LUCAMA, NC – Lee Pulliam has more than one reason to be thankful on this Thanksgiving weekend.
The three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion was not even sure he would be racing in the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic after his wife, LeAnne, was injured in an accident on her way to work on Thursday. On Sunday, it was her strength that gave him the inspiration and determination to score the victory at Southern National Motorsports Park.
“She's awesome,” Pulliam said in victory lane after the race. “Her leg broke completely in half three days ago and, to be here, on that walker, it's unbelievable. She gave me inspiration. We weren't even going to run it. I can't thank God enough, I am so blessed. Not only to drive this racecar but to still have my wife by my side. It's just awesome. We've come so close, so many times. Had the dominant car here and things kept happening. Finally got it done.”
Despite the injuries LeAnne suffered, she came to the track on Sunday to cheer Lee on and was by his side in victory lane after he scored the victory.
“Thursday was kind of a long and exciting day,” LeAnne Pulliam said. “He wasn't going to come race and I told him that he better come race so, I had to spend the night in the hospital Thursday night. Friday, he came and practiced. He wasn't P1. I told him to go home and make it faster. He came back on Saturday and was P1. He just knew from then on, he better bring it home for the win.”
For LeAnne, the celebration of Lee's victory in the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic was not about him winning it for her but about him winning the one major Late Model Stock Car race that has eluded him and completing the “Grand Slam”.
“I didn't even care about it being for me, I just wanted him to get the Grand Slam,” LeAnne remarked. “This is one of the biggest races in his career that he has never won so I wanted him to win it, especially this year, so that was it.”
Pulliam has scored more than 100 wins in his Late Model Stock Car racing career but Sunday's win ranks near the top for the Semora, North Carolina driver.
“I'm just thankful to be here, thankful to have my whole family here and, it's so hard to put a placing on it but it's right up there,” Lee commented. “Every win's special but this win's special for sure with her and the week we'e had and, I'm ecstatic but, at the same time, I'm still in awe of everything that's happened this week. Just trying to take it all in.”
Lee Pulliam took the lead from 2014 Southern National Motorsports Park track champion Tommy Lemons, Jr. on lap 74 in the 200 lap race and led up through the halftime intermission. When the racing resumed, Pulliam had to hold off a fierce challenge from four-time Southern National Motorsports Park track champion Deac McCaskill throughout much of the second half of the race. McCaskill, as well as Lemons and Myatt Snider, who came in fresh off a victory at Myrtle Beach Speedway (South Carolina), all raced within close proximity.
“We tried to play the chess game right and everything fell into place,” Pulliam said. “All the guys raced around and raced hard and raced clean all day long. I've got to thank Tommy, Myatt, Deac comes to mind, someone I raced around. Just a stellar crowd and you get us four together plus all the other guys here, wasn't one of the biggest car counts but there wasn't a lack of talent here.”
With eight cars, at one point, all lined up right behind him, all Pulliam could do was play defense and hit his marks while sitting in his car alone with his thoughts after having lost the race in the last three attempts. Pulliam prayed and his prayers were answered. As the top-nine continued to battle nose-to-tail, Pulliam caught a break when Deac McCaskill struggled to get around the lapped car of Haley Moody.
“I was just praying every lap,” he explained. “I said to God, 'I've lost this race every way possible and, if it's your will, let it be done.' I just thought about it every lap. Thought about her and just tried to hit my marks, be as smooth as I could and did a lot of thinking. I probably wasn't 100 percent behind the wheel but I was good enough to get it done.”
Pulliam was able to drive away in a late race restart after the race's fourth and final caution came out within the final 10 laps due to debris from Moody's car. That caution proved to be McCaskill's undoing as Snider was able to drive past him to take the second position on the final lap of the race.
“I'm not disappointed with today,” Snider said. “I pushed the car for all it was worth towards the end and gave it all I could. I was really dogging it to get it to do anything those last couple of laps. Ended up getting past Tommy and Deac towards the end. It ended up working out for us. I'm proud of Lee because he, of all people, deserves to win today with all that has happened to him recently and he's a great competitor to so it was a great day.”
Prior to his late race charge, Snider had been mired in a battle with Mark Wertz for much of the race. The two drivers traded paint and entertained the fans in a duel that looked destined to end with hurt feelings and bent sheet metal.
“He was giving it to me pretty good towards the end. I think it's just maybe his only coming here a few times. That level of experience. He wasn't trying to wreck me or anything, he was just driving it in as hard as he could. More power to him. That will kill your right front. That's just the nature of this track. No bad feelings there. He was just trying as hard as he could and I was trying to conserve tires and I finished second so, I'm pretty happy.”
McCaskill ended up finishing the race in the third position, a result he was disappointed in himself with.
“[Pulliam] had a good car,” McCaskill commented. “We just over-adjusted at halfway. I'm upset at myself. I should've known better. It's totally my fault. I apologize to all the guys on the crew and everybody. I don't know. Lee was really strong. Center-off, he was really driving off the corner better than I did. Tried running with him a little while, kept getting tighter and tighter on the restarts. The car would just never come back to me on the short runs. Just lost second at the end. Came home third, so it is. Nothing you can do about it.”
Tommy Lemons, Jr. ended up finishing in fourth while Justin Johnson, Mark Wertz, Cliff Daniels, Mike Darne, Chris Davis and Brenden Queen rounded out the top-10.
The race was halted by cautions four times, the worst being for an accident on the second lap of the race when Robert Bruce wrecked on the frontstretch. Bruce was okay and walked away on his own power with no problems.
Brandon Setzer played the tire management strategy in the 125 lap Super Late Model race to score the victory. Kevin Floars dominated the race but, in the process, used up his tires which allowed Setzer to pass him on a restart with 90 laps to go. He never looked back on his way to victory lane.
“We just bided our time, saved tires at the end there,” Setzer said. “Whenever it was time to go, we had a little bit left to go. We had just enough, because Fryar was running us down there towards the end. Luckily we had that lead.”
Jared Fryar finished second in the race while Jared Irvan, Mike Darne, Tyler Ankrum, Nick Robinson, Jeff Fultz, Kevin Floars, Jamey Caudill and Sarah Cornett-Ching rounded out the top-10.
The Thanksgiving All-Star Classic was the final race of the 2015 season at Southern National Motorsports Park. The 2016 season, which will be the 21st season of racing at Southern National, will begin sometime next spring with Late Model Stock Car racing and Super Late Model racing being featured semi-regularly at the 4/10-mile track just outside of Kenly, North Carolina.
Along with the regular season schedule, which will be announced in the coming weeks, the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour will open their season at Southern National on April 2nd and will visit again on May 21st.
Late Model Stock Car
- #5 Lee Pulliam
- #2 Myatt Snider
- #08 Deac McCaskill
- #27 Tommy Lemons, Jr.
- #44 Justin Johnson
- #55 Mark Wertz
- #13 Cliff Daniels
- #1 Mike Darne
- #88 Chris Davis
- #03 Brenden Queen
- #63 Tyler Matthews
- #77 Connor Hall
- #97 Brian Henderson
- #50 Haley Moody
- #4r Jonathan Findley
- #10 Nick Smith
- #41 Scott Wise
- #67 Danny Edwards, Jr.
- #29 Robert Bruce
Super Late Model – 125 Laps
- #6 Brandon Setzer
- #16 Jared Fryar
- #21 Jared Irvan
- #99 Mike Darne
- #58 Tyler Ankrum
- #71 Nick Robinson
- #54 Jeff Fultz
- #55 Kevin Floars
- #41 Jamey Caudill
- #2 Sarah Cornett-Ching
- #67 Curtis Venable
- #M3 Shelton McNair
- #24 Mason Diaz
- #75 Chad Finley
- #05 Alex Fleming
- #17 Clay Rogers
- #17 Kevin Jeffreys
- #77 Logan Jones -- DNS
For more information about Southern National Motorsports Park, check out SNMP’s website at www.snmpark.com, “like” Southern National Motorsports Park on Facebook or “follow” @SNM_Park on Twitter.