The CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour will wrap up its 2018 season next weekend with the AutosbyNelson.com 250 at South Boston Speedway. Bobby McCarty has dominated the series with four wins and eight Top 5’s in his first season, with his closest competition in points being long-time Late Model veteran Lee Pulliam, who is 20 points behind him.
Pulliam is planning to all in next weekend as he looks to add a CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour championship to his resume, but he is also focusing on preparing his development driver Jessica Dana for her Late Model debut in the AutosbyNelson.com 250. Dana has observed the strong runs that Pulliam and his other drivers have had at South Boston over the years, and is confident that she can do the same on Sunday.
“We saw how successful Corey Heim was when he ran a Late Model Stock at South Boston the first time, and he dominated,” Dana said. “That motivated me to reach out to my sponsors and tell them that if he was able to go out and win in his first time in a Late Model, then we should definitely give it a try. We agreed, and we decided to set it up at a track that I’ve done very well at.”
Dana’s journey to get to this point in her career has been a long and arduous process, as she started racing on the West Coast before moving to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2016 in order to seek out more opportunities in the sport. Dana managed to secure funding to compete in Legends cars, with her consistency in the division allowing her to form a partnership with Pulliam to compete for his Limited Late Model team.
After running a limited schedule in 2017, Pulliam increased Dana’s seat time for the 2018 season, which included numerous races at South Boston Speedway and Ace Speedway. Dana would prove to be a dominant force on the track at nearly every race she competed in, as she picked up three victories at South Boston and finished fifth in the track’s Limited Sportsman standings, while also posting solid runs in both of her appearances at Ace.
Dana credits Pulliam and her team for all of the hard work they have put into her #9 Pro-Pac International/J&J Machinery Transport Limited Late Model throughout the season, and knows that she would not be where she is today without her assistance. While Dana considers the entire 2018 season a success for her, she signaled out her first career victory at South Boston on June 16 as her signature moment of the year.
“The first time I was at South Boston, my dad texted me, and it just happened to be on Father’s Day weekend,” Dana said. “He asked me if I thought I could win, and I responded by saying I don’t know, as these guys are really good. The next phone call I had with him, I told him that I had won. He told me that all he wanted for Father’s Day was for me to get my first win, so that was a really special moment for not only me, but for my team and my dad.”
With her stellar season in Limited Late Models concluding, Dana is looking forward to making her CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour debut at the track that was the site of her first victory, but knows that she will have to contend with many of the best Late Model drivers in the country in order to finish strong. Dana admitted that she has not yet thoroughly discussed a game plan with Pulliam for the AutosbyNelson.com 250, but stated that he has encouraged her not to be nervous going into her first Late Model start.
“Lee told me that I’m going to be fine, and to just go in with humble and modest expectations,” Dana said. “He said that I chose the biggest race at South Boston, and that there are going to be more cars there than starting spots. I definitely want to make the show, but I think we can easily get a Top 10 with the equipment I have. I’ve been working my butt off, studying and watching CARS Tour races to give myself the best shot.”
Dana is excited about her future in auto racing, as she recently had an opportunity to test an ARCA car for Venturini Motorsports as well as a K&N Pro Series West car for Bill McAnally Racing. Dana wants to move up to Late Models full-time in 2019, but said that she was still sorting out many details regarding sponsorship and hopes to have everything solidified within the next few weeks
Dana will have to deal with a talented group of Late Model veterans and rookies that include her boss, defending race-winner Deac McCaskill and 2017 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour champion Josh Berry in order to get a Top 10 finish. Five-time Whelen All-American Series champion Philip Morris, who dominated South Boston’s Late Model division by winning 10 races during the season, is also expected to file an entry in the AutosbyNelson.com 250.