The Icebreaker 125 was a stereotypical race at Myrtle Beach Speedway and ended with a familiar winner in the form of Lee Pulliam.
The three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion survived a four-wide battle for the lead on Lap 103 with Justin Johnson, Brian Vause and Tommy Lemons Jr. It wasn’t the move that won him the race but it showed he wouldn’t be denied.
Pulliam laid back for most of the race after qualifying on the pole. He let Chad McCumbee lead the first lap and methodically fell outside of the top-5. But the action picked-up once he decided to press forward with 30 laps to lead, leading to the four-wide encounter.
“I had my hands full,” Pulliam said about the final 25 laps. “Those were three cars that Tommy (Lemons) works on so I know they were going to do everything they could to keep me back there. I just had to make an aggressive crossover move from the top to the bottom and still a lot of beating and banging.
“Everyone did a great job racing clean and once I got some clean air, I was good.”
Pulliam made his winning pass around Vause on Lap 109 and he says he timed the entire process of getting to the front perfectly.
“The timing was perfect because my right front was gone at the end of the race,” Pulliam said. “I didn’t have much left at the end.”
The battle for the lead was fierce even before Pulliam joined it as Vause, Johnson and Lemons were three-wide on several occasions leading up to Lap 100. In hindsight, they probably raced too hard while Pulliam watched them patiently.
Vause survived to a runner-up finish but said it felt like a win against one of the dominant forces of the Carolinas and Virginias.
“I thought I saved enough,” Vause said. “I got up there beside Justin and was riding with him and trying to use him to keep those guys behind me because I knew Lee was saving a bunch. When someone tried to break free, I tried to break free with them and go. When you get beat by Lee Pulliam, that’s like a win to me.”
RD Smith shared Pulliam’s patience but did so with a sub-par qualifying effort of 14th. The reigning Bobby Isaac Memorial 100 winner stayed near the back of the field throughout the first 80 laps before beginning his own furious charge.
The final 57 laps stayed green and Smith believes one more caution probably would have gave him a fighting chance at another marquee victory.
“We were banking on hopefully inside the last 35-40 to go, we’d get a caution and we’d have a good shot sitting over where Lee is,” Smith said. “He had a great car but we were quite a bit faster at the end than he was or anybody for that matter. We were just hoping for a caution that never came so we had to do it under green.”
The race was slowed by three cautions. The most notable one was a hard hit for Thad Moffitt on Lap 29. Richard Petty’s grandson walked away unharmed.
Ty Gibbs, the grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe, finished 14th in his Myrtle Beach Late Model Stock Car debut. The complete results can be found below.