Lee Pulliam has more than one reason to be thankful on this Thanksgiving weekend.
The three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion was not even sure he would be racing in the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic after his wife, LeAnne, was injured in an accident on her way to work on Thursday. On Sunday, it was her strength that gave him the inspiration and determination to score the victory at Southern National Motorsports Park.
“She’s awesome,” Pulliam said in victory lane after the race. “Her leg broke completely in half three days ago and, to be here, on that walker, it’s unbelievable. She gave me inspiration. We weren’t even going to run it. I can’t thank God enough, I am so blessed. Not only to drive this racecar but to still have my wife by my side. It’s just awesome. We’ve come so close, so many times. Had the dominant car here and things kept happening. Finally got it done.”
Despite the injuries LeAnne suffered, she came to the track on Sunday to cheer Lee on and was by his side in victory lane after he scored the victory.
“Thursday was kind of a long and exciting day,” LeAnne Pulliam said. “He wasn’t going to come race and I told him that he better come race so, I had to spend the night in the hospital Thursday night. Friday, he came and practiced. He wasn’t P1. I told him to go home and make it faster. He came back on Saturday and was P1. He just knew from then on, he better bring it home for the win.”
For LeAnne, the celebration of Lee’s victory in the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic was not about him winning it for her but about him winning the one major Late Model Stock Car race that has eluded him and completing the “Grand Slam”.
“I didn’t even care about it being for me, I just wanted him to get the Grand Slam,” LeAnne remarked. “This is one of the biggest races in his career that he has never won so I wanted him to win it, especially this year, so that was it.”
Pulliam has scored more than 100 wins in his Late Model Stock Car racing career but Sunday’s win ranks near the top for the Semora, North Carolina driver.
“I’m just thankful to be here, thankful to have my whole family here and, it’s so hard to put a placing on it but it’s right up there,” Lee commented. “Every win’s special but this win’s special for sure with her and the week we’e had and, I’m ecstatic but, at the same time, I’m still in awe of everything that’s happened this week. Just trying to take it all in.”
Lee Pulliam took the lead from 2014 Southern National Motorsports Park track champion Tommy Lemons, Jr. on lap 74 in the 200 lap race and led up through the halftime intermission. When the racing resumed, Pulliam had to hold off a fierce challenge from four-time Southern National Motorsports Park track champion Deac McCaskill throughout much of the second half of the race. McCaskill, as well as Lemons and Myatt Snider, who came in fresh off a victory at Myrtle Beach Speedway (South Carolina), all raced within close proximity.
“We tried to play the chess game right and everything fell into place,” Pulliam said. “All the guys raced around and raced hard and raced clean all day long. I’ve got to thank Tommy, Myatt, Deac comes to mind, someone I raced around. Just a stellar crowd and you get us four together plus all the other guys here, wasn’t one of the biggest car counts but there wasn’t a lack of talent here.”
With eight cars, at one point, all lined up right behind him, all Pulliam could do was play defense and hit his marks while sitting in his car alone with his thoughts after having lost the race in the last three attempts. Pulliam prayed and his prayers were answered. As the top-nine continued to battle nose-to-tail, Pulliam caught a break when Deac McCaskill struggled to get around the lapped car of Haley Moody.
“I was just praying every lap,” he explained. “I said to God, ‘I’ve lost this race every way possible and, if it’s your will, let it be done.’ I just thought about it every lap. Thought about her and just tried to hit my marks, be as smooth as I could and did a lot of thinking. I probably wasn’t 100 percent behind the wheel but I was good enough to get it done.”
Pulliam was able to drive away on a late race restart after the race’s fourth and final caution came out within the final 10 laps due to debris from Moody’s car.