Lee Pulliam claimed victory in the Icebreaker Late Model Stock feature at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) in dramatic fashion, escaping a multiple-car battle for the win with a three-wide move to the front of the field.
The three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion outdueled the likes of defending Icebreaker winner Tommy Lemons Jr., local standout Brian Vause. A daring three-wide move on lap 106 pushed Pulliam to second-place behind Vause, setting him up for the winning move three laps later.
“Just doing what I’m paid to do,” said Pulliam, chuckling in victory lane. “I’m paid to be a race car driver and put on a show for the fans.
Vause finished second in the 125-lap feature, a strong showing for the local racer against a stout field of Late Model Stock competitors.
“It was definitely pretty nerve-wracking,” Vause said about the intense battle for the win. “Any time you’re on the outside, it’s already nerve-wracking enough. You’re putting a lot of trust in that inside driver. When you have two more inside drivers, that makes it a little more nerve-wracking.
“We’ve just got a little one-car garage behind Richard Burgess’ house, who owns the car,” Vause continued. “I can’t thank him enough, Buster Dallas, Chad McCumbee as well. It’s huge. To finish second to Lee Pulliam, for a local guy in Myrtle Beach, that’s a win. I’ll take that any day of the week.”
Last season, Pulliam experienced a slow start to the season, ultimately costing him a shot at the NWAAS National Championship. With an early win in 2017, Pulliam hopes to carry this momentum throughout the new campaign.
“I think it’s huge,” Pulliam said about starting the season with a victory. “Last year we didn’t start off well, and we didn’t really start winning races until April or May in 2016. We said this offseason we’ve got to come out of the box stronger to have a shot at this (NWAAS National Championship) deal.”
R.D Smith emerged from the back of the field to secure a third-place finish in the event. After riding near the rear of the 27-car field for most of the event, Smith charged to the front with fresher tires but ultimately ran out of time without a caution.
“We were saving tires earlier, banking on a late-race caution,” Smith said on the podium finish. “It never came. The last caution was around lap 68. We were hoping for something around lap 90 or 100.
“We had a really good car, we just waited a little too late to go,” added Smith. “We were mowing them down at the end, just ran out of time.”
Justin Johnson and Tommy Lemons, a pair of drivers also involved in the multi-car battle for the win, faded over the final 20 laps before finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
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-By Zach Evans, Southeast Correspondent - Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
LMSC Icebreaker 125
Myrtle Beach Speedway, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina