Long-time fans of Lee Pulliam will recognize one of the most iconic schemes of his career in the Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway when Brandon Pierce climbs behind the wheel of a Late Model that mirrors the colors his boss carried to his first Whelen All-American Series title in 2012.
Pierce stated that the Throwback 276 has become one of his favorite Late Model races since he joined the CARS LMSC Tour full-time in 2018, adding that the event serves to help bolster the proud history of Late Model racing that includes drivers like Pulliam.
“It’s cool and important for us racers to participate in an event like this,” Pierce said. “We’re actually required to do this as a part of the Touring 12, but that’s only right for us. Even if it wasn’t a requirement, I would still do it, as the Throwback 276 is something that I always look forward to.”
Pierce entered the 2018 Throwback 276 that closely resembled the paint scheme utilized by Rusty Wallace in the 2002 Pepsi 400, but he was only able to bring his Late Model home in the 18th position after fading from a Top 5 starting position.
Pierce is confident that he can improve on that finish in this year’s edition of the Throwback 276, but he wanted to drive a Late Model to victory lane that had more significance to Late Model history as opposed to NASCAR history.
Honoring Pulliam was an easy decision for Pierce to make, as he considers him to be one of the greatest Late Model drivers in the history of the sport, which all began with his stellar 2012 season that saw him and his family-owned operation outperform drivers such as C.E. Falk III and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie Ryan Preece.
Pierce stated that he worked hard to make his Late Model look nearly identical to Pulliam’s #1 Chevrolet from 2012, but even though he is slightly disappointed that one aspect of Pulliam’s original scheme was excluded for the Throwback 276, he is looking forward to seeing how the final product turns out.
“Back then, Lee actually painted his bodies,” Pierce said. “I always thought that it was really cool, and there aren’t a whole lot of guys that paint bodies anymore. I was hoping that we would be able to do something similar with the throwback scheme, but there was too much expense and we didn’t have enough time to do it.”
Another factor that motivated Pierce to pay tribute to Pulliam has been the overwhelming amount of support that he has received from the four-time Whelen All-American Series champion long before he joined Pulliam’s team for the 2019 season.
Pierce vividly remembers Pulliam frequently offering him helpful advice when the two started competing against each other earlier this decade, but the relationship between the two drivers strengthened as Pulliam elected to put more resources into Pierce’s car as he pursued a championship in the CARS LMSC Tour.
Pierce’s first race with Pulliam resulted in a victory in the Solid Rock Carriers 300 at Southern National Motorsports Park, but he has struggled to find consistency since then with three more Top 5s to go along with four finishes outside of the Top 10.
Despite not being able to duplicate his success at Southern National, Pierce has maintained a positive attitude through the entire duration of the 2019 Late Model season and knows that more wins are coming with Pulliam’s leadership and experience by his side.
“Lee has helped me so much at every single track we’ve been to,” Pierce said. “I’ve come off the trailer so much faster compared to years past, and I owe that credit to Lee because of all the time he has spent with me, and the way he breaks everything down, I’ve been able to understand my cars much better, which has helped me adapt faster.”
Pierce believes that his change in luck could realistically come in the Throwback 276 this weekend, as Pierce battled Josh Berry, Tommy Lemons Jr. and eventual race-winner Taylor Gray for several laps before mechanical issues forced him to ride around and settle for a 15th place finish 18 laps off the pace.
While Pierce is focused on solely getting a win Saturday with the championship out of reach, he wants nothing more than to bring home a victory in a scheme that started the career of one of the most influential people currently working in the Late Model industry.
“Even if you don’t like [Lee], you have to respect him,” Pierce said. “It’s no different than Philip Morris or even Kyle Busch in the Cup Series. When there is talent like that, and it’s someone who has had so much success and done so much for the sport, you have to respect it because it brings attention to the sport.”
Pulliam’s iconic colors will hit the track with many other famous schemes from auto racing history on Saturday evening, with the CARS SLM Tour taking the green flag at approximately 8 p.m. followed by the LMSC Tour.