In his first start at MMS, Morris is victorious in Linkous Paving/Pine Ridge Nursery 150 – JW Martin
History repeats itself. Just ask Philip Morris.
One year ago, Morris entered the Linkous Paving 150 a part-time interloper at Motor Mile Speedway, playing the role of spoiler. He left victorious.
Saturday night, for the first time since that triumph, Morris returned to Motor Mile Speedway. He returned playing the role of spoiler. And for the second consecutive year, Morris returned to victory lane.
The race was the same. The scenario was the same. Amongst a bulging field of 31 Late Models–the largest since the 2011 installment of the 150-lap race – Morris was the only contender racing for just the purse and the pride. No points. No pressure.
What transpired became an instant Motor Mile Speedway classic; an epic struggle for first between two Late Model heavyweights.
“What an awesome race,” Morris said from victory lane in the Linkous Paving/Pine Ridge Nursery 150. “This is why I got into racing. I wasn’t the fastest car, but I was close. I was trying with my tongue hanging out.
“It’s so much fun to be back, and I’m really enjoying myself.”
Lee Pulliam captured the Price’s Body Shop Pole Award, but was handicapped to sixth per the Two Wins in a Row Policy. Josh Berry inherited the pole, but was soon overtaken by Morris for the top spot on lap 11. After a brief green flag stint to start the show, cautions dotted the midway portion of the contest.
By lap 20, Pulliam had joined Morris at the front of the field, and for the next 110 circuits, Morris would have a rear-view mirror full of silver and blue.
The battle for first was a showcase of some of the best Late Model action witnessed in 2012. As the race reached the lap 100 mark, Morris and Pulliam were in a league of their own, having distanced themselves by a straightaway over the remainder of the field. Never separated by more than a pair of car lengths, Pulliam maintained Morris’ torrid pace as the lead duo navigated lapped traffic, and by lap 120, Pulliam was applying significant pressure to Morris.
The challenge for the lead reached a spectacular climax as the top two plunged into turn three on lap 131. After several laps of white-knuckle, two-abreast action, slight contact was made at the entrance of the corner.
A slight rub from Pulliam’s right front tire sparked a tandem slide up the banking, with both cars skating wildly out of control. Morris managed to collect the no. 26 Clarence’s Steakhouse Chevrolet. Pulliam wasn’t as fortunate.
“It was just hard racing. He was doing all he could to win the race, and I was doing all I could. I was trying to stay off him. We hooked with the right front…it just about knocked the wheel out of my hands,” Pulliam said of the contact. “That was some of the best racing fans could watch anywhere.”
Pulliam’s bid for first ended in a cloud of smoke on the apron of turn four as the yellow flag unfurled for the final time, staging an eleven-lap dash to the checkers. In a remarkable rebound, Pulliam rallied from tenth to finish third in the final ten circuits.
Up front, Morris was finally free of Pulliam’s dogged pursuit. But Morris was far from home free.
As the field converged for the restart, Morris found himself alongside an old foe: Frank Deiny, Jr.
“I was like ‘Oh, here we go again,’” recalled Morris with a faint smile. “I figured I had burnt my tires up, and maybe Frank had saved his.”
An uncharacteristic qualifying effort had saddled Deiny with a thirteenth-place starting spot. Despite the disadvantage, Deiny had methodically worked his way into the top three, and with the aid of a caution, the no. 5 was in a position to capitalize.
Not to mention the opportunity to wrangle a win away from a longtime rival.
“That’s what dreams are made of…when a caution comes out at the end with the ‘ole no. 26 on the bottom,” Deiny said. “I really wanted a piece of him, but I just didn’t have anything left to fight with.
“I’m glad to see he’s back…I can stop wearing his shirt under my suit now,” Deiny joked. “We’ll get him. Just glad to have him back; he’s a reason to keep racing.”
With a clean restart, Morris built a healthy advantage over Deiny in the final few laps. The race ended incident-free, with Morris besting Deiny by over a second.
Pulliam edged out Berry for third, and Kris Bowen rounded out the top five.
With one event remaining on the schedule, Berry maintains a 34-point buffer over Deiny in the Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car division points race. The championship will be decided by a Twin-race format on September 15th.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Scott Lancaster snapped a winless streak Saturday night, collecting his first win of the year in a contentious conclusion to the 50-lap Collision Plus Limited Sportsman feature. Matt Gusler took top honors for the second straight week in the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division, and Chucky Williams continues to dominate the New River Nissan MOD-4 ranks, notching his fourth consecutive win Saturday night.