There may have been bigger wins in Lee Pulliam’s storied Late Model Stock career, but his win Sunday in the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic may have been the most emotional.
“It’s right up there. Every win is special, but this one is special, for sure,” Pulliam said after the win. “With the week we’ve had, I’m ecstatic. At the same time, I’m still in awe of everything that’s gone on this weekend. I’m just trying to take it all in.”
Three days after Lee’s wife, LeAnne, was hospitalized after an automobile accident on Thanksgiving morning, Pulliam took the checkered flag in the $8,000-to-win, 200 lap Late Model feature at Southern National Motorsports Park and celebrated with his wife and family in victory lane.
“I’ve been a little more happy and a lot more excited in victory lane,” Pulliam added. “So many different emotions, it’s been like a roller coaster. I’m just happy right now. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, I’m so proud.”
For Pulliam, the win also checked off one of the few items remaining on his career’s checklist. While Pulliam has run well on several occasions in the postseason event at the Lucama, N.C. oval, he had never won the event until today.
“I’ve lost this race so many times. I was thinking of every possible way I could lose the thing. I knew something was going to go wrong. But it didn’t, it was our day, it was meant to be, and we got it.”
Pulliam started third in the race, taking the lead on lap 75, passing pole-sitter Tommy Lemons exiting turn two. From there, Pulliam led the rest of the race, picking up a $2,000 bonus as the halfway leader along the way.
It was far from a leisurely Sunday drive, however, as the second half of the race was highly competitive. Until lapped traffic broke up the leaders, most of the top ten ran nose-to-tail, with four-time Southern National track champion Deac McCaskill filling Pulliam’s mirror.
Ultimately, a couple of cautions bunched up the field near the end of the race, including a final caution for debris from Haley Moody’s car to set up a four-lap shootout. Pulliam was able to clear McCaskill exiting turn two on the final restart to secure the victory.
Behind him, McCaskill and Snider dueled side-by-side for the runner-up spot, with Snider ultimately winning the battle to finish second one week after his UNOH Battle at the Beach triumph.
“I got into a really good battle with Deac,” Snider said about the final restart. “I really had to work the car to get it to turn through the center, get it to go up off. I was able to get past him, pretty cleanly at that, so I was pretty happy with the day.”
“It was really tight. I just burned the right front off of it, trying to run with Lee,” McCaskill said. “He was fast, I just over-adjusted on the car at halfway. I’m really disappointed in myself. I shouldn’t have really messed with it. The car was great, it just got really tight at the end, and on the restarts it just kept getting tighter and tighter.”
“It’s an unfortunate deal. Just came up a little bit short.”
Snider echoed McCaskill’s sentiments on the difficulty of running with Pulliam, understanding it was going to be a mighty task to pass the reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion on the final restart.
“I knew that Lee was going to be good, and he was in a pretty good position to run away with this,” Snider said. “He’s got a lot of experience here and he’s got a real good setup here. I felt we had a pretty good piece, but I knew it was going to be a tough deal. Congratulations to Lee, he definitely deserved this one.”
RACE22.com’s Andy Marquis contributed to this report.
1. #5 Lee Pulliam
2. #2 Myatt Snider
3. #08 Deac McCaskill
4. #27 Tommy Lemons, Jr.
5. #44 Justin Johnson
6. #55 Mark Wertz
7. #13 Cliff Daniels
8. #1 Mike Darne
9. #88 Chris Davis
10. #03 Brenden Queen
11. #63 Tyler Matthews
12. #77 Connor Hall
13. #97 Brian Henderson
14. #50 Haley Moody
15. #4R Jonathan Findley
16. #10 Nick Smith
17. #41O Scott Wise
18. #67 Danny Ewards, Jr.
19. #29 Robert Bruce