A new administration welcomed three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Philip Morris and his wife, Donna, to Virginia’s Governor’s office recently.
The Commonwealth’s new Governor Bob McDonnell congratulated Morris for the first time. Morris had also visited previous Governor Tim Kaine in Richmond for his 2008 national title.
“Governor McDonnell is a nice guy – very personable,” Morris said. “He’s a big NASCAR fan and was looking forward to going to Martinsville.”
Morris will open defense of his Late Model division title at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., Saturday. Morris has won the previous five track titles and seven overall.
Morris had nine wins, 20 top fives and 23 top 10s in 28 starts in 2009, racing at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and South Boston (Va.) Speedway. In addition to winning his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title in the last four years, Morris also collected his third straight Virginia state championship.
The NASCAR Virginia champion was determined by the driver’s highest 18 finishes at NASCAR- sanctioned tracks within the state. The national championship was determined by the driver’s highest 18 finishes at any NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.
Governor McDonnell was especially impressed by the hardware that accompanied Morris.
“He was really impressed with the national champion’s trophy,” Morris said. “He thought maybe it was just for show. He was surprised we get to keep it.”
The trophy weighs-in at a substantial 84 pounds and soars to more than 3 feet tall. It was commissioned by series sponsor Whelen Engineering starting with the 2007 season. The glass trophy’s creator, the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Jostens is also the exclusive designer/manufacturer of all NASCAR championship rings.
The crowning of champions in a U.S. state or Canadian province continues a tradition of honoring the best short-track racers which dates back to the earliest days of NASCAR. Among the drivers that have won NASCAR Virginia state championships include Geoff Bodine, Richie Evans, Neil Bonnett, Wendell Scott and Ned Jarrett.
“Donna and I were honored to get to know Governor McDonnell. He and his wife, Maureen, have five children and we have three. We talked about them going to college,” Morris said.
“We’re really thrilled he’s our Governor. He’s fighting to get things right for Virginia.”
Morris was honored last November for his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship at the series awards banquet in Concord, N.C., along with the series’ U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, track champions and special award winners.
Since its inception, NASCAR Home Tracks have served as a springboard in the careers of many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler, Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers all began their careers racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. More information on the NASCAR Whelen All- American Series is available at www.nascarhometracks.com.