Philip Morris has amassed trophy cases of hardware over the past decade, but the grandfather clock that he took home Sunday afternoon for winning the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway meant more to him than all the others put together.
“This is better than all of them. You have to beat the best here,” Morris said after claiming the $25,000 first-place check and the coveted grandfather clock winner’s trophy. “You just don’t know how hard it is to win this race.”
Morris won this race in 2000, but had come up empty since then.
“We wanted this one bad, for us, for our sponsor,” Morris said, referring to Clarence’s Steakhouse, a racing institution located about a mile south of Martinsville Speedway. “Clarence (Pickeral) had never won this race. I really wanted this one bad for him.”
Morris beat Davin Scites of Davidson, NC, to the checkered flag, but Scites was disqualified after post-race inspection revealed an “illegally altered intake manifold.” That ruling moved everyone in the field up one spot, giving Matt McCall of Denver, NC second place.
Alex Yontz and Jamie Caudill, both former winners of this event, finished third and fourth respectively while pole-sitter Lee Pulliam was fifth.
In the decade since Morris scored his initial Martinsville win he has captured three NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championships, but until Sunday he had come up short at the historic track. And after winning his third national title last year, this season had been somewhat of a disappointment.
“This has been the toughest year for us. We really wanted to defend our (national) title,” Morris said. “That didn’t pan out for us and coming into this race, we didn’t have anything. We had race wins, but we had no championship, no track championship.
“We didn’t come in with any high-falutin’ title. We came here basically hungry. And I think that’s the mentality you’ve got to come in here with: just really humbling yourself and just be hungry to win this thing.”
Morris was mired back outside of the top five after the halfway point of the 200-lap feature, but methodically worked his way back to the front. He had a spirited battle with McCall before taking the lead for good.
“My car was just better than everybody’s. I actually ran down the leaders there,” Morris said. “I just couldn’t believe how much better it was. And then when the sun came out it kind of equalized with everybody and then as soon as the clouds came back, it was just like practice the other day. All I had to do was hit my marks and not make any more mistakes.”
Timothy Peters, the 2005 winner of the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 and last fall’s Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville, finished sixth, followed by Brandon Butler, Wayne Ramsey, Robert Johnson and Mike Looney.
The next racing action at Martinsville Speedway is the TUMS Fast Relief 500 weekend October 22-24.