In his first race with the CARS LMSC Tour since the 2018 season finale at South Boston Speedway, Lee Pulliam outlasted fellow Late Model veteran Josh Berry in the closing laps to win the inaugural Old North State Nationals at Orange County and pick up a $30,000 paycheck.

“This is pretty big,” Pulliam said. “We’ve talked about this a lot, but to actually get it done is like a dream come true. We had three really good cars here today, and I’m really proud that those cars were so close together on the race track. Everyone did their best to look after each other, and I’m really proud of everyone.”

Pulliam came fully prepared for the prestigious Late Model race with a three-car arsenal that included Brandon Pierce and Corey Heim, with all three cars staying together inside the Top 5 through the opening half of the 200-lap Late Model feature.

Despite their consistency, Pulliam and his teammates found themselves trailing Taylor Gray and Josh Berry for a majority of that time, but a caution with 49 to go mixed up the running order and put Trevor Ward on the front after he elected not to pit.

Heim would be eliminated from the race after sustaining damage on the following restart, but Pulliam was able to follow Berry and Timothy Peters around Ward, which led to a three-car battle for the lead.

Another restart created an opening for Pulliam to get around both Berry and Peters for the lead, but the latter’s tire would give out going into Turn 1 with 13 to go, leading to another caution.

On the restart, Berry and Pulliam intensely dueled each other for five consecutive laps until Pulliam was finally able to move Berry out of the groove, which enabled him to pull away during the final seven circuits and secure the $30,000 paycheck for winning the Old North State Nationals.

“I didn’t expect Berry to give an inch,” Pulliam said. “I took the top on the last restart because I felt like he was going to run me clean. He roughed me up a little bit, and even put me into the wall on the backstretch off Turn 2, which knocked the tow off. That’s just hard racing though. He left me an opportunity for me to treat him the same way he treated me, so when I got back to him, I cut him no slack.”

After fading in the middle portion of the race, Gray bounced back to finish second while Adam Lemke came home third. Berry faded to fourth after nearly losing control of his car, while Brandon Pierce rounded out the Top 5.

Lee Pulliam crosses the start-finish line at the Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway. (Andy Marquis photo)

Old North State Nationals Results:

1. 5 Lee Pulliam
2. 17 Taylor Gray
3. 98 Adam Lemke
4. 88 Josh Berry
5. 2 Brandon Pierce
6. 25 Zack St. Onge
7. 77 Trevor Ward
8. 81 Mini Tyrrell
9. 07 Bradley McCaskill
10. 63 Tyler Matthews
11. 17p Stacy Puryear
12. 01 Camden Gullie
13. 22 Bobby McCarty
14. 1d Terry Dease
15. 2s Myatt Snider -5
16. 12 Timothy Peters OUT
17. 78 Corey Heim OUT
18. 57 Justin Carroll OUT
19. 27 Tommy Lemons Jr. OUT
20. 95 Jacob Heafner OUT
21. 1m Craig Moore OUT
22. 35 Carson Kvapil OUT
23. 08 Deac McCaskill OUT
24. 2y Joshua Yeoman OUT
25. 99 Layne Riggs OUT
26. 18 Ty Gibbs OUT
27. 4c Mike Chambers OUT
28. 23 Terry Brooks Jr. OUT
29. 74 Ronald Hill OUT