Philip Morris has made several trips to Dominion Raceway this season as he continues his quest for his record-breaking sixth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National points championship and on Saturday night, he made the most of twin features by winning them both. However, Morris had to earn both victories as local drivers challenged him to the finish.
After qualifying second to local hot shoe Tyler Hughes, the field was inverted for the start of the first 60-lap Late Model Stock Car race with Hughes moved to fifth and Morris fourth. The invert put Mike Ganoe and reigning Dominion Raceway champion Jeff Oakley on the front row for the start.
Barnes put his car out in front of the field fast as Hughes and Morris made it three-wide with Ganoe for second behind him early on. Ganoe bailed out of the middle of the three-wide battle and his night was about to go all wrong as he slipped to fifth ahead of Chandler Sherman.
As Chandler Sherman got to his bumper they made contact causing a huge pile-up as Ganoe spun Sherman was turned sideways as well as cars piled in. Alex Brock also got turned as Cole Bruce, who was making his first career Late Model Stock Car start piled in with nowhere to go. Owen Smith takes evasive action to try and slip by on the outside but Ganoe clipped him as he headed for the wall.
After a long red flag, Barnes would assert himself as the leader but Hughes wasn’t going away as he raced under and by Morris for second and looked for a way around Barnes as the laps clicked off. For many laps, the top three ran bumper to bumper before Barnes moves away from Hughes a little bit and Morris goes after second giving Hughes some slight contact as he raced under him and took over second.
As the laps ran out on Barnes looked to have the race in hand but Morris wasn’t going away. Barnes began to slip a little late and with five laps to go Morris pounced as Barnes got a little sideways up off of turn four. Morris took the lead and went on to win the race over Doug Barnes, Hughes, Oakley and Trent Barnes.
Morris said he got lucky that a lapped car pushed Barnes up high and gave him a chance to close in during the final laps.
“I got a little lucky,” Morris told RACE22. “I had a lapped car kinda pushed him to the outside and I got within a foot of his spoiler. Packing that air up against his spoiler and that was kind of tough on him. I never touched him but I bet he would say otherwise. He drove his butt off and deserved to win.”
For race two, Morris would be inverted to eighth for the start but third-place finisher from race one Tyler Hughes thought he might have an engine issue and switched to a backup car forcing him to the rear of the field and moving Morris to a sixth-place start.
Morris’ son was inverted to the outside of the front row for the start and after getting the jump on Brock, the younger Morris made the most of the opportunity. He would lead around 20 laps after they started counting caution laps and had to survive several wild restarts on lap nine after a debris caution.
After several cautions, the elder Morris pulled away bypassing his son for the lead just after lap 20. Hughes continued his climb from starting in the rear and took second from Blake Morris on lap 28. Oakley had been among the leaders earlier in the race but went around in front of Philip Morris but his night of trouble wasn’t over as he got by Trent Barnes and Barnes got into him and turned him around.
This setup a wild moment on the front straightaway as Oakley retaliated on Barnes and destroyed his car riding up and over the side of Barnes’ car. Barnes would get out of his car upset and showed his displeasure for Oakley but the two drivers and two teams allowed cooler heads to prevail with the help of track officials keeping them separated.
A late restart allowed Hughes a chance to try and get by Morris but the veteran driver was able to hold off the younger Hughes as he claimed his second win of the night. Hughes had stayed on Morris’ outside all the way to the finish line but just didn’t have the run on the final lap to get there. Hughes settled for second with Brock rallying from the first race crash to finish third. Ganoe and Doug Barnes completed the top five.
Morris knew he survived another tough contest.
“I’ve got to pinch myself,” Morris said. “That was a tough one. That last green, white, checkered with Tyler Hughes, that was tough. That was a nail biter. I knew he’d cross me over if I gave him the shot, so I had to keep him to my outside. It’s tough here. You’ve got to scratch for every inch you’re going to get.”
Hughes thought he might have given Morris too much room as they raced for the win in the closing laps.
“I probably gave him just a foot or two too much on the bottom down in three and four coming to the white,” Hughes told RACE22. “He was able to kinda get an advantage on us. I chose inside for the first restart because I was trying to be a little conservative and I didn’t think we were that good on the outside but I had to take a chance there with three to go and make something happen. I got a really good restart but just couldn’t hold it. He’s the King for a reason, it was a good race though.”
Morris’ NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship chase swung in his direction for the first time in several weeks. He came into the weekend in the third position but will likely leave the weekend with the points lead after neither of the two guys in front of him was able to pick up wins on the weekend.
Points leader Mike Looney would suffer his worst performance of the season in twins at Kingsport Speedway where he qualified ninth and never moved up from 10th position with a brake caliper sticking. Looney wouldn’t even attempt to start the second race. Peyton Sellers who came in the weekend in the second position finished second in both twin races at South Boston Speedway.
Morris was feeling good about the points he gained this weekend.
“Somehow or another God always shines on us when it gets close to the end of this National championship run,” Morris told RACE22. “I hope that’s what’s happening here. I’m just trying not to mess it up. I’m just going to try and keep it straight and let God do what he does.”