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Underdog Mike Looney Holds Off Lee Pulliam For ValleyStar Credit Union 300 Victory

Underdog Mike Looney Holds Off Lee Pulliam For ValleyStar Credit Union 300 Victory

by October 17, 2016 0 comments

RIDGEWAY, Va. – In the closing laps of Sunday’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, Mike Looney fought off Lee Pulliam to earn his first win in the prestigious NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race.

Looney’s car owner, Billy Martin had attempted to make the race for 25 years, and on Saturday when the team captured the pole, it was a dream come true and the beginning of the “David vs. Goliath” weekend. The underfunded team survived the typical chaos throughout the race to capture the $25,000 purse and the iconic grandfather clock. Unlike many teams, who competed on Sunday, Looney’s No. 87 A-1 Heating and Cooling Ford team was made up of unpaid volunteers that he considers close friends.

“Testing went great, and the car was pretty much spot-on,” Looney said. “My crew worked their guts out. It’s a blessing to have friends that I’ve got. We’re not like a lot of these teams. We don’t pay, and we don’t have any salary employees. Don’t pay nobody. It’s the guys that pay their own way. They pay $50 to come in and work on our car all day. It’s all friends. They’re here because they want to be here.

“It means a lot to get them this win and to get Billy this win. First (Martinsville) race that Billy has ever made and my first pole and my first win. Word can’t describe the improbability of what we just did.”

Forty-two drivers took the green flag for the 200-lap main event, but as the field headed into Turn 1 for the first time, many hopes and dreams came to a screeching halt as at least 10 cars were caught up in an accident. Once back to green, Looney led the way with the stout field of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series drivers behind him. The second caution of the afternoon came out when local favorite, Peyton Sellers stalled in Turn 3. The field went back to green on lap 48.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Peyton Sellers stalls in Turn 3.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Peyton Sellers (No. 26) stalls in Turn 3.

Not long after the restart, Stefan Parsons, Terry Carroll and Bradley McCaskill found trouble and crashed in Turn 3. With Looney and Pulliam on the front row, the field returned to green flag conditions on lap 65. Nine laps later, the caution flew once again for a large piece of debris on the frontstretch.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas |

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Stefan Parsons (No. 98), Terry Carroll (No. 90) and Bradley McCaskill (N0. 18) crash in Turn 3.

Once again, it was Looney and Pulliam up front on the restart; however on lap 84, the field was back under caution for a crash in Turn 4. R.D Smith got sideways in Turn 4 and spun while exiting the corner. With nowhere to go, everyone scattered, but a couple of drivers weren’t able to avoid the No. 16 Quality Collision Toyota of Smith. Most notably, defending Martinsville Speedway winner, Tommy Lemons Jr. was a victim of the pile up.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | R.D Smith (No. 16) spins out of Turn 4 and collects Tommy Lemons Jr. (NO. 27) and others.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | R.D Smith (No. 16) spins out of Turn 4 and collects Tommy Lemons Jr. (N0. 27) and others.

At the halfway mark of the race, the competition caution flew, and it was Lee Pulliam in the No. 5  Kiker Tree Service Chevrolet leading the way over Bobby McCarty, Stacey Puryear, , Mike Looney and Phillip Morris, who was fifth. Following the redraw, Morris was shown as the leader with Josh Berry alongside of him. Looney was scored third, followed by Puryear and McCarty. As soon as the field restarted the second half of the race, the caution came out, but after a quick clean up, the field was back underway on lap 111.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Phillip Morris (No. 01) and Josh Berry (No. 88) restart first and second following the redraw at halfway.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Phillip Morris (No. 01) and Josh Berry (No. 88) restart first and second following the redraw at halfway.

Josh Berry passed Phillip Morris for the lead on lap 113. As the two drivers entered Turn 3 on lap 127, Morris dove below Berry for the race lead and made contact with the No. 88 Speedco Chevrolet. Berry slid up the track and spun around in Turn 4, bringing out the caution. He fell from first, all the way back to the 24th position. The field went back to green on lap 134, and not long after, Berry’s luck ran out and he crashed in Turn 3, along with Justin Carroll and Brad Kurth.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas |

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Josh Berry (No. 88), Justin Carroll (No. 57) and Brad Kurth (N0. 9) crash hard in Turn 3.

After the accident in Turn 3 was cleaned up, the green flag was back in the air on lap 145 until yet, another caution came out five laps later. On the lap 155 restart, it was Lee Pulliam on the inside and Mike Looney on the outside leading the field into Turn 1. The two drivers fought each other hard until the second and final competition caution came out on lap 174. Soon after the green came back out, so did the caution on lap 177. Under the yellow flag, Phillip Morris had to pull into the pits for an unscheduled pit stop. Deac McCaskill and Trvor Noles spun in Turn 4 to bring out the caution a lap later.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Deac McCaskill (No. 08) and Trevor Noles (No. 22) make contact in Turn 3 to bring out the caution.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Deac McCaskill (No. 08) and Trevor Noles (No. 22) make contact in Turn 3 to bring out the caution.

The final caution of the afternoon came out on lap 182, when Myatt Snider was sent spinning through the exit of Turn 4 after contact from another car. Snider was able to keep the car off of the wall. The caution was thrown because Snider wasn’t able to get the car moved before the leaders came back around. On lap 187, the green flag flew for a 13-lap dash to the finish.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Myatt Snider (No. 2) spins out of Turn 4 after contact.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Myatt Snider (No. 2) spins out of Turn 4 after contact.

In the final laps, it was Mike Looney and Lee Pulliam dueling it out for the victory. With just 10 laps to go, Pulliam dove underneath Looney in Turn 4 and climbed the side of his car after making contact. Although Pulliam went airborne and both drivers sustained heavy damage, they both continued. As the laps ticked away, Pulliam was quickly running out of time to catch Looney and pass him for the lead.

“I run him down and went to move him, and I should of probably waited until the next lap because I moved him in the center of the corner, and he gassed it up and kept it on the bottom, and we kind of hit and I drove up his left rear,” Pulliam said. “All I could see was there was a beautiful clear night. I could see a lot of sky. I just let off the gas until I landed because I felt like I was on top of his head.”

mike-looney

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas | Lee Pulliam (No. 5) climbs the side of Mike Looney’s (No. 87) car, while battling for the race lead with just 10 laps to go.

In the end, Pulliam just couldn’t catch back up to close the gap, and Looney went on to win the race. Before Looney stepped onto the stage to receive his grandfather clock, Pulliam walked up and congratulated him and the entire No. 87 team.

Kres Van Dyke finished third, while CE Falk III and Austin Thaxton rounded out the top-five. Mike Darne, Matt Bowling, Justin Carroll, Ryan Repko and Brenden Queen completed the top-10.

Sunday’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 certainly kept the fans on their feet as it historically always does. In 2017, the prestigious event will be the first race at Martinsville Speedway to be scheduled to run underneath the LED lights. Next year, the race will move from Sunday to Saturday.

Unofficial Results:

1.) #87 Mike Looney

2.) #5 Lee Pulliam

3.) #15 Kres Van Dyke

4.) #04 CE Falk III

5.) #12A Austin Thaxton

6.) #21 Mike Darne

7.) #83 Matt Bowling

8.) #57 Justin Carroll

9.) #14 Ryan Repko

10.) #03 Brenden Queen

11.) #08 Deac McCaskill

12.) #12 Nick Smith

13.) #20 Sam Yarbourgh

14.) #2A Myatt Snider

15.) #4 Dylan Hall

16.) #18 Bradley McCaskill

17.) #9 Brad Kurth

18.) #26A Danny Edwards

19.) 57A Jimmy Mullins

20.) #02 Brandon Butler

21.) #22 Trevor Noles

22.) #01 Phillip Morris

23.) #4C Annabeth Barnes-Crum

24.) #12B Bobby McCarty

25.) #90 Terry Carroll

26.) #50 Ross Dalton

27.) #1 Jamie Sweeny

28.) #01A GR Waldrop

29.) #88 Josh Berry

30.) #17A Stacey Puryear

31.) #81 Justin Johnson

32.) #16 R.D. Smith

33.) #27 Tommy Lemons Jr.

34.)  #50A Garrett Bunch

35.) #1A Christian Eckes

36.) #98 Stefan Parsons

37.) #26 Peyton Sellers

38.) #41 Haley Moody

39.) #33 Macy Causey

40.) #63 Tyler Matthews

41.) #55 Matt Wertz

42.) #51 Chris Chapman

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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