Lee Pulliam Thankful For His Opportunity
Lee Pulliam is the antithesis of today’s supposedly younger racer enjoying a lot of success.
While most 20-something drivers competing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series have a resume that began when they were six or seven years old driving a go-kart, quarter midget or something along those lines, Pulliam didn’t begin driving that early.
Pulliam, from Semora, N.C., got what many might call a late start in racing at age 17, and although he might not have a long résumé, the 24-year-old has quickly built an impressive one.
Pulliam leads the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national point standings for the third consecutive week as he continues his quest for his first national championship driving his No. 1 Kowalsky Racing Engines/Hedgecock Race Cars Chevrolet at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C., Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, and Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., this season.
“We have been extremely fortunate with our success out of the box to start the season,” Pulliam said. “We know we still have a long way to go, but it has been good so far this season.”
Good might be an understatement as Pulliam has collected 15 wins in just 23 starts with 20 top-10 finishes to lead Keith Rocco, the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion, in the national standings by 42 points (741-699). C.E. Falk remains in third with 687 points. Nate Monteith moved up one spot to fourth with 674 points while Ted Christopher dropped one spot to fifth with 668 points.
Rocco’s record stands at 11 wins, 21 top fives and 25 top 10s in 32 starts while competing at three Connecticut tracks – Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl. Monteith has eight wins and Christopher has won six events, respectively.
At 17 years of age, Pulliam and his father, Stuart, decided to go in 50-50 on buying a Limited Sportsman car to drive at South Boston. Pulliam proceeded to earn rookie of the year honors and then collected the division title in 2008 before moving up to Late Model Stocks for the 2009 season.
“I always wanted to race since I was young, but we just didn’t have the money,” Pulliam noted. “My parents have sacrificed a lot to help me get to where I am today and I couldn’t have done any of this without them and I am so grateful.”
Pulliam again won rookie of the year honors at South Boston in 2009 in his new division. He finished second in the 2010 battle for the track title before claiming the top prize last year which resulted in a third-place finish in the final national NASCAR Whelen All-American standings.
Like many of his generation, Pulliam grew up watching Dale Earnhardt win with his trademark intimidating style.
“I always admired Dale Earnhardt Sr., as a kid, and feel he was the best there ever was on the track,” Pulliam said. “I hope to move up in racing someday but if I don’t, I have already made so many great memories to last a lifetime and I am thankful for that.”
Pulliam certainly could add another great memory if he continues his winning ways into mid-September when the Whelen All-American Series season concludes and the championship is decided.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 16 are counted toward their state and national point totals, and the champions are decided on overall point total. Once a driver reaches 18 starts, their total would increase incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.
Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top-three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet. The ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center within the NASCAR Hall of Fame.