January 24, 2014 – report by Jacob Seelman with contribution by Ally Fulson, Speed51.com – Lee Bass Metrey photo – ALTON, VA – At the end of 2013, Lee Pulliam was ready for a change.
He just didn’t expect to get two for the price of one.
The two-time and defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series champion announced at the end of last year that he would be leaving his family-owned Late Model Stock Car team, Pulliam Motorsports, to enter into an alliance with Kiker Motorsports. That change proved to be an immediately profitable one, as Pulliam scored the win in his first start with the Kiker team at the 2013 Myrtle Beach 400.
And with success comes phone calls. And phone calls lead to change.
Pulliam received an unexpected call from veteran crew chief Bruce Cook, formerly from JR Motorsports and currently working for the Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) NASCAR K&N Pro Series East operation, that would once again shake his 2014 plans to their roots.
That call culminated with the announcement last Friday that Pulliam had struck a deal to race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for HRE in 2014, taking over the No. 11 Toyota that had been previously driven by four-time championship podium driver Brett Moffitt.
“Bruce Cook called me up,” said Pulliam. “I met him a couple years ago at JR Motorsports and he called me up and said they had a ride open and my name had come up in the discussions of people that they would be interested in putting in it. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in it. And of course I was extremely excited about it.
“I knew from previous experience and following the K&N Series that Hattori had really good stuff with Brett Moffitt and Sergio Pena,” said Pulliam. “I was pretty excited about it to say the least, not only about the opportunity with HRE but for who I would have the opportunity to work with as well.”
Pulliam recently began the process of acquainting with his new team, paying a visit earlier in the month to the HRE facility in Mooresville, North Carolina to scope out the program before making his final decision.
“I went down to Charlotte,” said Pulliam. “And I met all the guys there, Bruce (Cook) and Randy Goss, who will be crew chiefing me. Everybody was just super nice and it seemed like they had a good program going on. So I was floored to say the least.”
The Late Model veteran will have a wealth of NASCAR experience and backing on his side at HRE. In addition to Cook, Pulliam will also have Randy Goss, another former NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series crew chief, at his disposal. Goss will be the face who manages the at-track operations for Pulliam’s No. 11 team.
But what about the champ’s Late Model plans? Fear not. Pulliam says he will still spend his free time chasing checkered flags as he has in recent seasons en route to back-to-back titles.
The difference being, Pulliam will bring support from HRE and Bruce Cook for his Late Model starts in 2014. That decision was made in hopes to further the HRE team-building efforts.
“I plan on running Late Model races on the off weekends as the schedule permits,” said Pulliam. “Hattori wants to be a part of that too. I think Bruce is going to come to a lot of the Late Model races with me so we can all grow together. We all want to learn each other better and get acclimated with the crew chiefs and the car. We’re just figuring out what we will all like and how we will operate at different venues.”
The first NKNPSE event of the 2014 season, the New Smyrna 150, will take place at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) on Sunday, February 16.