From the moment Lee Pulliam and Philip Morris revealed their intentions to join Peyton Sellers as full-time drivers at South Boston Speedway this season, America’s Hometown Track rightfully marketed itself as the place to be.
After all, where else can you watch 10 combined NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship owners likely fight for the chance to earn another step towards the Hall of Fame in Charlotte?
It was billed as a heavyweight showdown between three of the best Late Model Stock drivers of all-time and they delivered on that promise, not to mention the haymakers, on Saturday in the Commonwealth.
For those that missed the viral moment on Saturday, Morris’ No. 01 spun off the nose of the Pulliam No. 5 with five laps to go while racing for the lead.
During the resulting red flag, Morris crew chief Forrest Reynolds hopped over the wall, ran onto the track, spiked his radio onto Pulliam’s windshield and reached into the passenger seat with the intent to seemingly pull the ignition wires.
Pulliam then jumped on the throttle and drove a couple of feet to get away, the sudden jolt of horsepower sending Reynolds tumbling across the freshly-repaved racing surface.
So, what do we make of this?
First, let’s start from the beginning — the initial crash itself.
It was a pretty aggressive Pulliam move, but nothing that hasn’t happened at South Boston between numerous racers battling for the win over the past several decades.
As for crew chief Reynolds, his decision to run on the track, and threaten Pulliam and his equipment in any shape or form will likely be met with a punitive response from the track.
After all, this is the same track that placed a driver’s dad (Dean Jones) on probation for running onto the track to pull his kid (Mike Jones) from a burning race car.
I have questions about the stop-and-go official that was within feet of Reynolds as he angrily approached a hot race track and allowed him to run onto the track.
It’s problematic because this very well could have resulted in a Kevin Ward Jr. scenario and this official had his back turned to it.
As for Pulliam getting onto the throttle, it’s hard to blame him because he is strapped into a race car, with no means to defend himself. And according to the four-time champion on Monday’s Speed51 Morning Bullring, he felt physically threatened.
“I didn’t know he was coming until he jumped the wall,” Pulliam said on the air. “I didn’t know what he was going to do. It looked like he was coming to the left side. Thankfully, Austin Thaxton moved up to my left side to kind of protect my left side. He spiked the radio and jumped in the car. I could see something in one of his hands, and he tried to go for the wires in the other hand. Luckily, I was able to get it fired and get away from him. It looked kind of like he had an Allen wrench in his hand or something. I wasn’t going to hang around and find out what he was going to do.
“You could see the rage in his eyes. He’s completely lost it. As far as I know he’s about to kill someone. He is literally in a rage. You could tell when he spiked the radio he wanted to hurt someone. That’s fine if we were out of the race car, I’d be ready to go. When you’re strapped in and can’t move, it’s not a good situation. You don’t know if this guy has got a knife or what’s going to happen. I’ve got a family, a wife and a little kid, and I am planning to come home to them every chance I get.”
This is short track racing. Drivers handling it among themselves, preferably out of the cars is a national pastime.
So there’s two points here: Using the Jones probabtion as a basebline precedence, Reynolds may spend some time at home for the foreseeable future. And Pulliam should likely only be fined, if anything, for jumping on the throttle.
And this part isn’t very politically correct, but it’s accurate nonetheless … both Pulliam and Morris need to be on the race track alongside Sellers on April 20 when the South Boston season resumes.
… Which brings me to my last point.
SOUTH BOSTON NEEDS TO BE ON FANSCHOICE
When the season resumes with Sellers, Pulliam and Morris on the track, it needs to be available to a national audience.
NASCAR’s Jeremy Wallace, the senior director of digital and social production, was at the track on Saturday to oversee the FansChoice.TV live broadcast of the Whelen Modified Tour, but to also plant the seed that the South Boston weekly program should also be on the platform.
And beyond the drama from the weekend, and the opportunity within, South Boston’s weekly show needs to be on FansChoice just for the reason explained at the top — that NASCAR’s 2019 All-American Series championship likely runs through the Virginia .400-mile short track.
Based on Saturday’s packed house, a live stream didn’t hurt the live crowd.
And considering what they saw, between the NWMT race, and two action-packed Late Model Stock races, why would they want to spend their Saturday nights anywhere else?
Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Dean Jones was suspended instead of placed on probation.