The King came at The Champ on Saturday night and he missed.
Four-time NASCAR national champion Philip Morris took his best shot at defending track champion Peyton Sellers in the closing laps of the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson South Boston 200 but just couldn’t complete the pass.
A caution with 22 laps to go allowed Morris to erase a 1.2 second deficit and he made the absolute most of it without outright wrecking his primary championship rival in the process.
Morris got to the rear bumper of Sellers’ Toyota and continually shoved him around the .400-mile Virginia short track over the final 17 laps. Morris continually tagged him flat in the rear, just enough to unsettle his No. 26 but not enough to wreck him.
It was the hardest you can race someone aggressively without wrecking them.
“You saw it right there,” Sellers said in Victory Lane. “He gave me all I could handle. But didn’t take me out for the win. That’s what a true champion does.
“We raced the best, we raced the king, and we came out on top.”
The King, of course, is a reference to Morris’ status as the King of the Late Model Stocks and a sure-fire future NASCAR Hall of Famer.
But Sellers’ is currently on a legacy-deciding run himself. He’s the defending track champion, just won his first South Boston 200 and collected $8,000 for a Late Model Stock race. The race itself paid $6,500 to win, but he also earned $500 for leading the most laps and an additional $1,000 for capturing the pole earlier in the afternoon.
That’s the caliber of champion that Morris knew he could race hard without worrying about a wreck.
“It’s not because one of us wanted it more than the other,” Morris said. “We both had the same desire. He had the track position and I wasn’t going to take it from him unless he was going to give it up.
“I wasn’t going to turn him and take it from him like that. It’s really rare that you can hit someone like that and he holds on to it. The fans were treated to a first-class race.”
But does Morris feel like he left anything on the table? Any regrets?
“We started ninth, and struggled to come through the field,” he said. “We were saved by that caution. And I figured the only way to beat him was the outside and he wasn’t going to give it to me. Hats off to those guys.”
The race opened with a first lap multi-car incident that included Timothy Peters, Trevor Noles, Ty Gibbs, Grayson Cullather, Josh Oakley, Thomas Scott, Stacy Puryear, Bruce Anderson and Nathan Crews. It began when Matt Bowling got sideways near the center on the backstretch and was hit lightly by Anderson.
From sixth on back had nowhere to go but brake hard and hope not to be involved.
Sellers led the first 49 laps, but lost four positions when he cut a tire and suffered from a slow leak. The caution on Lap 53 for a solo Mark Keesee spin saved him from having to potentially pit under green. Seller raced his way back into the top-10 by Lap 81 and took the lead for the final time on Lap 105.
Morris led at the halfway break and earned $1,000 as a result.
The race was the first leg of the Virginia Triple Crown that also includes the Hampton Heat on July 21st and the Martinsville 300 on September 29. The best average finish between all three races earns an additional $10,000.
So the results from this race double as the current Triple Crown standings.
Said results from the South Boston 200 can be viewed below.
- Peyton Sellers
- Philip Morris
- Tyler Hughes
- Brandon Pierce
- Bobby McCarty
- CE Falk III
- Woody Howard
- Justin Carroll (NC)
- Mike Looney
- Timmy Phipps
- Nathan Crews
- Terry Carroll
- Grayson Cullather
- Charles Barnes
- Matt Bowling
- Eric Winslow
- Thomas Scott
- Austin Thaxton
- Dusty Ellington
- Mason Diaz
- Jason Barnes
- Josh Oakley
- Quincy Adkins
- Thomas Beane
- Timothy Peters
- Bruce Anderson
- Justin Carroll (VA)
- Mark Wertz
- Mark Keesee, Jr.
- Colin Garrett
- Brenden Queen
- Stacy Puryear
- Trevor Noles
- Ty Gibbs
- Stuart Crews