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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Philip Morris has made excellence seem routine as he was crowned as the 2011 national champion at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet on Friday evening.
Morris, 46, from Ruckersville, Va., won the national championship for the fourth time in six seasons. He previously won in 2006, 2008 and 2009. He also collected his fourth Virginia championship in the last five seasons, as well as picking up the South Boston (Va.) Speedway Late Model Division title.
“Racing is never easy,” Morris said. “One thing I have realized is that achieving a dream demands hard work.”
In a heated points battle that went down to the final weekend of the season, Morris was able to edge defending national champion Keith Rocco of Conn., by just nine points. Lee Pulliam battled Morris on the national and Virginia stage and finished third overall – 27 points off Morris’ pace.
For the season, Morris earned 20 victories with 23 top fives and 28 top 10s in 28 starts.
After winning his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship, Morris looked back at his humble beginnings in the sport.
“It wasn’t that long ago that NASCAR was not a household name. The number of tracks and the size of the organization has increased drastically in the last 20 years. To the France family – thank you for dreaming big,” Morris said.
“For most of us here tonight, it started with a dream. For me, the dream started with putting on (my grandfather’s) helmet. In the beginning, it seemed like I barely had two nickels to rub together. It seemed like everything was a challenge. Thanks to everyone who believed in me. A special thanks to Phil Kurze of Whelen for making our series possible. I’d also like to thank Cathy Rice and everyone at South Boston Speedway,” he added.
Morris and the late Larry Phillips (five-time champion) are the only two drivers to win multiple NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship.
Morris drove the No. 26 Clarence Steakhouse Chevrolet at South Boston, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., that is owned by Jim Dean, who received the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award.
HC Sellers, brother of 2005 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion was honored with the Lunati Crew Chief Award.
Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., finished second in the national standings and led the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with 24 wins. The 26-year-old won track championships at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, as well as finishing second at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway en route to winning the Connecticut title.
Lee Pulliam, from Semora, N.C., finished third in the national standings with 18 wins, 28 top fives and 30 top 10s in 32 starts. He won the track championship at Motor Mile Speedway and competed at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., and South Boston Speedway.
Headlining the evening's special awards was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. Travis Braden, a 17-year-old from Wheeling, W. Va., took home the honors after he collected 13 wins with 29 top-five and 31 top-10 finishes in 32 starts at Kil-Kare in Xenia, Ohio and Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway.
Natalie Sather, of Fargo, N.D., was presented the prestigious Wendell Scott Trail Blazer Award. Clay Wooster, the crew chief for driver Toni McCray at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.), took home Craftsman Mechanic of the Year honors.
Additionally, Finalist Program competitors, spotlighting drivers outside the Division I at each NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track. The top three in each division – asphalt and dirt – were recognized Friday.
The Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet, held in the Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center within the NASCAR Hall of Fame complex, was streamed live online in English and Spanish at NASCARHomeTracks.com. Saturday night's NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Series Awards Gala will also be streamed live from the same location, in English, Spanish and French, starting with the pre-event Red Carpet Special at 5 p.m. ET. The awards show gets underway at 6 p.m.
NASCAR President Mike Helton presents the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship ring to Philip Morris as Morris' wife, Donna, watches on during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet Friday in Charlotte, N.C.