The Whelen All-American Series national championship was settled a little differently this season. Phillip Morris came into the last race with a comfortable lead this year, and a second-place finish was enough to wrap up the title for him. Last year, and in 2006, when Morris won his two previous titles, he had to win the last race of the season to take the title. this year, a second-place finish was enough for him to be crowned National Champion and the champion of his home track, Motor Mile Speedway.
Morris’s title at Motor Mile was his fifth straight and the seventh of his career. That accomplishment may be even more impressive than his third national title in four years. Motor Mile is considered by many to be the most competitive local track in the country with 25-plus car fields made up of track champions from all over the southeastern United States. Winning one track championship at Motor Mile can be a career maker for a driver, but doing it seven times is unparalleled.
It wasn’t an easy proposition for Morris this season. From June 6th through August 1st, Morris was winless. His team didn’t give up and put him back in the winner’s circle the next two races. that brought his season total for wins to nine. He notched a total of 20 top fives and 23 top 10s in 28 races this season. Morris won three races at legendary South Boson Speedway and six at Motor Mile. His final season points total was 841 points which outdistanced Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn. (816) and Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills, Calif. (813).
The points system for the national championship is based on a driver’s best 18 finishes during the year. Race winners receive two points for every car in a race up to 23 cars. He also receives five bonus points so the maximum number of points that can be scored in a given race is 51. Subsequent drivers receive two less points for each position. So a second-place driver receives 44, third-place 42 and so on. With fewer than 23 cars, it is just two points for each car in the race. With 15 cars in a race, the winner receives 35 points, second receives 28, third 26 and so on.
Morris started the season with six wins, two seconds and a third in his first nine races, but then went on the slide that saw him not win a race in the next 11 races. He only had two seconds and two thirds in that 11-race span. However, once he got back in the groove, he secured two more wins, two seconds and a third in the last six races. It took a total team effort to overcome the slump in the middle of the season, and that made the championship even sweeter.
“We stepped up our energy level,” Morris said. “We just poured ourselves into getting back. The more we failed to get to victory lane, the more we tried. When it came back at the end of the season, the victories were so much sweeter and it was so much more appreciated.
“That extra effort, that extra sacrifice, made it mean so much more when we finally won the championship again.”
Morris is only the second driver in the 28-year history of the national championship to win the title more than once. Larry Phillips won five titles between 1989 and 1996. Morris is also the Virginia state champion for the third straight year.
Next up for Morris is the Bailey’s 300 at Martinsville Speedway October 4th. the biggest late model race east of the Mississippi will see in the neighborhood of 120 racecars try and make the race which pays $10,000 to win and awards a grandfather clock to the winner just like the Cup Series does for their races. If you are in the area, come out and see the future stars of NASCAR and also the three-time national champion.