Philip Morris scored his first win at Southern National Motorsports Park in nearly two decades, dominating the Late Model Stock Car portion of the Dogwood 265 presented by Solid Rock Carriers on Saturday afternoon.
Morris took the lead from 2015 track champion Jonathan Findley on lap 71 and checked out. He was able to hold off multiple restart challenges and hold on to score the victory in his first race of the 2018 season.
“I think it was just good strategy right there, to be able to ride behind Mike Darne and some of those guys who race here all the time to show me what a good speed is and to keep tires on the car up until we thought it was go time,” Morris said. “Once they said it was a cone restart at the lap 100 break, I knew it would be good to be in first or second. The car just wanted to be out front, you know.”
“I’m glad to start our year off at Mike [Diaz]’s track,” Morris continued. “This is a great place to win a race.”
Morris scored the victory driving for former racer and longtime Southern National mainstay Adam Murray.
“It didn’t really matter about car count or anything else because he’s done so much to help me last year,” Morris commented. “To win for him and his company here at Southern National is making it really special for us.”
While Morris was dominant, the win didn’t come easily. After he had driven away from the field, a late race spin by Garrett Bunch set up an overtime finish – something that Morris says is always stressful even with all his experience.
“It’s hard on anybody’s nerves, especially a 52-year-old out here racing against teenagers,” Morris explained. “What a great job they did today. Some of these guys race here all the time just ran really well today. It’s fun to race around guys who know what they’re doing and you can trust them and know these restarts aren’t as bad as they normally could be.”
Tyler Hughes finished the race in the second position.
“I was sitting back, saving, and it was just a little snug in the center when I was saving it had good drive off all race long,” Hughes stated. “I was really just babying the throttle and figured I might be able to have something there at the end. Apparently, Philip had a lot more tire when he got out front and was able to ride. Things happen, and I’m glad we can come away with at least a second.”
While Hughes was disappointed to finish second, he took some solace in the fact that his runner-up finish came to the “King of Late Model Stock Car racing.”
“We are still a young team and I am still a young driver in the Late Model Stock series,” Hughes explained. “We’re slowly progressing and getting to the point where we are running with Philip [Morris] and guys like Peyton [Sellers], and Lee [Pulliam]. I am really proud of where our program is going and I look forward to bettering ourselves in the future.”
Veteran racer and four-time Orange County Speedway track champion Terry Dease finished third in his first start at Southern National since 2014.
“I knew Philip was saving there because I knew he was pretty quick,” Dease remarked. “I just tried to ride right there for those first hundred and I saw these guys up there and they were dicing around up there before lap 100 then things got a little hectic and we finally got up there a little bit and something happened and I got spun and got balled up. Luckily, I got to the bottom and what happened there at the end, nobody went to the high side, and I tried and what happened was I got trash on my tires and it washed up in the corner, but hey, I’ll take third.”
Jonathan Findley finished fourth while Ryan Wilson rounded out the top-five.
Brian Obiedzenski scored the victory in the Charger feature race, holding off Jonathan Kornegay, AJ Sanders scored the victory in the Mini-Stock feature and Cameron Murray held off Parker Frazier to win the Bandolero feature.
The next race at Southern National Motorsports Park is scheduled for March 31st headlined by Limited Late Model racing and featuring USAC Eastern Midgets, Mini-Stocks, Legends, Bandoleros and Any Cars.