Road Leads To The Top For Pulliam
Claims First Whelen All-American Series Title With Dream Season
Lee Pulliam’s meteoric rise from raw rookie to national prominence is complete.
Pulliam, 24, of Semora, N.C., won the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship in just his sixth year of racing and fourth year in asphalt Late Models.
“I wanted to be part of racing for years and years,” Pulliam said. “After I graduated from high school I went to work to save money to buy a race car. I wanted that really bad. We finally got a Limited Sportsman in 2007, went racing and made the most of it.”
Pulliam rolled up 22 wins, 30 top fives and 32 top 10s in 36 starts to run away with the national championship. He out-distanced runner-up Keith Rocco, 794-748.
Pulliam’s wins were spread among four tracks including 10 at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., nine at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, two at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C., and one at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C. He placed third in points at Motor Mile and South Boston running a partial schedule at each.
He also won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Virginia championship.
“We congratulate Lee Pulliam on winning the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “His talent, determination and poise in the heat of battle helped win one of NASCAR’s most coveted titles.”
Pulliam will be guest of honor at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Friday, Dec. 7 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“I was just a little kid wanting to be a race car driver one day,” Pulliam said. “That’s what came to mind when George Silbermann called to congratulate us and tell us we won the national championship. With all that’s happened over the past year, it’s a miracle and a blessing to get back on top. This year, that little kid’s dream came true.
“When I finished third in points last year I stood on the stage behind two national champions, Philip Morris and Keith Rocco. I respect them and look up to both of them. I’ve raced with Philip a lot. He’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Late Model driver in the country.”
Rocco of Wallingford, Conn., finished second in the final standings for the second straight year and third time in four years. Rocco had 14 wins, 26 top fives and 32 top 10s in 43 starts racing his asphalt Modified at Connecticut’s Thompson International Raceway, Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl. He won his fifth straight state title and has finished in the top five nationally seven consecutive seasons.
“With what Lee has been through it’s great to see them rewarded with a championship because they worked so hard to come back this year,” Rocco said.
Rocco dislocated his wrist and broke a bone in an accident during practice at Thompson July 29. He had surgery and missed an entire weekend of racing.
“I’m happy we were able to pull off second place this year,” Rocco said. “The whole month of August was tough. We had about four weeks racing three nights a week where I was starting races then making a driver change.”
Only four points separate the rest of the top five. CE Falk III finished third with 728, followed by Nate Monteith with 726 and Ryan Preece with 724
Falk, 24, of Virginia Beach, Va., had 16 wins, 25 top fives and 27 top 10s in 30 starts at South Boston, Motor Mile, Southern National, Caraway and Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. He finished second to Pulliam in the Virginia standings, and was fourth in the nation a year ago.
Monteith, 30, of Blountville, Tenn., also won his second consecutive asphalt Late Model track and state championships at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway with 10 wins, 23 top fives and 27 top 10s in 33 starts. He also made starts at Southern National and Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway.
Preece, 22, of Berlin, Conn., ran against Rocco at Stafford and Thompson and also competed at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. He had 14 wins, 33 top fives and 40 top 10s in 48 starts.
Brian Parker edged Vince Quenneville, 479-451, for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national Rookie of the Year presented by Jostens. Parker, 32, of Collinsville, Okla., was in his first year competing in the dirt Modified division at Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway and ranked 67th overall. Quenneville, 46, of Brandon, Vt., competes in the pavement Modified division at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt. He placed second to Devil’s Bowl champion Ron Proctor in the track and state points and 83rd overall.
Track, state and provincial champions joined Pulliam, Rocco and Falk in earning invitations to the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards.
Motor Mile and South Boston opened their seasons in March, but Pulliam didn’t get on track until the first weekend in May as he completed a suspension for an incident at the end of 2011. He emerged from the sidelines on May 5 at South Boston and won his first feature of the year.
Pulliam began in the Limited Sportsman division at South Boston in 2007 and moved to Late Models in 2009. He was rookie of the year in both divisions, and won the Limited Sportsman division championship in 2008. He is a three-time winner of the Most Popular Driver Award at South Boston and won his first career NASCAR Late Model track title at Motor Mile in 2011.
In the 31 year history of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, Pulliam is the 22nd driver to win the national championship. Only two drivers have won more than one national title including the late Larry Phillips with five and Virginia’s Philip Morris with four. While Pulliam did most of his racing in Virginia, he is the first North Carolinian in 15 years to win the national championship. Dexter Canipe of Claremont, N.C. won the 1997 title also racing out of state at Greenville Pickens.
July was Pulliam’s most dominant month, winning eight times in nine starts. He took the national point lead on July 17 and never relinquished it.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 16 are counted toward their states 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.