Late Model Stock Cars
Dirt, Pavement, Doesn't Matter; Brenden Queen in Victory Lane
Jul 2, 2022
Corey Heim ultimately won the South Boston 200 but not even the most dominant driver of the night was spared the carnage that will define Saturday night.
Of the 42 cars that started the race, only eight were running at the time of the checkered flag and two of those eight crashed racing for the win as they crossed the finish line. By his own admission, Jacob Borst attempted to crash Heim out of the lead on the final corner and he only succeeded once the race was decided, crashing both cars in the process.
Heim won the race, but the Lee Pulliam Performance race team weren’t sure if they should celebrate or take the figurative pitchforks to Borst and his crew. Potentially nursing a broken wrist from a previous crash, Brandon Pierce confronted Borst on pit road over destroying the other Pulliam Performance car.
Borst was undeterred by anyone’s criticism, and there was plenty to be heard across the pit area and grandstands.
"I rode behind him for like 150 laps, never touched him, but now we're coming to the checkered flag and racing for $10,000," Borst said. "I'm not going to just let him go. We're going to beat and bang and put on a good race.
"They can be mad, fans can be mad, but all in all, it was a good night."
In winning the race, Heim snapped a two-year Lee Pulliam Performance winless streak dating back to his victory in a CARS Tour race at Hickory in 2020. It was an emotional triumph for everyone associated with the team -- even if they were flabbergasted by what they had to overcome on the final lap.
"Peyton (sellers) got into me the restart before and ripped my fender and it was like a parachute on my left rear," Heim said. "He saw an opening and went for it, and I don't blame him, but I had the race won out of four when he wiped us out there.
"At first, I thought it was a racing deal and he lost it, but I've seen the replay and it was pretty obvious what that was. At the end of the day, we parked it in victory lane but we're going to have to spend a lot of money to fix this thing."
It speaks volumes about what the 16th running of the South Boston 200 was that the final lap won’t even be the most memorable image from the night. Instead, it was the 17-car pile-up with 17 laps remaining.
Racing for fifth behind Heim, Borst, Peyton Sellers and Carter Langley, Mike Looney and Jonathan Shafer connected on the frontstretch. The contact sent Shafer and Jared Fryar sideways in front of the field and completely blocking the entrance to Turn 1.
Literally 15 cars piled into them and set-up a near one-hour red flag. The following additional drivers were involved in the melee: Conner Jones, Landon Pembleton, Connor Hall, Sam Yarbrough, Mini Tyrell, Parker Eatmon, Stacy Puryear, Trevor Ward, John Goin, Aaron Donnelly, Bobby McCarty, Camden Gullie, Mason Diaz and Pierce.
Looney took responsibility for his part in what happened.
"It all happened so fast, we had a good long run car but we stink on the restarts, and was just probably trying too hard to play defense," Looney said. "I was with Shafer, and we were both holding on, sliding off the corner and Turn 4 has been my achilles hill. I've been on both sides of it. It's like pouring water down a funnel at 110 mph. I'm sure it was my fault and it was, I'm sorry and I apologize to all those guys that just had their cars torn up."
Jones was transported to a local hospital with a neck pain that materialized after he was out of the car and changing out of his fire suit. Pierce collapsed onto the frontstretch pavement after climbing out of his car under red and said his wrist had turned a shade of black and purple while getting treated in the ambulance.
"Wrist got caught in the spokes of the wheel when everyone was piling in and it took my wrist with it pretty hard," Pierce said. "It’s just a super frustrating night."
His night started off poor by getting involved in a crash when a spun-out Jason Barnes let off the brakes as traffic passed below him. He connected with Pierce at speed and that set the Pulliam Performance No. 2 back in the field.
As it turns out, race control determined he was a lap down almost 100 laps later, even though he had been running with the lead group in the laps after his incident. So that set him in the back again to where he would be involved in the crash.
McCarty and Fryar simply turned laps after the red flag was lifted so they would be credited with a top-10. Diaz and Mike Darne Racing elected to take a two-lap penalty to work on their car under red and that penalty was never even enforced. Diaz finished the race scored in fourth.
Diaz was able to make that ground up because on the ensuing restart from the big crash, with nine laps to go, Sellers leaned against Heim for the lead -- the contact ultimately sending him backwards and into a crash with Looney and Carter Langley.
This left just two undamaged cars left to race for the win, driven by Heim and Borst, and they would crash crossing the line.
Borst walked over to Victory Lane to congratulate Heim and plead his case.
"I told him I could have wrecked him at any point during the 150 laps I was right behind him," Borst said. "I never touched him, never put a mark on his car. I said, ‘we’re going for $10,000 and one of the biggest races of the year, and I had to go for it.’
"I thought we were just going for the same real estate. He said he was fine with it and it was good racing, and we’ll move on to the next race and try to get that one."
Heim was, in fact, not good with it beyond the fact he won.
"Regardless of any scenario, dumping a guy isn’t acceptable," Heim said. "This race doesn’t pay enough to fix all the damage, but we are going for the win, so I don’t know. Lee Pulliam and our guys are super happy. They are pumped up and just excited to win and that makes me happy because it’s been awhile since we won a race together."
Pulliam won the South Boston 200 six years in a row as a driver from 2011-16 but this win might have been as sweet any of them.
"This might be the most emotional, I have ever been after winning a race," Pulliam said. "Two years has been a long time. Our guys have worked so hard, and we’ve been close, had a race winning car at Greenville and knocked the toe out on the restart.
"I know all the pieces are here, we just needed to execute, and everyone was flawless tonight. That was a dominant performance by Corey. He is such a talented driver and I’m just as happy for him as I am everyone on this crew. They are the best. I have the best guys building these race cars. We build them right down the road at Alton, Virginia and I hope everyone there is proud. They should be. We had a rocket ship against some of the best guys in the nation."
The rocket just needed to survive, and its piloted barely hung on, but barely was enough.
Corey Heim, Lee Pulliam Performance and the No. 78 team claimed the organization’s seventh South Boston 200 victory.
South Boston 200 XVI
South Boston Speedway
July 2 2022
Photo: Brandon Zumbach Photography