Lee Pulliam drove the wheel(s) off of it Saturday night.
On lap 91 of the Cintas 150, a broken right front wheel forced Pulliam to pit road under caution. It could have been a death knell. But Pulliam overcame the setback, and a spirited late-race charge from Josh Berry to notch his third consecutive win in the Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car division.
“We don’t ever give up,” Pulliam exclaimed in victory lane. “We didn’t have time to waste to get to the front. It was getting down to the nitty-gritty, and [we] had to dig hard. A lot of rubbing, but no wrecking. That’s the way it should be.”
After starting sixth per the Two Wins in a Row Policy, Pulliam eclipsed Berry, the Price’s Body Shop Pole sitter, to become the third leader of the race on lap 62. For the next 28 circuits Pulliam amassed a comfortable lead as he coasted around the .416-mile oval.
But unforeseen misfortune sent Pulliam coasting to pit road on lap 91. Pulliam precipitated the first of two caution flags of the evening on lap 90 after a broken right front wheel sliced flat the right front tire.
“Heckuva job by the crew. They had to pick up the right side of the car—it was on the ground. That kept us from going a lap down. They just did a phenomenal job to keep us in it,” Pulliam said.
Of the 20 Late Models that started the marquee feature, ten remained on the lead lap as the green flag unfurled on lap 101. Pulliam was scored tenth.
Berry inherited the lead on the restart, and as the laps began to dwindle, Pulliam’s silver and blue Chevrolet began to loom larger in his rear-view mirror. The remarkable rally climaxed ten circuits from the finish when Pulliam reclaimed the lead from Berry’s no. 88.
But Berry wouldn’t go quietly. For six circuits, Berry and Pulliam remained locked in two-car tussle for the top spot. Side-by-side, the sprint to the finish became a game of muscle, as the pair of wheelmen showcased the best racing action of the evening.
By lap 147, Pulliam had managed to edge past Berry. The no. 88 would fall to Pulliam by a slim .63 margin at the checkers.
“We’re getting closer. [Pulliam] ain’t unbeatable, I just proved that,” Berry affirmed. “I wanted to race him hard…I felt like he would’ve done the same to me. All in all, it was a great run for the Speedco Chevrolet. I feel good about this one.”
Tommy Lemons, Jr. claimed third. Frank Deiny, Jr. and Chad Harris rounded out the top five.
Although Berry lost the race, he continues to pad a burgeoning lead in the Bull & Bones Late Model track standings. After entering the event with a 44-point buffer, Berry currently enjoys a 48-point advantage over Deiny with three races remaining on the calendar.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
COLLISION PLUS LIMITED SPORTSMAN
Matt Taylor claimed his third Collision Plus Limited Sportsman victory of the year Saturday night in an overtime finish that saw two green-white-checkered restarts and carnage coming to the checkered flag.
It was a scene Taylor never saw.
“I don’t look in the mirror,” joked Taylor. “I’m glad it was over with. I was a little worried. The first restart went smoothly, but double-file restarts, green-white-checkers…anything can happen, as you can see.”
Taylor dominated the 50-lap heat, but his healthy lead was erased one circuit from the finish for a two-car dustup in turn three. The late-race incident sent the contest into overtime.
The first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish ended with the event’s third yellow flag on lap 51 for another two-car tangle. Still in command, Taylor led Karl Budzevski, Bryan Reedy, Preston McGhee and Kyle Dudley to the restart.
As Taylor exited turn four coming to the checkers, the remainder of the aforementioned top five became embroiled in a stack-up collision that sparked a multi-car maylay enveloping nearly the entire field. Turn four rapidly transformed into a junkyard as competitors struggled to limp their mangled machines back to the line. Among those swept up in the melee was McGhee; the points leader finished a disappointing ninth.
Reedy and Dudley, despite damage, finished second and third, respectively.
As a result of McGhee’s misfortune, the 20-point margin from first to second in the standings has been erased. With three races remaining, McGhee leads Taylor by a miniscule four points.
CARPET FACTORY OUTLET STREET STOCK
Two wins for the three-time track champion Brent Bell were negated following post-race inspection Saturday night.
The twinbill checkers instead went to Barry Gregory and Dr. Sheryl Carls, both of whom were forced to overcome adversity after enduring conflict. Gregory’s lead in the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division standings has swelled to 12 points in the aftermath. Carls, the 2011 track champion, remains second in points.
Due to Bell’s disqualification, Scooter Hollandsworth and Tony Vance finished second and third, respectively in Race 1. Gregory finished second and Hollandsworth placed third in the nightcap.
Larry Showalter collected 1st place honors in the 25-lap UCAR heat Saturday night after first-time winner Joey Phillips was disqualified in post-race inspection.
Rodney Howell and Roger Huff rounded out the podium with finishes of second and third, respectively.