EDITOR'S NOTE: Approximately two hours after this story was posted Tuesday, NASCAR officials handed down fines and suspensions to three individuals involved in the post-race altercation at South Boston. Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers (part of Morris' Sellers Racing team) and crew member Terry Powell were each suspended from NASCAR indefinitely and fined. Pulliam received a $1,000 fine, Sellers $750 and Powell $500 in addition to their suspensions.
It was the last time the two Late Model Stock Car heavy weights were planning to run in the 2011 season and nothing was left on the table. A clash of youth and experience were welded together from the summer months on as the two fought for glory. Even though Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam raced different tracks and rarely went head-to-head, the tension was building.
The backdrop was South Boston Speedway (VA) for the 300 lap season finale. The result was chaos after the race was completed.
To no surprise, Morris won the event marking his 20th win of the 2011 season at the Virginia track. The 300-lap season-ending contest matched up the best Late Model Stock drivers from the area. Although Morris' team had a strategy for 300 laps, the 301st circuit, followed buy 302 and 303, were not in the cards.
Morris found himself getting out of a wrecked racecar in victory lane after Lee Pulliam, the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 winner, wrecked him and then plowed him head-on after the checkered flag. Pulliam was showing his disapproval of Morris after the two tangled for the top spot earlier in the race.
"We were on the cool down lap and he comes flying around the track and crashes my car," said Morris. "If that wasn't enough, I backed away to go to victory lane and he takes off like the start line at the Summer Nationals (an NHRA Drag Racing event) and rams into me head on. It was pretty dangerous and pretty reckless. In my opinion, he just way overreacted. It was very unfortunate for everybody involved."
"I reacted and I really shouldn't have," said Pulliam in a phone interview on Tuesday. "When I spun him out, he hit me in the left rear and we ended up facing each other. I ended up putting the car in gear and running into the front end of his car. It's something that shouldn't have happened, but everybody was just fed up with it."
This comes after Pulliam and Morris did a six month dance around the Southeast towards each other. Both were track champions, both were marquee names in the national spotlight as the Whelen All American Series Championship was up for grabs. Morris took the title for the fourth time in his career after racking up 20 wins. Pulliam ended up third in points after scoring 18 wins in 32 starts. Pulliam had more top five's and top 10's than Morris, but was unable to score enough points to win the title.
"On occasion, when SoBo and Motor Mile are not running together, Pulliam and I end up racing each other," explained Morris. "It's always very competitive. With about 80 laps to go (at South Boston), I did a cross-over on him on the backstretch to get the lead back. He didn't expect me to be there and there was contact and he spun out and had to go to the rear. I was underneath him and they didn't put me to the rear."
"All year it's been a rule that if you spun a guy who was leading out, you were going to the back," said Pulliam. "I wish the racetrack had taken that into consideration, but they didn't. We came back up from the rear and finished third and that's when all the chaos broke out.
"Hindsight 20-20 you wish didn't do what did once you've done it," added Pulliam. "It's just been a long season of battling and getting the wrong end of the deal with him (Morris) on every occasion. It's definitely not a one-time deal. We were ganged up on several times by his teammates at South Boston, several times while going for the national deal. We have been fighting it all year and I have been holding my temper, but it finally got the best of me."
This all comes just a few weeks after Pulliam did a bump and run move on Matt McCall to win the big race at Martinsville.
Morris was not pleased with the situation, but looks more towards the future of the sport after an incident like this.
"The concern I have is that there are so many young guys moving up from the lower divisions that are just watching what's going on," added Morris. "I hate it because that's the thing we need to guard ourselves on. We can't do these things that are detrimental to the sport. It will just take away from all we have worked on."
It's also unclear what type of a penalty (if any) will be issued by the track or NASCAR to Pulliam for what was seen by Morris as a situation where things have to be taken care of.
"I understand the emotions and something has to be done," explained Morris. "It's easy for me to be merciful because I needed all the time myself. I think NASCAR needs to step in and say we need to protect this from happening again because this was over the top."
Pulliam, who admitted to being caught up in the heat of the moment, now looks at what could a major blow to his a career
"I would like to apologize to all that are involved," said Pulliam. "It was a heck of a rivalry. Without him there it would be boring and without me there it would be boring. It's made the fans come back out to the race track. Now I am sitting here worried about what NASCAR is going to do to me. "