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Lee Pulliam keeps promise to his dad, returns to chase third Martinsville 300 win

The four-time NASCAR champion, two-time Martinsville winner and six-time SoBo 200 winner is back

South Boston Speedway

One of the best to ever do it in a Late Model Stock Car is coming back to chase a third Ridgeway Grandfather Clock in September.

Lee Pulliam is back.

The four-time NASCAR Weekly Series national champion hasn’t raced since 2020 and hasn’t been full-time behind the wheel since two years before that as Pulliam is currently all-in on running a wildly successful driver development program.

But when his dad, Stuart, got sick over the winter, Pulliam made a promise dependent on the continued efforts to defeat kidney failure.

“Me and my dad always raced together,” Pulliam told Short Track Scene over the weekend at South Boston. “That’s what we did together. He had a pretty serious operation early in the year and he ended up going through kidney failure and was in the hospital for 24 days or something like that, almost a month.

“At one point, it got really bad and I just told dad, as I was holding your hand, ‘you be tough and pull through this and we’ll go race for a clock one more time.’ His first day back at the track was (that weekend) and he’s doing a lot better so now I’m holding up my end of the deal.”

Pulliam originally anticipated just filing a third entry alongside full-time clients Brenden Queen and Isabella Robusto. He told Queen that was the only race he couldn’t call the shots for the No. 03 this season.

Then Queen got the chance to make another Truck Series start at Kansas Speedway that weekend for Tricon Garage and that led to Pulliam driving The Bean Machine instead.

“When he signed the deal to go to Kansas, he and John (Staton, sponsor and owner of Best Repair Company) approached me about just driving the 03 so that’s how that come about. So, I’m honored to be able to pilot the race car that he drives every week and excited about it and it just all stemmed from wanting to do one more cool thing with dad.”

Pulliam is quick to point out that ne never retired.

Despite all the accolades, including winning six consecutive South Boston 200s, Pulliam just never found the consistent funding needed to race while also starting a family and needing to be more economical into his 30s. He started Lee Pulliam Performance to build a business model around his racing expertise.

“But dad never wanted me to quit racing, you know,” Pulliam said. “I just had to do it to make a living. My mom and dad worked very hard to make a living and to support this and then I had to do the same thing. I don’t have anything to fall back on so when you have a wife and daughter, I had to make some serious sacrifices from driving.

“I miss it. I miss driving every day. And dad misses it too so I knew it would be special for him to go and do it again. It’s going to be special for me. I don’t get to race now because it’s tough running a business and driving race cars when you’re working on them.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. I miss it every day. I still have the fire I always had to do this.”

Pulliam was back behind the wheel over the weekend, practicing for Queen on Friday before the South Boston 200 while his championship driver was running in the Truck Series at Nashville Superspeedway. It was his first time racing since 2020 when he drove for driver Corey Heim, who was sidelined with COVID-19.

He was just as fast as ever at his best track.

“Two laps in and I was as fast as anyone there,” Pulliam said. “It all came right back. We all mocked up at the end and we were P4 on the board. If I had to race for whatever reason (on Saturday) we could have raced for the win.”

Pulliam isn’t even saying that he’s done full-time racing but it would have to be the right opportunity that allows him to provide for his family and still have Lee Pulliam Performance to come back to as that long-term fallback profession.

“It would be tough,” Pulliam said. “I’m not saying ‘no’ for sure but it would have to be the right situation and the right everything really.

“I’m not saying never and I’m not saying it’s going to be my last race because I never planned on making any race my last race. When I got out of the car last time, I didn’t plan on it being five years.

“But this is something I am looking forward to. I’m going to put a lot of emphasis into it and effort. I plant to win that thing and it’s going to be some really hard-nosed racing at Martinsville like it always has been.”

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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