After a chaotic Saturday afternoon at South Boston Speedway (VA), four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Lee Pulliam joined Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” Monday to weigh in on the viral incident that has since been viewed by thousands of people on social media.
During the second race of twin 75-lap features for the Late Model Stock Cars at the historic Virginia short track, Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam exchanged contact on the track. The end result of their physical battle left Morris crashed against the outside wall as Pulliam continued on in second place.
As the race was red flagged and stopped for cleanup from the incident, Forrest Reynolds, Morris’ crew chief, ran onto the speedway in turns one and two where the field was stopped behind the pace car. Reynolds proceeded to spike his radio at Pulliam’s windshield before running to the right side of Pulliam’s car and reaching into the passenger-side window.
Pulliam promptly re-fired his car and attempted to drive away from Reynolds, sending Reynolds tumbling down the track. Reynolds was then brought back into the pits by track officials and escorted out of the race track.
Pulliam chalked up the on-track incident to hard racing between two competitive rivals but felt what followed far crossed the line of acceptable behavior.
“In the race, it was just hard racing,” Pulliam said. “Philip was being pretty aggressive coming through the field, moving everybody out the way. I’ve got no problem with it. He gave me a pretty good shot going into one, knocked me up the track. I decided in turn three I was going to return the favor. Most of the time, when Philip does something like that, he drives in deep to try and get away from you the next corner.
“Well, he lifted about a car length and a half earlier than he had all night,” Pulliam continued. “I was planning on driving it in deep enough to get to him, so when he lifted early it created a big wreck for him and tore his race car up. I definitely didn’t want to tear his race car up, but I was definitely going to get the message across that he wasn’t going to drive through me all year.
“Me and him should have handled it. Whether he wanted to wreck me the next race, or we could have handled it in the pits after the race. What happened after that was uncalled for.”
Pulliam said he had little warning of Reynolds entering the race track, and drove away out of concern for what Reynolds would do while Pulliam was still strapped into his race car with limited mobility.
“I didn’t know he was coming until he jumped the wall,” Pulliam explained. “I didn’t know what he was going to do. It looked like he was coming to the left side. Thankfully, Austin Thaxton moved up to my left side to kind of protect my left side. He spiked the radio and jumped in the car. I could see something in one of his hands, and he tried to go for the wires in the other hand. Luckily, I was able to get it fired and get away from him. It looked kind of like he had an Allen wrench in his hand or something. I wasn’t going to hang around and find out what he was going to do.
“You could see the rage in his eyes,” Pulliam added. “He’s completely lost it. As far as I know he’s about to kill someone. He is literally in a rage. You could tell when he spiked the radio he wanted to hurt someone. That’s fine if we were out of the race car, I’d be ready to go. When you’re strapped in and can’t move, it’s not a good situation. You don’t know if this guy has got a knife or what’s going to happen. I’ve got a family, a wife and a little kid, and I am planning to come home to them every chance I get.”
Pulliam felt he could not do anything different in his situation, but would understand and accept any penalty NASCAR levied for his role in Saturday’s altercation.
“I don’t see where I could have done anything different there,” Pulliam said. “If I was to be penalized from it, so be it, because I’d do the same thing a hundred times over. I’m here to come home to my family every night. I’m not going to try to be killed by somebody else’s dumb actions. From my viewpoint, I couldn’t have done anything different.”
As for Reynolds, Pulliam felt a hefty punishment was in order. He compared the situation to a post-race incident in 2011 with Peyton Sellers which led to both drivers receiving suspensions.
“They need to lay the book down like they did me,” Pulliam stated. “I made a wrong decision eight years ago. I made a terrible wrong decision eight years ago and they laid the book down on me. There’s just no place in the sport for this.
“This is a family sport. Feuds and tempers and rivalries are going to happen,” Pulliam added. “Me and Philip Morris are two of the biggest rivals in auto racing. We’re good for the sport and good for the fans. But you have to control that. Me and Philip could have talked it out, he could have dumped me the next week, we could have kept it going, whatever.
“When you start trying to get violent and do stuff like happened the other night, there’s no place in the sport for it,” Pulliam concluded. “It’s not good for any of us. It puts a black eye on the sport. It makes it where it’s not fun. I had my little girl in the pits and my wife in the pits. They don’t need to see that kind of stuff.”
Speed51 invited Morris onto the show for his side of the incident. However, Morris was unable to appear on the live show due to work obligations. Speed51 intends to follow up with Morris for a separate story.
Fans who missed “The Morning Bullring” and wish to see the show and Pulliam’s interview in its entirety can click here for the on-demand replay of the broadcast. Fans can also visit the Speed 51 Five Star Bodies Facebook Feed to watch the replay of the broadcast. Be sure to like Speed 51 on Facebook and turn on notifications, so you can be alerted when “The Morning Bullring” comes on each Monday at 7:00 a.m. ET.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Rick Ibsen