Philip Morris was the class of the field at South Boston Speedway’s 2017 season opener, winning both 100-lap twin features at the newly-repaved Virginia 0.400-mile oval.
Morris led wire-to-wire in the first 100-lap race from the pole before charging through the field after an eight-car invert to win the second feature of the afternoon.
“I’m awfully appreciative of how good this car was,” Morris said in victory lane. “I know how hard it is to have a car this good. All I had to do was just not make a mistake, don’t use my stuff up, don’t wreck it, and don’t get outsmarted.”
Morris consistently posted the quickest times on a record-breaking day at South Boston. An offseason re-pave produced the fastest laps in the track’s history, with Morris’ 14.731-second lap in time trials setting a new track record.
Morris dominated the first 100-lap feature from the pole position, running away from the field in the early stages. While late cautions allowed the field to close on his bumper, Morris consistently fired off quicker than his peers on the restarts to preserve the victory.
Kelly Kingery had a strong showing in the first twin, battling in the top three throughout the race. However, an incident with Bobby McCarty and Peyton Sellers ended his shot at the win and slowed his car for the second feature.
“First off, I want to say thanks a lot to H.C. Sellers for giving me something to drive,” Kingery said. “That was the chance of a lifetime. I believe the 22 [of Bobby McCarty] just wanted that piece of real estate more than me, but that’s the way it goes. I’ll know how to race him next time we’re around him.”
Nick Smith finished second in the first feature, taking the runner-up spot after an overtime restart.
“I just had to get aggressive on the restarts,” Smith stated. “We were really good on the restarts. We were kind of getting held up, and then we’d get single file and everyone was running the same speed. We just had to get that track position on the restarts because it was so important.”
The second feature proved more challenging, as an invert forced Morris to start 8th in the 16-car field. Nonetheless, Morris worked his way through the pack over the first half of the race.
Lee Pulliam started on the pole for the second twin-100, and utilized that advantage in the early stages. Pulliam led by more than a straightaway over Morris after Morris had charged to second, but a lap 58 debris caution closed the gap between the two competitors.
Pulliam and Morris battled fiercely on the restart, but ultimately Morris prevailed. Morris protected his lead over the fellow NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion.
“I had [Morris] beat there until the competition caution,” Pulliam said after the race. “We were half a track ahead when the caution came out, I hated to see that. I was able to run him down to set him up, and another caution came out.
“His car would just take off a lot faster than mine,” Pulliam continued. “Once we got going, I was fast.”
Pulliam elected the outside line on the first restart, a sign that the second groove is already competitive on the new racing surface. Morris noted the veteran move, saying it would have won the race for Pulliam on most days.
“That was a race-winning move,” Morris said. “I’ve got to hand it to him. I haven’t raced with Lee a whole lot, so I didn’t expect that. And he didn’t let me keep him out there to burn his stuff up.”
Pulliam secured second place, while Nick Smith followed up his runner-up finish in the first feature with a third place run in race two.
An on-demand recap of Saturday’s racing at South Boston can be found by visiting 51’s Trackside Now coverage: http://speed51.com/trackside-now-twin-late-model-features-at-south-boston/
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
UNOFFICIAL LMSC RACE #1 FINISHING ORDER:
|18||23||Danny Willis Jr|
LMSC RACE #2 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS:
|13||23||Danny Willis Jr|