Defending South Boston Speedway track champion Peyton Sellers was forced to overcome intense heat, a large amount of attrition, a flat tire, and a late-race charge from four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Philip Morris in the final laps of the race to pick up his first career victory in the Thunder Road-Harley Davidson 200.

Sellers admitted that holding Morris off over the final 15 laps of the race was one of the most difficult challenges he has ever faced behind the wheel of a racecar, and he expressed joy and relief in victory lane after holding off one of the greatest Late Model drivers of all time. Sellers had nothing but kind words for Morris despite the aggressive racing, and was proud that his crew gave him a car strong enough to hold Morris off.

“He’s the best in the country,” Sellers said. “Hopefully one day I can fill shoes like his, but to be able to beat Philip Morris at South Boston is amazing. They named this victory lane here after him for a reason. We beat the king tonight, and it’s a big night for us. My crew worked a lot of hard nights over the past couple of weeks to get this car ready for us tonight.”

Sellers established himself as one of the clear favorites for the victory before cars even took to the track, but the Danville, Virginia native started the weekend by placing fourth in both of the Late Model practice sessions. Sellers was able to get a little more out of his car in qualifying, as he qualified on the pole with a 14.995, making him the only driver to post a time within the 14-second bracket.

The strong qualifying lap immediately proved to be beneficial to Sellers, as he was in front of the first major accident of the race on the first lap, which eliminated several contenders including Stacy Puryear, Trevor Noles and Timothy Peters. The following restarts saw Sellers face challenges from Bobby McCarty, Tyler Hughes and several others, but he managed to establish a rhythm and opened up a one-second lead over his competition.

Shortly before Lap 50, Sellers began feeling a vibration in his car that forced him to back off and hand the lead over to C.E. Falk III. As the vibration continued to rapidly get worse, Sellers knew that he would have to pit and risk falling several laps down, but a well-timed spin involving Mark Keessee Jr. allowed Sellers to make the tire change under caution, which only put Sellers to the tail end of the lead lap.

It would not take long for Sellers to immediately claw his way through the field, as he was back inside the Top 10 before Lap 75. However, Sellers was forced to watch Falk, Morris and Hughes battle for the lead for the rest of the first half of the race, which ended with Morris bringing home the $1,000 halfway bonus, while Sellers finished sixth.

During the halfway break, Morris drew a #9 for the mandatory inversion, which would put him back to the 9th position while Sellers moved up to the 4th position behind Woody Howard, Austin Thaxton and Mike Looney. On the following restart, Sellers followed Thaxton on the high side of the track, which Sellers had been working to his advantage all evening, and passed Thaxton for the lead only two laps later.

Although Sellers would not surrender the lead for the rest of the event, he would be forced to deal with challenges from both Hughes and Morris over the course of several restarts, but Sellers was able to conserve his equipment after the two began battling each other for second. A two second lead for Sellers was erased with 20 laps to go when Thaxton’s engine expired on the frontstretch, which would set up a 17-lap shootout between him, Morris and the field for the Thunder Road-Harley Davidson 200 victory.

The final 15 laps of the race saw Morris apply an immense amount of pressure to Sellers back bumper, with the two occasionally making contact that briefly brought Hughes into the mix. Morris tried every single approach to take the lead away from Sellers without intentionally wrecking him, but was unable to find the run that he needed as Sellers narrowly edged Morris back to the line.

“That was everything short of turning a man,” Morris said. “It’s pretty hard to drive in front of somebody that’s all over your spoiler like that, and even when I wasn’t touching him, the air was moving the back end. I saw a huge driving display out of the #26 tonight. I was right behind him, so I got to see it up close. I love racing like that, being door-to-door with somebody. I may have come up short, but I tip my cap to that guy.”

Sellers’ victory at South Boston Speedway gives him an early advantage in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, as he looks to pick up his third career championship in the series after winning it in 2013 and 2014. Sellers is thrilled to have a chance at picking up another Triple Crown championship after the series was briefly shut down in 2016, adding that his ability to hold off Morris for the win in the Thunder Road-Harley Davidson 200 gives him confidence going into the Hampton Heat.

“It makes me get my nose down a little harder, and work a little harder going into Langley,” Sellers said. “Langley has been a great track for me in the past, and we’ve had a lot of good runs there, Bill Mullis and his crew have their act together, and I’m looking forward to going to Langley and contesting for this Triple Crown.”

Morris finished only a few car lengths behind Sellers at the checkered flag, while Tyler Hughes, who led several laps in the early portion of the race, came home in third position. Nelson Motorsports rounded out the Top 5, with Brandon Pierce coming home in fourth, while outside polesitter Bobby McCarty came in fifth.

Unofficial Results:

1. 26 Peyton Sellers
2. 01 Philip Morris
3. 11 Tyler Hughes
4. 2 Brandon Pierce
5. 22 Bobby McCarty
6. 02 CE Falk III
7. 41 Woody Howard
8. 57 Justin Carroll
9. 87 Mike Looney
10. 4 Timmy Phipps
11. 3 Nathan Crews -1
12. 90 Terry Carroll -1
13. 22 Grayson Cullather -1
14. 64 Charles Barnes -1
15. 83 Matt Bowling -3
16. 22 Eric Winslow -6
17. 8 Thomas Scott -19
18. 12 Austin Thaxton OUT
19. 14 Dusty Ellington OUT
20. 24 Mason Diaz OUT
21. 28 Jason Barnes OUT
22. 8 Josh Oakley OUT
23. 75 Quincy Adkins OUT
24. 31 Thomas Beane OUT
25. 12 Timothy Peters OUT
26. 09 Bruce Anderson OUT
27. 91 Justin Carroll OUT
28. 16 Mark Wertz OUT
29. 38 Mark Keessee Jr. OUT
30. 24 Colin Garrett OUT
31. 03 Brenden Queen OUT
32. 17 Stacy Puryear OUT
33. 2 Trevor Noles OUT
34. 18 Ty Gibbs OUT
35. 29 Stuart Crews OUT