With the memory of a lost friend riding with him, Tommy Lemons, Jr. pocketed a $5,000 payday Saturday night in the Rusty Harpe Memorial 171 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock car race.
Lemons raced with and learned from the late Harpe, who passed away in 2007. Winning a race that honored a lost friend put Saturday's win high atop Lemons' career highlight reel, which also includes a MDCU 300 Late Model win at Martinsville Speedway.
"Years ago, it felt like Rusty took me under his wing pretty much," said Lemons in victory lane. "This means a lot to win his race.
"I said before this wouldn't be as good as winning at Martinsville, but it's really close."
Lemons set fast time in qualifying, but started in the fourth position due to a post-qualifying redraw. Two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam started on the pole, but lost control of his No. 5 car in turns three and four on the opening lap, which caused nearly the entire field to stack up behind him.
In all, 10 cars received damage in the opening-lap melee, but Lemons was not one of them. He escaped the carnage unscathed and restarted third on the ensuing restart. Lemons quickly moved to second in a lap and then took the lead on a lap three restart.
Lemons continued to show the way even as Matt Bowling and Myatt Snider took their shots at him at various stages of the race, but Lemons held strong through the lap 100 two-tire competition caution and the final 71-lap stretch run to the checkered flag for the $5,000 payday.
"If it wasn't for the racetrack and the sponsors, we wouldn't be racing in Rusty's honor," said Lemons. "That's exactly what that was right there. Rusty would've never given up. I didn't give up. We all made a little bit of contact, but we were able to hold them off.
"I knew the first half was going to be about savigin everything we could. Then about 30 laps into the second half I about kicked myself for not making adjustments, but it paid off.
Snider followed Lemons to the checkered flag with Brayton Haws in third. Bowling and Travis Swaim rounded out the top five.
Speed51.com 51 Network captured all of the night's highlights, including a great view of the opening-lap carnage, and will have video clips available soon only on Speed51.com.
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