MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — For most of Saturday’s second-annual Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway, it looked as though the showdown for the win was going to be between race-long dominator Justin Johnson and Brian Vause.
However, Lee Pulliam had other plans.
Pulliam, a three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion, stormed to the inside of Vause with 16 to go in the 125-lap event for late model stock cars and pulled away down the stretch, cruising to victory lane in the end.
The pass that Pulliam made was the last in a series of wild events, during a race that saw side-by-side action for most of the closing stages.
“That was pretty exciting,” said Pulliam, who earned a guaranteed starting spot in November’s Myrtle Beach 400 with his win. “I had my hands full … having three cars that Tommy (Lemons Jr.) helps on top of me there. I knew they were going to do all they could to keep me back there, so I just had to make an aggressive crossover move, from the outside all the way down to the bottom (entering turn one), and we did a lot of beating and banging but everyone did a heck of a job.”
“Once I got some clean air, I was able to sneak on off and get away just a little bit. I timed it just perfect; my right front was gone there at the end of the race. I didn’t have much left.”
Pulliam started from the pole but never led a lap until his late-race heroics, as the star for much of the race was Johnson and his No. 44 entry.
A teammate to Lemons, Johnson took the lead for the first time on lap 11 and paced more than half of the event, punctuating his strong run with a battle against Vause that lasted nearly 25 laps before Pulliam came calling.
After Vause finally cleared Lemons to move into the runner-up spot at lap 80, he moved to the outside, while Johnson stayed true to the bottom lane that had worked for him for much of the first half of the event.
The duo got side-by-side and stayed that way lap after lap, unofficially exchanging the lead 15 times between one another between laps 85 and 109.
But it was on lap 103, when the top four — Johnson, Vause, Lemons and Pulliam — went four-wide for a moment down the frontstretch that the battle truly hit its peak.
“I just made the move … and just had to think and reconsider (pushing the issue) a little bit more,” Pulliam admitted later.
All four drivers quickly settled back in, with Pulliam biding his time before an aggressive three-wide pass three laps later shuffled him from fourth to second.
Once he was there, it was lights out as Vause’s tires began to fade, with Pulliam playing his final card on Vause and never looking back from there.
Vause ultimately held second place to the finish, ahead of R.D. Smith, Johnson and Lemons.
“That was fun, but also scary, especially as we were all coming off the corners,” Vause said after the race. “They were getting pretty close, and when we got three-wide, I said ‘Boys, don’t put me too high.’ I can stand to be (up) high, but not too high.”
“Second sucks, but it is what it is. … Anytime you get beat by Lee Pulliam, it’s like a win, so we’ll take it.”
Jeremy McDowell, B.J. Mackey, Luke Sorrow, Chad McCumbee and Brandon Grosso completed the top 10.
RESULTS: Second Annual Icebreaker; Myrtle Beach Speedway; Feb. 11, 2017
Feature (125 laps): 1. Lee Pulliam, 2. Brian Vause, 3. R.D. Smith, 4. Justin Johnson, 5. Tommy Lemons Jr., 6. Jeremy McDowell, 7. B.J. Mackey, 8. Luke Sorrow, 9. Chad McCumbee, 10. Brandon Grosso, 11. Jamie Weatherford, 12. Tyler Hughes, 13. Justin Milliken, 14. Ty Gibbs, 15. R.A. Brown, 16. Myatt Snider, 17. Colby Howard, 18. Jerry Miracle, 19. T.J. Barron, 20. Robert Powell, 21. Sam Yarbrough, 22. Lucas Williams, 23. Ryan Glenski, 24. Tyler English, 25. Justin Hicks, 26. Ed Williams, 27. Thad Moffitt.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
Email Race Chaser Online: [email protected]
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews