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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion will compete on a world stage next Monday.
Lee Pulliam, 24, of Semora, N.C., confirmed Wednesday he’s entering the prestigious UNOH Battle At The Beach.
The first-year Speedweeks event takes place on a temporary .4-mile paved oval on the Superstretch at Daytona International Speedway. Two days of racing begin Feb. 18 with a 150-lap NASCAR Late Model feature. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours take over the track for 150-lap features on Feb. 19. All divisions will compete in full slates of preliminary events.
Pulliam, fellow driver Matt Bowling, and their car builder Jay Hedgecock formed an alliance among friends to make it to Daytona. The final pieces of the effort came together in the days leading up to their departure for Daytona. Bowling is the 2012 NASCAR Late Model track champion at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
Pulliam enters the event in the 2013 Hedgecock Racing Enterprises “house car.” In turn, Pulliam’s shop fields Bowling’s Hedgecock-built 2012 car for Daytona. Hedgecock chassis have won five of the seven most recent NASCAR Whelen All-American series national championships with Philip Morris in 2006, 2008-09 and 2011, and Pulliam in 2012. Hedgecock cars won 136 feature races and eight track championships last year in addition to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title.
“We’ve won a lot of races driving cars Jay built,” Pulliam said. “We’re going to make the most of it at Daytona.”
Although the idea was discussed for a month, the deal between Pulliam and Hedgecock came together this past weekend. Pulliam exhausted all avenues to take his own car to Daytona,
“This car was nothing but a cage last Friday,” Pulliam said. “Jay has been working very hard on it.”
Hedgecock is excited about teaming with Pulliam as car owner for The Battle.
“We’ve got a good mix of a new race car and a champion driver,” Hedgecock said. “We are going to Daytona with the intent of winning. Being part of the inaugural race will be a good experience.”
Over the years Hedgecock built cars for others and competed himself in all three of NASCAR’s national series. In the late 1980s he competed in about a dozen NASCAR Modified races at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. He has 18 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts and 19 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour starts. He posted a southern tour win at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. in 2005 and placed sixth in points. He plans to build a Modified for his occasional personal use this summer.
After a winter’s worth of preparation, Bowling’s car passed its test session Tuesday at Ace, a relatively flat .4-mile paved oval. Plans call for Pulliam’s car to be tested there Thursday and then load up for the trip to Daytona on Friday.
“Matt will be as competitive as anyone at Daytona and we’re happy to be able to help him,” Pulliam said. “A lot of effort went into getting his car ready, and he’s got a good hot rod heading into The Battle.
“I was a driver coach for Matt when he started driving Limited Sportsman in 2010 and we became great friends,” Pulliam said.
Hedgecock plans on bringing two other NASCAR Late Models to The UNOH Battle At The Beach. Planned drivers are Myatt Snider, 18, of Charlotte, son of TNT pit reporter Marty Snider; and Kaz Grala, 14, of Westborough, Mass. Both have Legends Car experience.
As series champion, Pulliam has a locked-in starting spot in the NASCAR Late Model feature that headlines the first day of the first-ever NASCAR short track events at “The World Center of Racing.” The top 10 finishers in the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national point race received a locked-in starting spot in the main event. Bowling placed 16th in national points and will have to race his way into the feature event.
Pulliam’s 2012 national championship racing record in 36 starts was 22 wins, 30 top fives and 32 top 10s. Bowling’s overall record in 37 starts last year was two wins, 24 top fives and 34 top 10s.
The top 10 locked-in Late Model drivers must still compete in the heat races to determine where they’ll start the feature. Heat races will be seeded by fastest lap speeds in each of the final practices and will be followed by a special draw to determine starting positions one through four for the heat race winners. If necessary, a last chance race is available to complete the 34-car field.
The three UNOH Battle At The Beach feature events over two days will be carried live on SPEED and the Motor Racing Network along with live video streaming of practice and qualifying at www.nascarhometracks.com.
For more information, visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Grandstand and garage admission can be secured via the website or by calling 1-888-PITSHOP.