Lee Pulliam will make his first-ever appearance at Carteret County Speedway when the CARS Response Energy Tour heads to the Coastal Carolina track on June 23rd and he’s looking forward to adapting to the flat, 4/10-mile track.
Pulliam is a four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion, winning his most recent championship one year ago. This season, he has been racing full time in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour, where he has already scored two victories and is chasing Bobby McCarty in points.
Next weekend, the series makes its inaugural visit to Carteret County Speedway in Swansboro, North Carolina for the Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125 presented by Sportsman’s Wholesale, and Pulliam is excited about learning a new track.
“I always enjoy going to new tracks and taking on new challenges,” Pulliam said. “We’ve had a top-five car every race we have ran this year and been a threat to win most. Me and Bobby have both been switching back and forth on hot streaks but I feel like, right now, he’s the car to beat. Those guys are doing a great job but I can promise you, no one is working any harder than me and my guys to catch them.”
Carteret County Speedway will be a neutral playing field essentially for the entire field. Of the drivers who have competed in all or most of the races this season, none of them have ever competed in a race at Carteret County Speedway and the track’s limited practice schedule gives drivers very little opportunity to get laps in before June 23rd.
“I think that’s a big positive for me,” Pulliam remarked. “I’ve had a lot of success at adapting to new places very quickly and being a threat to win the first time we show up to a place. It’s going to be tough there as there are a lot of talented drivers in this series and it should be a great show for the fans.”
With no experience at the track itself, Pulliam is relying mostly on his years of experience in a Late Model Stock Car and his team for next weekend.
“I think personally, racing has a lot to do with confidence,” Pulliam stated. “From my experience, you can look back at the season and the same core group of guys have been up front each week. Those same cars will more than likely be the cars to beat this week. We literally prepare by racing at different venues and seeing where we stack up against the same guys each week. Some people are stronger at certain tracks than others but, nine times out of 10, you can look at the cars that were fast the previous race and figure on those same cars being fast again.”
At first, Pulliam was skeptical about running the CARS Tour and was not sure he would enjoy it. Now, halfway through the season, he finds himself having fun in Late Model Stock Car racing’s lone touring series.
“I had skepticism about how I would enjoy it but, I’ll be honest with you, it’s been like a breath of fresh air to me,” Pulliam explained. “I love my local tracks and racing those places but with rules different everywhere you go and way too many rules in the book, it has taken a lot of fun away from what made this sport such a fun thing to be a part of. I’ve seen zero BS calls so far and no phantom cautions whenever any particular person is leading, and that’s how it should be.
“I don’t care if Lee Pulliam, Bobby McCarty or Josh Berry have a 10-second lead or lap the field, there shouldn’t be any unnecessary cautions unless it was talked about in the driver’s meetings such as the caution every 40 green flag lap rule.”
Pulliam also had praise for series officials.
“The series officials have been great to work with and the owner of the series, Jack McNelly, is very much involved and at the track each week and, I feel like, truly wants to see the series strive,” Pulliam continued. “I feel like teams like mine and Nelson Motorsports have helped elevate that series even more than it already was and it’s really been a fun start to the year.”
The only regret Pulliam has had so far was something out of his control. In the season-opening race at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina, a piece of the track asphalt came up and knocked the alternator belt off while he was running second in the final stage of the race and closing in on Bobby McCarty. Pulliam ended up not finishing the race, a race he felt he could and should have won.
“The only thing I wish I could have back was Tri-County when the track came apart and knocked the alternator bent off,” Pulliam commented. “Me and Bobby were about to put a show on for the win before that knocked us out. That was a big blow in the points and is the difference in us being second right now trailing by close to 20 instead of leading by a couple. Overall, I’m really happy and proud of what this series has brought to the table for Late Model Stock Car racing.”
Pulliam enters the Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125 presented by Sportsman’s Wholesale second in points, trailing series points leader Bobby McCarty. McCarty won the series’ most recent race at Ace Speedway on June 9th. Pulliam’s most recent victory came at Bristol Motor Speedway back in May. Both Pulliam and McCarty are former winners of the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, a track that has similarities to Carteret County Speedway in terms of banking and configuration.