stint ushered in the second and final yellow on lap 102, staging a 17-lap sprint to the finish.
Throughout the contest, Sellers had maintained a one-car length buffer over his top competition. Josh Berry and Lee Pulliam had each given chase to the No. 99, but as the laps began to wane, Pulliam appeared as Sellers chief threat. And with 10 laps to go, Pulliam began to ratchet up the pressure.
In the closing circuits, Sellers would continue to forestall Pulliam’s advancements. After leading the initial 124 circuits, Sellers received the white flag first.
He would take the checkered flag in second.
After mirroring the No. 99 in turns one and two, Pulliam plunged low into turn three, closing to within inches of Sellers as the duo entered the apex of the corner. As the leaders rounded turn four, Pulliam applied an old-fashioned bump-and-run to the rear of Sellers’ machine. The jab shoved Sellers out of the bottom groove, creating the avenue Pulliam was seeking on the inside lane.
The front straightaway transformed into a drag strip as the pair lunged toward the start- finish line. Pulliam nipped Sellers at the stripe by a .078 margin of victory in a door-banging photo-finish.
The electrifying finish ignited a firestorm of outspoken opinions from the fans. In victory lane, from Pulliam’s point of view, the move was necessary.
“I just did what I had to do to win,” Pulliam explained. The victory marked Pulliam’s fourth triumph at MMS in six races. “Battling for this national championship, you can’t let anything get away from ya…every win is [that] important…”
Sellers, however, didn’t hold the same viewpoint.
“Well, it was pretty simple. Everybody saw what happened. Not happy with second; not happy with coming down here and getting roughed up for the win,” Sellers said of the maneuver. “That’s all it is: you have a certain amount of respect for the next guy….it’ll come back one day.”
Sellers’ statement proved prophetical. It came back to Pulliam; although the aggressive driving would originate from an unexpected source.
After a quiet sixth-place finish in the opener, Deac McCaskill was afforded the pole in the nightcap by virtue of the inversion. McCaskill’s no. 08 held the lead for the first eight laps before surrendering the point to Mike Looney, who had rocketed from his fourth-place starting position.
Looney led the following 85 circuits uncontested, before a flurry of late-race restarts shuffled the running order substantially.
The first yellow flag of the finale was brandished on lap 84. Opting for the top lane on the restart, Looney yielded the bottom to McCaskill. The no. 08 bolted out front with the better restart, and Looney plummeted through the field in the ensuing scramble for position.
The second caution period on lap 96 placed the spotlight on the pair of national title contenders. Side-by-side at the front of the field on what became a riveting restart, McCaskill began to out-muscle Pulliam entering the corners. McCaskill’s no. 08 soon shunned Pulliam out of the upper groove in turn four, thwarting Pulliam’s momentum. McCaskill re-assumed command of the top spot at the line; the move proved to be the pass for the win.
“He just used us up, doing what he needed to do to win the race. He won it, but it’ll be in the memory bank, and we’ll go at it again,” said Pulliam.
The final yellow of the night birthed an eight lap dash to the checkers. But even with the aid of another restart, Pulliam could not regain the real estate lost in the earlier tussle. After surpassing Sellers for second, Pulliam fell to McCaskill at the checkers by a .816 margin of victory.
The outcome was historic. Motor Mile Speedway’s first-ever Friday night event produced a first-time winner, with McCaskill netting his first career victory in just his sixth start.
“This is a night I’ll never forget,” exclaimed McCaskill, expanding on his engagement with Pulliam. “I got underneath Lee on that restart, and I just did what I had to do to win the race. He did what he had to do to win the first race, so I figured I could do the same thing,” McCaskill explained. “We needed this win bad.
“I can’t believe this, this is awesome.”
McCaskill’s first visit to victory lane at the .416-mile oval comes at a crucial juncture in the 2013 season. The victory bolsters McCaskill’s advantage as the leader of the “Dirty Dozen”, and he has closed to within 28 markers of Pulliam in the Motor Mile Speedway track standings. Pulliam maintains the points lead by a margin of 16 points over Sellers.
In the national title race, the victory stabilizes the gap to Pulliam at eight points as the top two drivers in the nation enter Saturday’s event at South Boston Speedway.
Both competitors are expected to return to Motor Mile Speedway on August 10th as the national championship battle continues to climax.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Matt Taylor notched his second victory of the season in the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division over Bryan Reedy and Karl Budzevski.
Doodle Lang captured the checkers for the first time this season in the New River Nissan MOD-4 division, with Scooter Hollandsworth snaring his first track triumph of the year in the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock Class.
The UCAR feature went to a first-time winner, with longtime competitor Rodney Howell claiming victory.