CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Lee Pulliam completed his dream season Friday evening at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards where he was crowned as the 2012 national champion.
Pulliam, 24, from Semora, N.C., won the title for the first time after finishing third a season ago. He also claimed his first Virginia state championship for his efforts at Radford’s Motor Mile Speedway and South Boston Speedway. He supplemented his season by competing at a pair of North Carolina tracks – Caraway Speedway in Asheboro and Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly – and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway.
Pulliam, who has been racing just six years, burst onto the scene a season ago with a third-place finish in the national standings. However, due to a NASCAR suspension stemming from an incident at the end of the 2011 season, he got a late start on the year.
“It’s hard to believe but a year ago today, if you would have asked anyone who the 2012 national champion would be, my name would not come up,” said Pulliam.
Pulliam returned from his suspension a changed man. The experience allowed him to grow not only as a driver, but also a human being.
“I had let my passion to win get the best of me and made a mistake that would be life changing,” he said. “That mistake was so difficult to swallow (and) would in the long run make me a better person, race car driver and man.”
After the late start Pulliam began a rapid climb to the top of the standings. By the halfway point of the season he was firmly inside the top five and had the number one position for the last 10 weeks of the year.
For the season, Pulliam earned 22 victories with 30 top fives and 32 top 10s in 36 starts.
In the 31-year history of the Whelen All-American Series, Pulliam is the 22nd driver to win the national championship. Just two drivers have won more than one national title – the late Larry Phillips with five and Philip Morris with four.
Pulliam drove the No. 1 Pulliam Logging Chevrolet throughout the season owned by his father, Harold, who received the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award. His crew chief Winston Brooks was honored with the Lunati Crew Chief Award.
Keith Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., finished second in the national standings while earning the Connecticut state championship with 14 wins, 26 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes in 43 starts. He competed at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl. Over the past six seasons, Rocco has finished no lower than fourth in the national rankings and has accumulated 91 wins in 245 starts over the span.
C.E. Falk, racing out of Virginia Beach, Va., finished third in the national standings with 16 wins, 25 top fives and 27 top 10s in 30 starts. He picked up wins at four tracks this season including 10 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., and two each at South Boston Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway and Southern National Motorsports Park.
Highlighting the evening’s special awards was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. Brian Parker, out of Collinsville, Okla., took home the honors after he collected seven wins with 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 19 starts at Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway.
Trey Gibson, of Easley, S.C., was presented the prestigious Wendell Scott Trail Blazer Award. Mark Ruhmann, crew chief for driver Tim Brown at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. earned the UNOH Ultimate Mechanic Challenge Award.
Additionally, the top three from each division – asphalt and dirt – of the Finalist Program were recognized. This program consists of competitors outside the Division I at each NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track.