While a mechanical issue prevented Lee Pulliam from pulling off another Late Model sweep at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., this past weekend, it gave him a front seat at history in the making.
Following Pulliam’s win in the first of the Shelor Motor Mile Dodge/Star Country Twin 100s on Saturday – extending his track record with his seventh win in eight starts at the track and fifth in a row – the 23-year-old driver from Semora, N.C., was only able to make a couple laps in the second feature before having to pull into the pits.
The misfortune allowed him a front-row seat to watch 14-year-old Michael McGuire become the youngest winner in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series history. McGuire, from Vinton, Va., won the second feature by holding off a fierce challenge from Late Model veteran Davin Scites.
“He did a really good job,” Pulliam said. “I went right down there in the corner and watched him and Davin put on a real good show.”
NASCAR lowered the eligibility age for Division I competition this year in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, which is in its 30th year. Dylan Kwasniewski, now 16, became the first driver to take advantage of the new rule at the Bullring at Las Vegas. Austin Wayne Self, who turned 15 on March 5, won at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas.
McGuire, whose previous best finish was third on May 7, doesn’t turn 15 until June 15.
“Man, that kid’s good,” Scites said after the race.
Pulliam’s win, meanwhile, allowed him to inch closer to the top of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series standings. He has seven wins, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 starts and sits in third with 453 points.
Keith Rocco won twice to move back past Philip Morris and into first place.
Rocco, 26, from Wallingford, Conn., won at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. He has nine wins, 13 top fives and 16 top 10s in 18 starts in his asphalt Modified race at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl.
He leads Morris, 521-461.
Morris saw his nine-race win streak end with a cut tire at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. The 46-year-old from Ruckersville, Va., has nine wins, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 13 starts.
Pulliam remained third, followed by Frank Deiny Jr. (South Boston, Motor Mile and Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.), who was second and fifth in the twin features at Motor Mile.
Pulliam won five times last year, including three of the final four races at South Boston. It was his two third-place runs at Motor Mile, though, that really changed the focus of 2011.
“Right out of the box we were really fast there and we’ve just been very fortunate to have the luck to win a bunch of races there,” Pulliam said.
Any question he could race with the best Late Model drivers in the southeast was erased last October when he won the pole and finished sixth in the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The event was won by Morris.
“Even though we were winning races at South Boston, that was a real confidence booster,” Pulliam said. “We race against the best of the best on a weekly basis, and it was just finally proven that we belong right there at the top.”
This year, it’s been Pulliam that has dominated at Motor Mile – where Morris had been seven-time track champion. When they’ve gone head-to-head at South Boston, Morris has maintained the edge with Pulliam finishing second there three times.
“We're really working hard and we really want to beat him,” Pulliam said. “He’s just a class act guy and one of the best racers I know. Just to compete with him on a weekly basis is really, really fun.”
Now he’s in position to challenge him on the national stage.
Zak Hausler, 16, of Tomball, Texas, rounded out the top five. Hausler is in his first year running in the asphalt Modified divisions at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, and Houston Motorsports Park. His win Saturday at Thunderhill was his 11th overall.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 18 are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
Nate Monteith won his sixth race in the Late Model Division at New Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway to move up to sixth, followed by Scites, Brandon Davis (Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.)), CE Falk III (Langley and South Boston) and Ryan Preece (Thompson, Stafford and Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway).
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner received two points for every car in the event up to 20. Second place received two fewer points, and so-on through the field. Race winners received an additional five bonus points. For example, if there are 20 cars, the winner received 45 points, second gets 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner received 35 points, second gets 28 and third 26.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet.
National Top 500 NASCAR Points Leaders