Lemons Scores Victory In Chaotic Thanksgiving Classic Finish

by November 27, 2016

Tommy Lemons, Jr. celebrates his victory in Sunday’s Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park.  (Photo credit: Andy Marquis/Southern National Motorsports Park)

LUCAMA, NC – Lee Pulliam looked like he was on his way to a second consecutive Thanksgiving Classic victory at Southern National Motorsports Park on Sunday evening, but a late race caution set up a wild sequence of events which ended with Tommy Lemons, Jr. in victory lane.

Pulliam had dominated the late stages of the event, but was held up behind a lapped car which allowed Justin Johnson to go to his outside for the lead.  Johnson spun on the exit of turn four, bringing out a caution.  On the first green-white-checkered restart, Lemons got a jump on Pulliam, then Pulliam wrecked off the front bumper of Matt McCall.  When the dust settled, Lemons held on for the win.

“We definitely had a really good car in the first half,” Lemons said.  “Just a little tight in the second half.  Stuck around long enough.  Luck wasn’t on our side last weekend, luck was on our side this weekend.  Kind of bittersweet from last week but it’s an awesome way to cap the year with a win here.

“Hadn’t won the Thanksgiving Classic.  Always going after the big wins so awesome to get this one under our belts.”

Brenden Queen, who had been involved in an incident earlier in the race, mounted a late race charge to finish second.

“Got lucky there a little bit but we never gave up all day,” Queen said.  “Put ourselves in position there to challenge them, came up one spot short.  Didn’t want to spin him for the win.  Just tried to move him and hopefully he would have finished second to me.”

McCall held on to finish third.  The incident with Pulliam, however, brought back memories from the 2011 Late Model Stock Car race when McCall spun off Pulliam’s bumper on the last lap of the race – which Pulliam went on to win.  McCall insisted the contact with Pulliam was not payback.

“He didn’t have the restart he had before,” McCall said.  “All the other restarts, he cleared everybody and pulled away.  He must have spun the tires or something.  When we got to the flagstand, he still wasn’t going.  Well, we had a green-white-checkered so we’re racing for the win and I don’t get to race often, so there was no reason not to go in there and see if I could make it happen.”

Pulliam disagreed.

“I don’t know what he remembered at Martinsville,” Pulliam said.  “I moved him and he wrecked me.  That’s pretty much the end of the story.  You can write whatever you want to write about it but that’s how it went.”

Fourth place finisher Deac McCaskill also felt the incident was payback from Martinsville.

“I thought all that mess was over with between him and Lee, but that was just wrong,” McCaskill stated.  “I hate it for Lee that he got caught up in it but that’s short track racing.”

McCaskill, a four-time track champion at Southern National Motorsports Park, started on the pole and dominated much of the race but made some adjustments during the halftime intermission which sent him backwards.

“I didn’t make the right adjustments at halfway,” McCaskill said.  “We went the wrong way.  Lucky we finished fourth because, at one point, we were fifth or sixth.  Chaos broke out those last couple laps and we were able to get fourth.  We gave it our all on that final restart, just came up short.”

2015 Southern National Motorsports Park track champion Jonathan Findley finished fifth while Mark Wertz, Ricky Jones III, Layne Riggs, Tim Allensworth and Tyler Hughes rounded out the top-10.

Christian Eckes, who won the Myrtle Beach 400 at Myrtle Beach Speedway one week ago, scored the victory in the Accent Imaging 125 Super Late Model feature, winning out over Austin Theriault and 2015 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South champion Tate Fogleman.

“We had a really good car,” Eckes said.  “We unloaded strong and it stayed about the same.  I got a little worried there when Colt [James] passed me.  Sucks for him, he had a really good car to have a mechanical issue like that.  I’m just happy for all these guys.  We worked hard for this race and it paid off.”

James, who won the Scott Farms Pro Late Model Sweet Potato 7 Series championship at Southern National, had challenged Eckes much of the race but fell out on lap 94 when his engine went south.

Ethan Johnson won the Grafix Unlimited Bandolero race and all scored the championship in the Bandolero Fall Brawl championship series.  Johnson held off Josh Speas to score the victory while Parker Frazier, who had been involved in an accident in practice, finished third.

Unofficial Results

Late Model Stock Car

1.    Tommy Lemons, Jr.

2.    Brenden Queen

3.    Matt McCall

4.    Deac McCaskill

5.    Jonathan Findley

6.    Mark Wertz

7.    Ricky Jones, III

8.    Layne Riggs

9.    Tim Allensworth

10.  Tyler Hughes

11.  Connor Hall

12.  Michael Hardin

13.  Shelton McNair

14.  Josh Oakley

15.  Maddy Ryan Mulligan

16.  Mike Ganoe

17.  Bubba Johnston

18.  Stacy Puryear

19.  Justin Johnson

20.  Lee Pulliam

21.  Nick Smith

22.  Haley Moody

23.  Charlie Watson

24.  Josh Berry

25.  Cameron Bowen

26.  Andrew Grady

27.  Mike Darne

28.  Paul Williamson

29.  Myatt Snider

30.  Jason Barnes

31.  Austin Thaxton

Super Late Model

1.    Christian Eckes

2.    Austin Theriault

3.    Tate Fogleman

4.    Jake Crum

5.    Clay Jones

6.    Kevin Floars

7.    Michael Faulk

8.    Anthony Alfredo

9.    Jody Measamer

10.  Colt James

11.  Tyler Church

12.  Darren Shaw

Bandolero

1.    Ethan Johnson

2.    Josh Speas

3.    Parker Frazier

4.    Cole Bruce

5.    Matthew Gurganus

6.    Cameron Murray

7.    Bradley Kilby

8.    Emily Day

9.    Jacob O’Neal

10.  Travis Roberson

For more information about the Thanksgiving Classic, visit the Thanksgiving Classic event page on Southern National Motorsports Park’s website, “like” Southern National Motorsports Park on Facebook or follow @SNM_Park on Twitter.