For the longest time, Lee Pulliam was quiet and reserved. A religious man at heart, Pulliam never truly wore his emotions on his sleeve. That sure has changed over the last couple years and it is great for Late Model Stock Car racing.
The Northeast racing fanbase has Keith Rocco, a sometime brash, always outspoken champion driver. Rocco is not afraid to tell you what is on his mind and often does so with comedy that rivals the late, great George Carlin. In the south, two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) National Champion Lee Pulliam has become that guy.
After spinning off the front bumper of Josh Berry in the final lap of Thursday night’s Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at South Boston Speedway, Pulliam took to Twitter and, without reservation, referred to Berry as “the biggest joke in racing”.
Did he mean it? Probably not. Some people call it crying, some people call it unprofessional, others call it a product of good short track racing.
In an era where drivers say politically correct things after a wreck, such as thanking their sponsors and calling a race disappointing, Pulliam has become a breath of fresh air.
After an incident with Matt Bowling last year at South Boston Speedway, Pulliam was the guy who gave the snarky one-liners we all love.
“Bowling, he ain’t biased,” Pulliam said. “He tried to wreck his teammate, he tried to wreck Peyton four or five times, then he run me up to the marbles. I don’t know, I guess he was going to send me to get a hot dog out there on the restart.”
Pulliam’s evolution really dates back to the conclusion of the 2011 South Boston 300 when he and Philip Morris clashed late, resulting in postrace fireworks between the two best Late Model Stock Car drivers of this generation. The rivalry quickly fizzled out and the two raced with enormous respect in the years since, but it was really the first time Pulliam showed a glimpse of anger toward another competitor.
Throughout the entire 2014 season, Pulliam held nothing back when talking about Anthony Anders and the shenanigans taking place at Greenville-Pickens Speedway which catapulted Anders to a NWAAS national championship. Whether it was on social media, in interviews with RACE22.com, Speed51.com or in postrace interviews at the track, Pulliam made it clear that he felt Anders’ elaborate plan compromised the integrity of the sport.
As Keith Rocco roasted Anthony Anders at the NWAAS banquet last winter in a manner worthy of a stand-up act at the Baltimore Comedy Factory, Pulliam took to Twitter to proclaim Rocco his hero. And with that, Pulliam has seemingly because the Keith Rocco of the south.
Pulliam’s newfound spark is good for the sport of racing and it’s good for the fans. You can love the guy or you can hate the guy, but you certainly cannot accuse him of being vanilla.
Never change, Lee.