LUCAMA, N.C. – Philip Morris won the first Thanksgiving Classic held at Southern National Motorsports Park nearly two decades ago.
Now, the veteran is back with his sights set on a second.
The 52-year-old from Ruckersville, Va., has been one of the most prolific drivers in late model stock car racing, racking up hundreds of wins over his illustrious career. This weekend, driving for Adam Murray, he has his sights set on victory in the 17th Thanksgiving Classic presented by Solid Rock Carriers.
“Adam Murray has a really good race car here,” Morris said after shaking the car down earlier this week. “Everywhere we’ve run it, it’s run great. During the test, it ran really fast so I’m expecting to come back with it cutting like it is. There will be a big field of cars and I’m expecting a lot of competition. I’ve been hearing a lot about this place so I expect it’s going to be hard but I expect to put in the time and effort to make our car good.”
Morris enters the Thanksgiving Classic on the heels of one of the most successful seasons of his decades long career. The four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion picked up 20 wins during the course of the season at multiple tracks.
“I’ve got a great crew chief who’s got great ideas and he’s got a good eye for what the car needs to be,” Morris remarked. “Communication’s been great. Not to mention, I’ve got a veteran crew that knows exactly where to go to fix things. I certainly can’t take credit for how good we run. I think I’m just fortunate to be in a really good race car.”
While Morris has had a career season, some of the season’s bigger races have resulted in disappointment for the veteran. He finished 16th in the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway in Virginia and replicated the same result at Martinsville Speedway in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
The disappointing result at Martinsville was an uncharacteristic performance for the driver who has been dubbed “The King of Late Model Stock Car racing,” but he hopes to make up for those finishes on Sunday.
“A win this weekend would mean a lot, making up for those two races, but it would also mean a lot of momentum going into next year,” Morris explained. “You can bet I’m going to be working as hard as I can in the race car. If I have to run qualifying laps the entire race, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes for effort on my part, and my guys feel the same way. They want this momentum, they want it going into next year.
“We don’t want to mess up our 100 percent win record here, so it would mean a lot,” Morris continued. “It would fix a lot of things that went wrong this year and it would make the end of our year really good.”
The momentum of a Thanksgiving Classic could potentially carry over into next year and ultimately propel Morris to his record-tying fifth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship – a record currently held by NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Larry Philips.
“I’m not worried about the numbers,” Morris commented. “I’m more worried about just being able to compete. If we can run for a national championship, then yeah, absolutely. This crew deserves one. They’ve got everything it takes to be national champions and I’d like to be the driver for them if I can. This race would mean a lot for momentum going into next year.”
Morris finished sixth in the NASCAR national standings this year, which was impressive considering it was not his goal.
“We were all just getting acclimated to one another,” Morris stated. “We’ve got a different perspective going into next year and this race right here would really help us out.”
Philip Morris has entered for a shot to win $20,000 in the Thanksgiving Classic’s unique Racing Roulette format. Other drivers who have entered for a shot to win $20,000 include defending Thanksgiving Classic winner Tommy Lemons, Jr., Layne Riggs, son of 1999 Thanksgiving Classic winner and two-time track champion Scott Riggs, Matt McCall, Bradley McCaskill, track champion Mason Diaz, Mike Darne and more.