PERFECTION FOR PULLIAM
Pulliam outpaces field to sweep Blue Ridge Copier TWIN 125s – JW Martin
The first race was picture perfect, and the finale a fine photocopy for Lee Pulliam in the Blue Ridge Copier Twin 125s.
The defending WHELEN All-American Series national champion swept Saturday’s twinbill in what proved to be a pivotal points night. Five of the top ten contenders in the current national title race were in attendance, including Pulliam’s top two challengers for the crown: Deac McCaskill and Tommy Lemons, Jr.
“This was really important,” Pulliam said of the two victories. “Tonight was pretty crucial. Anytime you have full car counts, that’s big. But man, it’s gonna be a dogfight down to the end, I still believe that. We ain’t giving up.”
Pulliam didn’t flinch against a hard-charging Adam Long in the opener. And when a resurgent Peyton Sellers was afforded a late-race restart in the nightcap, Pulliam darted off, thwarting any chance of a challenge from the Late Model stalwart. And in between, a full moon event produced 10 cautions, one overtime finish, and plenty of wild action through more than 250 circuits.
Sellers notched his second consecutive Price’s Body Shop pole award to begin the first feature from the point. The no. 99 was in command through much of the early going unchallenged, pacing 66 of the opening 70 laps of the contest. Pulliam, after stalking Sellers throughout the race, eclipsed the no. 99 on lap 70 for first. It proved to be the pass for the win.
Sellers surrendered second to Long on lap 103. For the remainder of the contest, Long fought to erase Pulliam’s substantial advantage, but to no avail. At the finish, Pulliam captured the checkers by a margin of 1.2 seconds.
For Long, his eye-raising 2013 debut was a breakthrough.
“I’ve been coming here for six years now, and this is my best finish. Lee’s the best of the best, and to run second to him, I feel like it’s a win. But I still wanna win here…I’ve got to win here.” Long said.
Sellers snared third, with McCaskill and Brandon Dean rounding out the top five.
Pulliam was saddled with a sixth-place starting spot by virtue of the invert to begin the finale. After expertly navigating around the competition, Pulliam was contending for first on lap 20 with leader Brandon Dean.
Dean, the 2010 Late Model track titlist, wouldn’t yield without a fight. For the better part of two laps, Dean pummeled Pulliam with a series of jabs entering the corners in a last-ditch effort to reclaim the top spot. Pulliam ultimately fended off the aggressive assault, and the exciting exchange ended without incident. Dean went on to post his best finish of the season, placing fourth at the checkers.
As in the opener, five cautions slowed the nightcap feature, with the final yellow flag unfurling on lap 113. The restart on lap 117 would stage a ten lap, green flag overtime finish.
The restart pitted two past national titlists against each other up front. Sellers had quietly maintained a top five presence throughout the latter race, and with ten laps to go, the 2005 national champion was in position to capitalize on the caution. But although Sellers would fade no more than a car length off the lead in the closing circuits, Sellers could not manage to muster a charge on Pulliam, trailing by a half-second at the finish.
The result marked Sellers second runner-up effort to Pulliam in four races. Although managing a smile, the outcome left Sellers in wonderment of Pulliam’s edge.
“Man, we’re all trying to figure that out,” said Sellers. “I’m pretty tickled to be in second here tonight. We’re pulling our hair out trying to get it right, but we’re getting closer every week. We’ve got the pole speed down, now we just need to get that 125-lap speed down.”
Defending track champion Josh Berry finished the second feature on the podium with an impressive third place showing. After an abysmal start to the season, Berry’s no. 88 team overcame adversity to record two top ten finishes in the Blue Ridge Copier Twin 125s.
“It does [feel like a win],” said Berry of the podium performance. “We didn’t have the luck on our side in the first one. I mean, we were dead last in the first race, and we came up through there. We’re gonna get there. We’re not gonna give up until we do.”
Dean and Tommy Lemons, Jr. rounded out the top five.
After entering the event with a three-way tie for first in the Bull & Bones Late Model division track standings, Pulliam now enjoys a 12-point lead over Sellers. McCaskill, Lemons and Matt Bowling all remain in contention after two events.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
G.R. Waldrop captured his first career victory in the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division after a last-lap fracas between leaders Karl Budzevski and Kyle Barnes sparked a multi-car collision exiting turn two.
“It’s definitely a confidence-booster for this Jersey Mike’s race team,” said Waldrop. “We’ve struggled trying to get to the podium, and we’re finally here and it feels absolutely amazing.”
Matt Taylor and Bryan Reedy rounded out the podium.
Brittany Cockram enjoyed her first career victory in the New River Nissan MOD-4 division Saturday night. In a race of attrition, three cars remained on track at the finish, with Cockram scoring the win by a margin of 1.3 seconds.
“I already had one hand up, shaking my fist with one-to-go,” an ecstatic Cockram said of the win. “It really means a lot. We’ve been doing it for two years, and hopefully there will be many more to come.”
Chad Conner claimed his second consecutive victory in the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division over Jessica Harmon and Scooter Hollandsworth. Ricky Howell, Jr. notched his second straight win in the UCAR class, with Rodney Howell and Charles Smith rounding out the top three.