Philip Morris Returns to Victory Lane at South Boston
No matter how long he is away from South Boston Speedway, it doesn’t take Philip Morris long to find his way to Victory Lane.
Morris’ most recent trip Saturday night in the Gazette Virginian 150 wasn’t his most dominating performance, despite leading 145 of 157 laps, and it came with some drama at the end as the Ruckersville driver muscled his way through a late wreck to preserve the victory.
“I was pretty much counting myself out there because the car was broadside in front of me and luckily, the lapped car got in front of me and we kind of shoved our way through there,” Morris said. “It didn’t hit the tires, but it messed the aerodynamics up and certainly made for an interesting last couple of laps. I didn’t even look back there because I knew they were all over me.”
Morris, the defending Whelen All-American Series and SoBo track champion, was pulling away from Josh Oakley over the final 10 laps when a gaggle of lapped cars began randomly wrecking on the back straightaway. Morris pushed a lapped car through the wreck and sustained some cosmetic damage on the front end on Lap 149 coming to the white flag.
Oakley, who finished second, hit nose-first into the outside wall and came to a crawl on the back straightaway while Austin Thaxton and Peyton Sellers drove by Oakley as the caution came out.
Thaxton and Sellers were originally scored second and third, respectively, but track officials moved Oakley back to second for the last restart.
“I’m pretty sure that I should have started second on that last restart,” Thaxton said after finishing third. “I don’t know what they were watching up there [in the scoring tower]. You win some and you lose some.”
According to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rulebook, Section 10-4, “cars must maintain, under their own power, a reasonable speed considering the conditions that exist on the track. Determination of a reasonable speed is a judgment call and will be made by Track Officials.”
While Oakley’s front end was facing the back straightaway wall and the others passed him while maintaining speed, Oakley was still given his spot back.
“I saw two lapped cars that’s been getting the move-over flag for probably about 10 laps. They just decided to wreck right in front of us,” Oakley said. “I was trying to stay off of Philip; I didn’t want to take him out and I didn’t want to take myself out. I ended up nosing into the wall, but luckily kept it running and kept going.
“I got very, very slow. I don’t think I came to a complete stop because the motor stayed running, but I got really slow. … When the caution came out, I was second and that’s what they go by. When the yellow lights were on, we were still in second and these other guys come flying by me on the outside. They said they go back to when the caution comes out.”
Oakley was never able to go on the restart as he had heavy damage on the front end and was lucky to be able to hold off the hard-charging Thaxton and Sellers coming to the checkered flag.
With most of the attention on the fracas to end the race, Morris was able to celebrate again in Victory Lane a year after winning 20 times at the 0.4-mile oval.
“It means a lot because it’s a long way coming. We had to put this car together starting the first of the year and we had to watch the racing going on all year,” Morris said. “We knew every race we watched, we were getting behind. It was becoming more and more impossible to win a race here at South Boston. To win it tonight, it was very physical and it was a lot of English on the ball tonight, I could tell you that. I’m just thankful. I think it gives us a lot of momentum going into South Boston’s last race and into Martinsville.”
Bobby McCarty took a huge step toward claiming his first track championship with a dominating Limited Sportsman victory, his seventh of the season. McCarty led 48 of the 50 laps and wrestled the lead away from second-place finisher Danny Willis Jr. on Lap 28.
“It was running tonight, that’s for sure,” McCarty said in Victory Lane. “We’re one step closer to the championship.”
McCarty’s points lead grew to 23 over Willis, the defending division champion, heading into the final race on Sept. 15.
Blake Stallings, who has been ill the past couple of weeks, finished third and almost was able to take second from Willis if not for a lapped car on the bottom line in the last two laps.
Michael Maresca and Mike Jones rounded out the top five.
“We had a real good run today. The car had been strong all day and we’re really pleased,” Stallings said. “It turned out real well. I feel like there at the end, we had a real strong car.”
Nathan Crews and Trey Crews made it a Crews sweep of the twin 30-lap Pure Stock races, with Nathan winning the first race and Trey pulling away for the Race 2 win.
Joe Allred III, Trey Crews, Stuart Crews and Daniel Crews rounded out the top five in Race 1. Daniel Crews, Randy Hupp, Stuart Crews and Justin Tucker finished second through fifth in Race 2.