Philip Morris prevailed in a late-race battle with Nick Smith to win the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway (VA), the first leg of Virginia Late Model Stock Racing’s Triple Crown.
Smith inherited the lead after an eight-car invert at the lap 100 halfway break. Smith led until lap 158, after Smith and Morris had battled door-to-door for several laps.
“I just kept working it up higher, because I needed the momentum tonight,” Morris told Speed51.com powered by JEGS in victory lane. “I had the Ford crate motor tonight. It was a little bit of a disadvantage, but think it’s a better motor in the long run. You saw what happened when I got out front, it just checked out.”
Morris, a veteran of Late Model Stock racing and a four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion, has seen a resurgence in 2017. Saturday’s victory gave him 102 Late Model Stock wins in his career.
“I think it’s a transition in my career,” Morris said. “Using some other tools to get into victory lane. The biggest tool tonight was my chassis. The Reynolds Racing chassis was awesome.
“I really had to hold the bit in my mouth the first half. I had a good car. I knew we needed a little bit more in the second half.”
Nick Smith settled for a third-place finish, falling behind Stacy Puryear in the closing laps despite having a shot at the win.
“We just got into hard racing,” said Smith. “I feel like I was better than him on the outside. I was going to have to get loose or he was going to have to rough me up. I was surprised we ran as long as we did side-by-side.”
Smith wasn’t sure how good his car would be for the second half until he saw how beneficial track position was on a night where passing came at a premium.
“I wasn’t real sure until about three or four laps [after the break],” Smith explained. “Once I realized how well the car ran with clean air, I thought we had a shot to win. I was going to fight him until the end. I knew he had to touch me to win it. Nobody did anything wrong, just hard racing.”
Puryear scored the runner-up finish in his second race at South Boston Speedway with a new car he is preparing for his stepson.
“We’ve been working on this car awful hard,” Puryear said. “I got a black 17 car that we ran last year at Martinsville. We built this car for my stepson, Caleb Dyer. He’s only 13 years old. We’re just trying to work the bugs out on it, and it looks like we’ve got a good head start on it.”
Peyton Sellers had dominated the first half of the race, leading the most laps on the evening. However, he settled for a fifth-place finish after the eight-car invert.
“This track hasn’t seen this many cars at one time at a night race,” Sellers said. “It rubbered up. The outside groove was the dominant groove in the second half of the race. Track position was everything.
“I could have played the invert,” Sellers continued. “Instead we led halfway and led the most laps. Good night for us points-wise. In the Triple Crown, we’ve got a tough road to hoe, because all these guys are good at Langley and even better at Martinsville.”
The Late Model Stock teams will return to South Boston Speedway on Saturday, July 15. That night, the Late Model Stock division will run twin 75-lap features.
As for the Virginia Triple Crown, the next leg will be in three weeks at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway. The Hampton Heat returns to the Late Model calendar after a one-year hiatus while the speedway briefly closed. The Triple Crown will conclude with the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, the first edition of the crown jewel event to be held underneath Martinsville’s new permanent lighting.
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage from Saturday’s race by clicking here.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Thunder Road 200 Unofficial Results
July 1, 2017 – South Boston Speedway (VA)
|19||23||Danny Willis Jr|