Tommy Lemons, Jr. took the high road to victory lane Saturday night.
At the .416-mile oval, it’s the path less-traveled. For most drivers, choosing the outside lane on a restart is a death knell. Lemons, arguably one of the best top-side drivers in Motor Mile Speedway history, opted to restart on the high side not once, but twice. He subsequently out-paced two national champions to snare his sixth career win in the Kesler Contracting Twin 75s presented by WSLS10 finale.
“I came across the radio and told my guys that’s where I wanted to go. I don’t know that they were 100 percent behind me, but they left it up to me,” explained Lemons. “I knew if I was pinched down I just wouldn’t keep the momentum up. I had to go with it right then, and it paid off tonight.”
Lemons eclipsed race leader Justin Johnson on lap eight of the latter feature, and staved off the Late Model veteran through the final two caution periods by navigating the high groove of the race track. As the race unfolded, Lemons was pursued by Lee Pulliam and Peyton Sellers, but as the laps dwindled, the two national titlists were unable to challenge for the top spot.
After a dominating performance, Lemons sailed past the finish line a colossal 1.56 seconds ahead of Pulliam—winner of the first two races of the season on April 26th. Sellers finished a distant third.
The nightcap placed an exclamation point on an evening unlike any other at Motor Mile Speedway in recent memory. Parity prevailed Saturday night. The twinbill showcased 4 different leaders, as an array of top contenders enjoyed breakthrough performances at .416-mile oval.
And although the winners made headlines, possibly the biggest story involved those who didn’t.
Twenty-eight WHELEN All-American Series Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car division drivers started the first feature, and early on it became apparent the battle for the win was a two-car affair.
Matt Bowling claimed the Price’s Body Shop Pole Award, and paced the race through all but one circuit. But the win wouldn’t come easy. From the outset, Bowling was relentlessly pressured by Mike Looney, who had qualified his no. 02 Chevrolet on the outside pole.
Looney snared the top spot for a fleeting moment following the lone restart of the race on lap 40. The duo would be separated by no more than a car length for the remainder of the contest, until engine issues under the hood of the no. 02 thwarted a chance at the checkers. Two laps from the finish, Looney’s engine expired, unfurling the yellow flag on the final lap. Bowling coasted to the checkered flag under caution.
“Mike gave me a fit; I couldn’t ever get him out of my rear-view mirror,” stated Bowling. “This is big for us. I can’t describe how big this season has been for us so far. This makes the third win [of 2014]—can’t get much better than that.
Peyton Sellers posted his third runner-up outing of 2014 in the first Twin 75, and his post-race comments throughout the night underscored the struggle and accompanying frustration of the two pre-race favorites.
“We’ve been trying to beat Lee Pulliam now for a few weeks, and we end up beating him and still finish second,” said Sellers, adding later, “I’m proud of my guys for working hard. We weren’t good enough tonight—that’s just the way it is. We got beat fair-and-square, and didn’t have a good enough car.”
It was an uncharacteristic night for Pulliam. The defending Motor Mile Speedway track champion and WHELEN All-American Series national titlist placed fourth and second in the pair of features, raising questions surrounding his atypical performance.
“We were definitely off somewhat. But hat’s off. We worked our butt off. Congratulations to Tommy and Matt. It is what it is; they got the ‘W’s and we just got beat tonight,” Pulliam said.
Saturday night’s outcome sets the stage for an intriguing Friday night bout when the Bull & Bones Late Model division returns on June 27th. Pulliam enters the event with a slim two-point edge over Sellers in the track standings.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
In the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division, the hits keep coming even after the checkered flag waves.
Preston McGhee became the second consecutive winner stripped of his first-place trophy after carburetor issues spawned a disqualification in post-race inspection.
On April 26th, Bryan Reedy was disqualified after his winning machine was deemed incompliant with the rule book due to a similar carburetor infraction.
The race itself was exhilarating, and following post-race inspection the victory was credited to Daryn Cockram, who endured a spirited battle with Reedy throughout the 50-lap heat. Reedy claimed second, and Scott Lancaster rounded out the podium.
Richard Doss celebrated his first career Motor Mile Speedway victory in the New River Nissan MOD-4 feature, and the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock win went to defending track champion Scooter Hollandsworth. Ricky Howell, Jr. bested brother Scott Howell for top honors in the 25-lap UCAR heat.
By JW Martin - Photo by Motor Mile Staff