Lee Pulliam wins second NASCAR All-American Series championship

Lee Pulliam in victory lane at Motor Mile Speedway. - Matt Weaver

In the ultra competitive world of NASCAR Late Model racing, Lee Pulliam remains king.

We don't get to a lot of NASCAR All-American Series events at the Ranting and Raving blog.

With our home base located in the Deep South, we just don't get to the Carolinas much to watch the elite Late Model Stock Car drivers in the world.

It's a shame because the three races I've seen were extremely entertaining, including barn burners at Daytona in the Battle at the Beach and weekly events in August at Motor Mile Speedway and South Boston in Virginia.

During those three events, I was quickly brought up to speed that Lee Pulliam was the man to beat. The defending NASCAR All-American Series champion's name was spoken in reverential awe and frustrating vitriol at times, the result of his dominance at nearly every track in the region.

He's the division's Superman and there doesn't appear to be any kryptonite at hand.

His success got so out of hand at South Boston that officials even had to place a bounty to anyone that could win a race at the Speedway in which he was running at the end.

That bounty was ultimately collected two weeks ago by CE Falk but Pulliam got the last laugh a week later, winning his second consecutive NASCAR All-American Series championship.

The current dichotomy of Late Model racing (with some teams running Super Late Models and others, Late Model Stocks) makes it hard to say where he ranks on the overall hierarchy of short track racing but the stats at face value have to place him near the top of the mountain.

At 49 victories in 83 starts over the last two seasons, Pulliam is the undisputed king of NASCAR Late Models, a moniker he hopes to confirm in next month's Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway -- the showcase event of Late Model Stock Car Racing.

The NASCAR issued press release on Pulliam's championship can be found below.

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N.C. Driver Joins Elite Company With 2nd NASCAR Whelen All-American Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2013) - Lee Pulliam is now an iconic champion in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series history.

He won NASCAR's national championship of weekly short track auto racing for a second consecutive year in 2013. Pulliam becomes just the third driver in the series' 32 years to win the national championship more than once and to win consecutive titles.

Pulliam, 25, of Semora, N.C., scored the maximum of 810 points available this season. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series has had various points systems since it began in 1982, and Pulliam is just the fourth to win the title with a "perfect record."

"It's just an amazing accomplishment," Pulliam said. "We won a lot of races that didn't look like we were going to win with 10 laps to go. Everything just fell into place."

Pulliam finished with 27 wins, 40 top fives and 44 top 10s in 47 starts to out-distance fellow asphalt Late Model driver Deac McCaskill, who finished second with 794 points.

"NASCAR is proud to honor Lee Pulliam as our 2013 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion," said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. "Winning this prestigious championship once is an amazing accomplishment, but winning back-to-back championships puts Lee in very elite company with five-time champ Larry Phillips and four-time champ Philip Morris. We congratulate him on a tremendous season, and look forward to formally crowning him at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte in December."

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards will take place on Friday, Dec. 13. Among those honored will be the 2013 national champion, as well as track champions from 55 tracks across the United States and Canada, state and province champions, and top rookies.

Pulliam seemed overwhelmed at the thought of joining Morris and the late Phillips, a NASCAR Hall of Fame finalist, as a standard bearer in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series history. Phillips won back-to-back titles twice (1992-93, 1995-96) and Morris did it in 2008-09.

"Being mentioned in the same sentence with Larry and Philip sends chills down my spine," Pulliam said. "It's hard to put into words how that feels. We're extremely blessed. I'll cherish this accomplishment forever.

"We worked extremely hard. We were shooting for a perfect season from the beginning. The national championship itself is so hard to accomplish. We were able to get some crucial wins during the last month of the season and pull it off."

Pulliam's wins came at four tracks in two states: South Boston (Va.) Speedway (16), Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., (8), Southern National Speedway in Kenly, N.C., (2), and Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. (1).

McCaskill, 35, of Raleigh, N.C., nearly matched Pulliam. On July 2, the two had identical points with Pulliam holding onto the overall lead with more wins. McCaskill, who was eighth in the nation last year, finished with 18 wins, 31 top fives and 38 top 10s.

"Being able to challenge Lee for the point lead was thrilling," McCaskill said "He's just a little more consistent week in and week out. He's so good at South Boston and Motor Mile. We beat him once at both of them and those wins were a pretty big deal for us. That's where we need to improve if we're going to challenge him in points.

"This is a season I'll never forget. I'm really happy. I'm not disappointed with second place. Right now we're looking forward to going to the banquet in Charlotte and celebrating with my family and our entire team."

Rocco continued his ironman-style consistency in the series this year. He won a hard-fight battle with Ryan Preece for the third and final podium position in a match-up of asphalt modified drivers. The 28-year-old from Wallingford, Conn., finished in the top three of national points for the fifth consecutive year and has finished no worse than fourth over the last seven years.

"It just shows how hard this team works," Rocco said. "Making it to the podium is a respectable finish."

Rocco matched his 2012 win total of 14 and won his sixth consecutive Connecticut championship. He recorded 30 top fives and 39 top 10s in 48 starts at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl. He also won his fourth Sunoco Modified Division championship at Thompson.

"We struggled at Stafford all year," Rocco said. "I won once, and we usually get six to 10 wins a year there. We just couldn't get the chassis to work at Stafford. It was absolutely unbelievable."

Preece, 22 of Berlin, Conn., placed fourth in series points racing at Thompson, Stafford and Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. Preece leads the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point race with three races remaining on the 2013 schedule. Rounding out the top-five in points is dirt modified driver Craig VonDohren who races at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa.

VonDohren, of Oley, Pa, is a first-time state champion and won his seventh Grandview title this year. He is the highest-ranked driver in national points who competes at a single track.

Grandview's Duane Howard placed sixth in the final standings followed by Tommy Lemons Jr. (Caraway, Southern National, South Boston and Motor Mile). C.E. Falk III placed eighth in points and won his fourth Late Model Division title at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. He also competed occasionally at South Boston this year. Chad Finchum placed ninth in national points. He won his first track and state championships racing at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway. He also made a few starts at Motor Mile. Completing the top-10 is 2005 national champion Peyton Sellers, who raced at South Boston, Southern National, Motor Mile and Langley.

Todd Stone won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens.

Stone, 45, of Middlebury, Vt., competes in the asphalt modified division at Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt. Stone also won his first NASCAR track and state championships. Stone won the national rookie award by 62 points, 572-510, over Bobby McCarty, 21, of Summerfield, N.C. McCarty competes at South Boston and Motor Mile. He placed second to Pulliam in the South Boston track point race. Cole Williams, 17, of Sellersburg, Ind., placed third in the national rookie standings. Williams won his first track and state championships racing asphalt Late Models at Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway.

The rookie of the year is for first-year Division I license holders.

A driver's top 18 finishes through Sept. 15 count toward the national championship as well a U.S. state and Canadian province championships and rookie honors, and champions are decided on overall point total.

Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, a 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.

Pulliam had 18 wins against a field of 20 or more cars.

Under a similar format, Rocco scored a maximum 810 points when he won the national championship in 2010. Phillips (1995) David Rogers (1994) also won their national championships by achieving maximum points under the system at the time.

Southeastern Late Model racing is known as hard-fought territory and Pulliam was a fast learner.

He was South Boston's Late Model Division rookie-of-the-year in 2009. He debuted in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points with a finish of 26th in 2010. He broke through to the upper echelon of the series' national scene in 2011 when he placed third.

Pulliam's three-year run in 115 starts totaled 67 wins, 98 top-fives and 106 top-10s.

Over the course of his 47-race season this year, he had only three DNFs. He finished 5,125 of his 5,276 feature event laps available, for a completion rate of more than 97 percent.

Pulliam led the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings for all 19 weeks and has held the series' No. 1 ranking since he took it from C.E. Falk III on July 17, 2012.

Pulliam plans to race at least two more times this year. He'll compete in twin 125s at Motor Mile Saturday, Sept. 21. He plans to enter the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway Oct. 6. He'd like to become the first reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion to win the event. He won the fall classic in 2011.

Now in its 32nd season, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR's national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. There are 55 sanctioned tracks throughout the United States and Canada that participate.

More information on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is available at www.nascarhometracks.com.

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