Philip Morris' career took another historical step Wednesday.
The 46-year-old Ruckersville, Va., driver earned his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship based on his standout season in an asphalt Late Model. Morris, who was already just the second driver in the series' 30 years running to earn multiple titles, moved within one of the benchmark of five set by the late Larry Phillips.
"I don't know it will sink in until I'm done with racing," Morris said of his accomplishment. "It seems like such a lofty goal to even win one national title. To be to be talked about in the same company as Larry Phillips, a legend in short-track racing, is very honoring to me."
Morris received his traditional official congratulatory phone call from George Silbermann, NASCAR Vice President of Regional and Touring Series, Wednesday. Morris previously won the championship in 2006, 2008 and 2009. It caps a six year run in which he also finished third (2007) and seventh (2010) in national points, won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Virginia championship four times and won 74 races.
"I didn't know it gets better until George called me and it started to set," Morris said. "Looking back over the year -- to win that many races, certainly my crew is deserving of this championship.
"That's a relief. It was an amazing year. It was very gratifying and very humbling and it was very exhilerating when I got that phone call."
He will recognized for his efforts at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Award Banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center's Crown Ballroom in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Dec. 9. When Morris won the championship in 2009, it was prior to the opening of the Hall of Fame. He said Wednesday the banquet's setting adds to the mystique of the championship.
"This is going to be really cool and very exciting for me," Morris said. "Last time I was there it was under construction and it was a Taj Mahal then. I can't imagine what it will be like now. I know I'll be blown away, but what's going to be most amazing to me is for my team to realize they're part of history."
To claim the title, Morris won nine of his last 10 races. He closed out his second track title at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and then went to his old home track -- Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. -- and won 20th race of the season on Sept. 10. Morris edged defending national champion Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn., 789-778.
Morris finished with 20 wins, 23 top fives and 25 top 10s in 28 starts.
Rocco collected 24 wins, 38 top fives and 45 top 10s in 49 starts in the asphalt Modified divisions at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and Waterford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, as well as one start at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.
In addition to his championship run last year, Rocco finished second to Morris in 2009 and fourth in each of the two previous years.
"It's all about consistency just every year," Rocco said. "We go out with the same goal to win races and if you win the race, the rest will come with it."
Lee Pulliam, 23 of Semora, N.C., finished third with 755 points. He had 18 wins, 28 top fives and 30 top 10s in 32 starts at Motor Mile, South Boston and Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. Pulliam won the Late Model championship at Motor Mile
CE Falk III, also 23, from Virginia Beach, Va., finished fourth with 713. The asphalt Late Model champion at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., finished with 11 wins, 20 top fives and 20 top 10s in 23 starts.
Brandon Davis, 25 of Huntington Beach, Calif., rounded out the top five with 700 points. He had 10 wins, 17 top fives and 17 top 10s in 19 starts in the asphalt Late Model division at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.), where he won the track and California championships.
Bill Leighton Jr. (I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., and Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa) finished sixth, followed by Ryan Preece (Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway, Stafford and Thompson), Woody Pitkat (Stafford, Thompson and Waterford), Frank Deiny Jr. (Caraway, Motor Mile and South Boston), and Nate Monteith (New Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway and Motor Mile).
Travis Braden edged Taylor Miinch, 593-586, for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national Rookie of the Year presented by Jostens. Braden, 17 of Wheeling, W.V., finished 12th in the national standings and won the Ohio championship driving at Columbus Motor Speedway and Kil-Kare in Xenia. Miinch, 17 of LaMesa, Calif., finished 14th in the nation racing at Toyota Speedway, while Austin McDaniel, 17 of Harrisburg, N.C., finished third in the rookie standings and 46th in the nation.
In addition to Morris and Braden, track, state and provincial champions and rookies of the year, and other special award winners will be honored at the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet at Friday, Dec. 9.
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points, and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five bonus points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third, 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.
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.