Controversy, chaos, flared tempers and Martinsville Speedway. They just seem to go together when the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stocks roll into the famed paper clip every October and 2014 proved to be yet another perfect storm. But at the end of the day, as daylight faded in the southern Virginia hills, fans were reminded of two other things that go together so naturally: Lee Pulliam and winning.
Pulliam won his second career MDCU 300 at Martinsville Speedway Sunday afternoon, claiming another $25,000 check as well as the famed Ridgeway grandfather clock. For the second straight year, it took a few minutes to sort out in victory lane who had actually won the race. A controversial final restart and then a last lap-crash muddied the end of what had been a very competitive race.
The drama began with 10 laps to go. Up until that point, Timothy Peters, Peyton Sellers, Dillon Bassett, Mike Darne and Lee Pulliam had been putting on an intense five-car duel for the win. A mandatory competition caution bunched the field back up, only for Bassett to crash on the restart and Peters to fall out with an alternator belt failure. Darne elected to not start on the outside for the final restart and that set the scene with Sellers and Pulliam on the front row.
On the restart, Sellers seemed to lag back at the same moment Pulliam surged ahead. By the time the field hit turn one, Pulliam was long gone and Sellers was left to defend second. That didn’t end Sellers way either as he got turned on the white flag lap after a three-car duel with Tommy Lemons and Sam Yarbrough and then ultimately t-boned by Whelen All-American national champion Anthony Anders.
After Pulliam began to do donuts, NASCAR told him to wait while scoring reviewed the finish. After a lengthy review, NASCAR ruled that Sellers did not accelerate as expected in the restart zone, ceding final control to Pulliam. It was the same ruling as last season, when Lemons got the jump on leader Bassett with two to go and claimed the checkered. However, NASCAR had reiterated in the morning’s drivers meeting that the leader must always be the first to the line. Needless to say, the outcome created some varying opinions.
“The 99 [Sellers], he was playing games,” said Pulliam post-race. “I knew he'd try to pull something like that to get us into trouble. He plays games on the restart a lot. I waited until I got to the line. When I got to that line, I went. I knew I was at my spot when I gassed it up.”
Sellers differed in the strongest terms.
“NASCAR probably made the poorest decision making today I've seen in my entire life,” said Sellers. “As far as I'm concerned, NASCAR gave a win to Lee Pulliam. I don't know what happened there on the three-wide deal, I don't know where he [Yarbrough] was going to go. But at the end of the day, NASCAR just screwed up.”
"They clearly said in the drivers' meeting, you cannot beat the leader to the line." Here he paused for a second and then said flatly "Look at the replay."
Sellers did win the Virginia Triple Crown title which was worth $10,000, but the race win would have made his payday $35,000.
Pulliam brushed off the controversy and focused instead on the positives for the day.
"The last four-five years we've had a shot to win here. The times I feel like we had the winning car, I've been wrecked or something crazy has happened. The two years I've won it, I didn't have a winning car, I got it done. It's pretty wild. They say the best car never wins here at Martinsville because it's just a tough race, man.
"I made the wrong adjustments at halfway. I felt like I was going to be too free and as the sun came down, the track tightened up and I couldn't roll the center. The 26 [Philip Morris] jacked me pretty good one time and bent the left wheel and the 31 [Kaz Grala] got me one time too. So we got beat and banged on and we'd get back to 8th or 9th. We just had to keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting."
That said, Pulliam did deliver one shot across the bow in parting. When asked if winning the 300 took away the sting of losing the national championship, Pulliam replied, "In my eyes, we won it. I don't care what the paper says.”
As often is the case, the race also produced a Cinderella story in the top-five. This time it was Myrtle Beach Speedway regular Sam Yarbrough, who had his best career run outside of the coastal region by finishing in the runner-up spot.
“The first half of the race we relegated ourselves to the outside line,” said Yarbrough. "We just rolled better up there. We made big adjustments at halfway. Bottom line was working good for us then and that's where we went every time in the second half. But the first caution after the 10 [to go caution] there, we did pick the outside because a bunch of cars went low. We got clear going out of two and then took it three wide there on the white. I thought I had position but we saw what happened there [the wreck with Sellers].”
Elaborating more on the contact on the last lap, Yarborough said, "I'd like to think it was just a racing deal. I'm a clean driver. I'll run you hard but I'll give you room. I gave room to people all day long, especially hanging on the outside there. I had a chance there, I ducked down low, had a corner on him and you see what happened there. Just fortunate to come out on the good side of it."
Anthony Anders was transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation after being involved in the multi-car crash on the final lap. 51 will updated his status when it becomes available.
- By Tim Quievryn, 51′s Third Turn. Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Unofficial MDCU 300 Results
1 5 Lee Pulliam 200 Running
2 20 Sam Yarbourgh 200 Running
3 27 Tommy Lemons, Jr. 200 Running
4 93 BJ Mackey 200 Running
5 14 Mike Darne 200 Running
6 83 Matt Bowling 200 Running
7 2 Matt Waltz 200 Running
8 06 Davin Scites 200 Running
9 51 Kyle Dudley 200 Running
10 41 Brayton Haws 200 Running
11 02 Mike Looney 200 Running
12 99 Peyton Sellers 199 Accident
13 88 Josh Berry 199 Accident
14 36 Anthony Anders 199 Accident
15 15 Kres Van Dyke 199 Running
16 01 GR Waldrop 198 Running
17 57 Eddie Johnson 198 Running
18 9 William Byron 198 Running
19 59 Coleman Pressley 197 Running
20 44 Dillon Bassett 194 Accident
21 62 Myatt Snider 193 Accident
22 74 Michael McGuire 193 Accident
23 40 CE Falk, III 192 Accident
24 47 Timothy Peters 192 Accident
25 17 Stacy Puryear 192 Accident
26 90 Terry Carroll 191 Running
27 31 Kaz Grala 163 Engine
28 21 Travis Swaim 151 Accident
29 26 Philip Morris 149 Accident
30 03 Brenden Queen 143 Alternator
31 91 Justin Carroll 130 Engine
32 08 Deac McCaskill 130 Handling
33 8 Dave Garbo 129 Accident
34 07 Clint King 118 Accident
35 70 Gary Lewis 117 Accident
36 82 Barry Beggarly 117 Accident
37 45 Joey Mucciacciaro 116 Accident
38 98 Todd Gilliland 107 Accident
39 32 Austin Thaxton 101 Transmission
40 16 R.D. Smith 73 Handling
41 00 Shane Lee 38 Engine
42 58 Tyler Ankrum 0 Suspension