“King” Philip Morris started his 2018 Late Model Stock season in a very familiar place – victory lane.
The four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion won the Late Model Stock Car feature in the Dogwood 265 at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) Saturday, opening the season on a strong note.
“We wanted to learn here and start the season off right,” Morris told Speed51.com. “We were supposed to do the Myrtle Beach [Icebreaker] race, but it was just so far to be raining. We’re glad to start our year in Kenly at Mike [Diaz’s] track, this is awesome.”
Morris dominated the feature, scheduled for 150 laps, but a late caution set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish. This gave Tyler Hughes and Terry Dease one last shot at the win, but Morris prevailed to secure the victory.
“It’s hard on anybody’s nerves, especially a 52-year-old that’s out here running against teenagers,” Morris said. “What a great job they did today. Some of the guys that don’t run here all the time ran really well. Tyler Hughes did an awesome job. It’s fun to race around guys who know what they are doing and you can trust them.”
That respect was shared throughout the podium. Hughes, the 21-year-old from Cordova, Maryland, finished second after the late-race restart.
“Start off the year with a second is not too bad, especially to Philip,” Hughes said. “He’s a hard guy to beat. He’s a legend. It’s going to take a lot to beat him, but we’ll get there eventually.
“At least the car is in one piece, a solid second-place,” Hughes added. “We can work on getting faster instead of putting parts back on the car.”
Terry Dease finished third in a surprisingly strong return to Southern National. A four-time track champion at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina, Dease made his first start at Southern National since 2014 and came away with a podium finish.
“It feels pretty good, to run with Philip and these guys that run every week,” Dease said. “We tried to save [tires], watch those guys, because I knew Philip was saving. They started getting physical after lap 100, so it was time to go.”
Dease rebounded after a lap 125 incident with Timmy Phipps, driving his way back into contention. On the green-white-checkered restart, Dease was the first car to try the outside line on the cone-rule restart, but couldn’t make the high line attempt stick.
“We had that mishap and got spun, but I think that was a racing deal,” Dease said. “We got lucky and got on the bottom. We gambled there at the end and took the high side. I took my old East Carolina days and went down in there all I could try. I got trash on the tires and washed up, but we’ll take a third place finish and try to come back when they run the next Late Model race.”
Hughes was running second at the time of the final caution, but didn’t test the waters of the outside line, electing to restart directly behind Morris. Hughes’ experience with the outside line earlier in the race discouraged him from trying it at the end of the race.
“I tried the outside at the beginning of the race, but I just never really had good drive,” Hughes said. “The car just really wasn’t turning good up there. I like the outside, I like restarting on the outside at certain places, but today was not a day you wanted to be on the outside.”
Southern National’s next race will be on March 31, headlined by a 100-lap feature for the Limited Late Models. Mini Stocks, Legends, Bandoleros, Any Cars, and USAC Midgets will also race that day.
For a full recap of the Dogwood 265, click here to visit our Trackside Now coverage of the race.
Dogwood 265 Unofficial Results
Southern National Motorsports Park - March 3, 2018
Pos # Driver
1 01 Philip Morris
2 8A Tyler Hughes
3 06 Terry Dease
4 4 Jonathan Findley
5 12 Ryan Wilson
6 21 Mike Darne
7 16 Rusty Daniels
8 50 Garrett Bunch
9 4B Bobby Morris
10 33 Ryan Haddock
11 4O Timmy Phipps
12 21B Eric Gerchak