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Year In Review: Whelen All-American Series

Battle Announced; Pulliam Pulls Off Title
By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR
December 31, 2012 - 10:51am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season opened in Daytona Beach with a big announcement last February and concluded with a new national champion being crowned in December.

UNOH Battle At The Beach: NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track operators gathered in Daytona Beach for their annual conferences during 2012 Speedweeks. It was announced that NASCAR, the University of Northwestern Ohio and Daytona International Speedway teamed to present a major special event starting in 2013. The UNOH Battle At The Beach is set for Feb. 18-19 and will feature NASCAR Whelen All-American Series pavement Late Models, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tours. The top 10 drivers in the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series top 500 received locked-in starting spots for the all-star event. They include Lee Pulliam, Keith Rocco, C.E. Falk III, Nate Monteith, Ryan Preece, Ted Christopher, Duane Howard, Deac McCaskill, Adam Royle and Tim Brown. Drivers and their teams have the opportunity to compete on temporary .4-mile oval on the superspeedway’s backstretch.

A Champion’s Tale: When the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season ended in September, a first-time national champion emerged with quite a story to tell.

Redemption. That was the outcome of a season-long mission for NASCAR Late Model driver Lee Pulliam. The 24-year-old from small-town Semora, N.C., was brief with words and mighty with deeds.

Pulliam was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR in late October 2011 after post-race incident at South Boston (Va.) Speedway in which he intentionally wrecked the car of four-time national champion Philip Morris. The skirmish and resulting suspension could have been the end of Pulliam’s promising NASCAR career.

An appeals panel later placed Pulliam on probation and allowed him to apply for a NASCAR license on May 1, 2012, about six weeks after his Virginia home track opened.

Pulliam launched an aggressive schedule, winning races at South Boston, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C., and Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C. It took half the season for Pulliam to catch up in the national point chase.

A mid-season point shuffle brought four different national point leaders in four weeks with Anthony Anders, Ted Christopher and C.E. Falk III all taking their turn at the top. Then on July 17, Pulliam took the point lead and never let it go.

His 2012 national championship season included 22 wins, 30 top fives and 32 top 10s in 36 starts.

Morris Reemerges: Just before the season opened, sponsorship issues sidelined defending national champion Philip Morris. Morris, a four-time national champion from Ruckersville, Va., was forced to bide his time and prepare for late-season special events. He ran his first races of the season on Aug. 18 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. It was an intense night, as it was the first time he and Pulliam raced against each other in almost a whole season. Pulliam won both events over Morris. After that tune up, Morris went on a win streak, winning 150 lap events at South Boston on Sept. 3, and Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., on Sept. 8. He capped his abbreviated season with a victory over pole winner Pulliam in the rich and prestigious Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. B.J. Mackey placed third followed by Ryan Wilson and Brandon Butler.

Rocco Continues to Contend: NASCAR Modified driver Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Ct., the series’ 2010 national champion, continued to be a force in 2012. He placed second in the national point race for the third time in four years despite a July 29 wrist injury that slowed his pace. He got back on track several weeks later and bounced back up to second place in the national standings by season’s end. For the year, he scored 14 wins, 26 top fives and 32 top 10s in 43 starts.

Historic Tracks: Bob Lutz, who operates the NASCAR Racing Experience, led a small consortium in the purchase of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway this year. Longtime track operators Billy Hardee and Nick Lucas retired from track ownership. Anthony Anders, who led the national point race earlier in the season, won the 2012 NASCAR Late Model track championship. The track and NASCAR have been together since 1958 when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced there when it was a half-mile dirt track known as Rambi Raceway. ... Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., underwent a complete repaving project in December. With the surface cracking into chunks in the turns, fourth year track operator Bill Mullis led the efforts to completely rebuild the base under the turns to create a durable surface that will have a long life. … Superstorm Sandy pummeled Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, N.Y., on October 29. Winds tore through the property, but all buildings fared well and damage to the property was minor considering the size of the storm. While other areas of Long Island experienced flooding, the Town of Riverhead did not. In December, Riverhead owners/promoters Barbara and Jim Cromarty were named as the Riverhead (N.Y.) Chamber of Commerce Business Persons of the Year.

Driver Milestones: Scott Winters of Tracy, Calif., won triple championships in 2012. He won pair of NASCAR Modified track championships at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., and Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway and the California state championship… Bradley Babb and Andy Cusack became third generation track champions at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me. … Tim Brown won a track record ninth NASCAR Modified championship at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. … Bruce Yackey won his seventh NASCAR Late Model track title and fourth state championship racing at Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Col. … Donny Reuvers won his eighth consecutive and ninth overall NASCAR Late Model track championship at Elko (Minn.) Speedway. … Tony Stewart won the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown for NASCAR Late Models at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in April. Greg Edwards won the pole for the event and finished second. Brandon Butler finished third followed by Jeff Burton and Joey Logano. Edwards went on to win his third career Langley Speedway track championship. … Erica Thiering won her third track and provincial championships in five years at Edmonton (Alberta) International Raceway. … Naima Lang won his fourth track and state championships in five years racing at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. … Duane Howard won his fifth NASCAR dirt Modified track championship and third state title racing at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. … Jerry Gille wins third NASCAR Late Model championship and second state title racing at Rockford (Ill.) Speedway. … Matt Bowling won his first career South Boston Speedway NASCAR Late Model championship by 18 points over 2005 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Peyton Sellers. … 2001 national champion Ted Christopher finished eighth in 2012 national points but won his eighth career NASCAR SK Modified championship at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Conn. … Ryan Preece won his first Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Sunoco Modified division championship and placed fifth in national points. … Two drivers retired from full-time racing careers with NASCAR track championships – Buzz Bates in Limited Late Models at Lake County Speedway in Painesville, Ohio; and Dick Dunlevy Jr. in Late Models at Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia, Ohio. … Josh Berry brought team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and JR Motorsports its first championship in 2012. Berry was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model titlist at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. ... First-time Division I NASCAR license holder Brian Parker, 32, of Collinsville, Okla., won the series’ national Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. The veteran driver and support division chassis builder also won the dirt Modified track championship at Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway and the state NASCAR championship. It was the first time in his career that Parker settled into weekly racing at a single track.