LUCAMA, NC :: Nick Smith stunned Lee Pulliam in time trial qualifying on Saturday, out-qualifying the two-time NASCAR Whelen All Amerian Series National Champion by over a tenth of a second to take the pole for Sunday’s Autumn Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park.

Smith timed in with a best lap of 15.371 while Pulliam timed a 15.479.  Smith had the fastest car in the morning practice session but wasn’t expecting that to translate to a pole run in qualifying.

“Those guys are the best of the best,” Smith said about knocking Pulliam off the top of the charts.  “I think we’ve got a lot of luck on our side.  I owe a lot to Rick Gdovic and all the guys over there on that team for the past week and a half to help me get this car right.  I still can’t believe it.  We’ve been fast.  We’ve been a top-five car.  I never knew we had a pole position in it.  I felt good about it but we’ll see.  Qualifying’s just one part of it.  We’ll see if it lasts 200 laps.  It’s going to be a pretty long race and a lot of saving some tires.  We went for it and it stuck so sometimes it works out.”

Pulliam was impressed with the effort by Nick Smith, congratulating them in his interview while also stating that his team has spent a lot of time focusing on making the car better in the long runs for Sunday’s 200 lap feature race.

“Hopefully we’ve got a good car in race trim,” Pulliam said.  That was a heck of a lap by Nick and his guys.  They did a really good job.  Smith’s team is pretty fast especially when they get two laps on a racetrack.  They did a really good job.  I’m just happy we don’t have to heat race.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow.  We’ve worked on [race trim] the past couple of days.  We’ll see what happens.  I think we’ve got a good car in the long run.”

Coming off a surprising top-10 finish in last month’s MDCU 300, Brayton Haws turned heads with a third place qualifying effort for Sunday’s Autumn Classic.

“I definitely feel better about the car after they made that adjustment for qualifying.  As you can see, it helped my car.  In the last practice, we put stickers on.  We made an adjustment and it was really good.  I’m confident with starting third.”

The top 10 qualifiers were all locked in to the top-10 starting spots for the Autumn Classic while everyone else would have to run heat races to determine their starting positions.  This promoted controversy during the driver’s meeting when a handful of drivers threatened to start-and-park, citing the cost of purchasing additional tires.  Because there were only 30 cars, every driver who qualified on Saturday would start in Sunday’s Autumn Classic and some of the drivers considered the heat races meaningless.

Heat race winners Payton Ryan and Mike Darne saw value in their heat race victories.  Payton Ryan scored the victory in the first of two heat races on Saturday night, holding off Austin Thaxton and Greg Edwards to secure his spot in the main event on Sunday.

“We just barely missed the spot in qualifying,” Ryan said.  “We qualified on the pole for the heat race, qualified 11th.  We just barely missed it.  I think, in race trim, the car’s really good.  Starting up front, you have to take what you can.  We took it as a practice to see how the car was for the main.”

Mike Darne started on the pole in his heat race but Mat Waltz took the early lead on a holeshot at the start of the race.  Darne was able to bypass Waltz and runaway from Waltz, who ended up finishing third after Brandon Brown passed him late in the race.

“The car has been good all day,” Darne explained after his heat race victory.  “In qualifying earlier, the tires were cold and it skated through the nose.  The guys later in qualifying had some heat in the track from the other cars and that really helped them a bunch.  When you qualify 12th by thousandths, this worked out good for us because we got to run this race and see what kind of car we really got.  I think we’ve got a really good car for tomorrow.”

Sunday’s Autumn Classic, which will be held at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina, will go green at 2pm EST. will have flag-to-flag coverage with Five Star Bodies RACEDAY LIVE.

Qualifying Results

Drivers in red are locked in to Sunday’s main event

1. #10 Nick Smith — 15.371
2. #5 Lee Pulliam — 15.479
3. #41 Brayton Haws — 15.488
4. #83 Matt Bowling — 15.51
5. #1 Jamey Caudill — 15.552
6. #38 Ricky Jones III — 15.564
7. #46 Brandon Gdovic — 15.567
8. #27 Tommy Lemons Jr — 15.589
9. #2 Myatt Snider — 15.609
10. #98 Todd Gilliland — 15.615
11. #23B Payton Ryan — 15.624
12. #14D Mike Darne — 15.629
13. #2 Austin Thaxton — 15.639
14. #34 Matt Waltz — 15.661
15. #67 Greg Edwards — 15.67
16. #68 Brandon Brown — 15.679
17. #77 Alex Yontz — 15.72
18. #9 Thomas Burbage — 15.756
19. #4 Nick Leitz — 15.796
20. #54 Michael Fose — 15.861
21. #8b David Garbo — 15.868
22. #18 Quinn Houff — 15.872
23. #58 Tyler Ankrum — 15.886
24. #91 Justin Carroll — 15.928
25. #31 Kaz Grala — 15.936
26. #90 Terry Carroll — 15.97
27. #23 Jonathan Findley — 15.984
28. #64 Rick Gdovic — 16.045
29. #9W William Byron — 16.194
30. #7W Michael Hardin — 16.3

Heat Race Results

Drivers in red are locked in to Sunday’s main event

Heat Race #1

1. #23B Payton Ryan
2. #02 Austin Thaxton
3. #67 Greg Edwards
4. #31 Kaz Grala
5. #77 Alex Yontz
6. #8b David Garbo
7. #58 Tyler Ankrum
8. #9W William Byron
9. #23 Jonathan Findley
10. #4 Nick Leitz

Heat Race #2

1. #14D Mike Darne
2. #68 Brandon Brown
3. #34 Matt Waltz
4. #54 Michael Fose
5. #9 Thomas Burbage
6. #7W Michael Hardin
7. #90 Terry Carroll
8. #18 Quinn Houff
9. #64 Rick Godovic
10. #91 Justin Carroll