Four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Lee Pulliam believed that he had a race-winning car in Saturday evening’s Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway, but the Late Model veteran ran out of laps to chase down race-winner Josh Berry and settled for second place.
“One spot too short, and too little too late,” Pulliam said. “I had a car that could have been in victory lane and should have been in victory lane, but I just didn’t get going quick enough on that last restart, and I let the #73 get away from me. I tried all I could to run him back down, and got really close, but I just needed two or three more laps. However, it’s a 138-lap race, not 140 laps.
As with many races this season, Pulliam’s car was one of the fastest immediately after it was unloaded from the hauler, as he found himself near the top of the charts in every single practice session. However, Pulliam could not match the speed of his competition in qualifying, but was still able to post a strong enough lap to earn an eighth place starting spot.
The majority of the Throwback 276 saw Pulliam gradually bide his time and save his tires for the final stretch of the race, which saw him pick off strong cars one by one, including 2017 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Timothy Peters and outside polesitter Deac McCaskill. By the time the last caution was displayed, Pulliam found himself on the inside of Row 2 with CARS LMSC Tour points leader Bobby McCarty, with the front row of Berry and Layne Riggs directly in his sights.
Despite not getting the restart that he wanted, Pulliam was able to make short work of the fading car of Riggs, and put himself into the second position, all while running lap times that equaled or exceeded those being posted by Berry. Although Pulliam was easily running down Berry over the final 15 laps, he ultimately did not have enough time to work with, as Berry went on to win the Throwback 276 and pick up his first win of the season as a result.
“We want to win races,” Pulliam said. “We’ve only won two this year, and there are only three to go. We’ve really improved our program lately, but we just struggled at Carteret. We made a point to get better, as this has always been my worst track, so to finally have a good run tonight means a lot to me. There aren’t many nights that you’re going to have a chance to go to victory lane at a place like this, and I just feel like we didn’t capitalize.”
Pulliam did not think he had a chance at Berry with a late-race restart, as his car struggled to find speed on the short run, but the long-time veteran is ready to put the Throwback 276 behind him and focus on the future. Pulliam and the rest of his competitors will have a few weeks to prepare for the Solid Rock Carriers 123 at Wake County Speedway, which is a track that many CARS LMSC Tour drivers have not competed on throughout their entire career.