Don't expect to see Lee Pulliam at Iowa Speedway this weekend or in his home state of North Carolina for the upcoming NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bowman Gray Stadium.
At least not in a fire suit.
Pulliam is not out of the series, but just between rides after Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) shut down the No. 11 team that Pulliam had piloted in all five K&N East events this season.
After only five races, Pulliam was left looking for a new ride as HRE is going to move up the Nationwide level and scale back the K&N East operation to only one car, according to a press release distributed by the team last week. That left Pulliam as the odd man out, but he quickly got a new deal together with Top Gun Motorsports. The team, owned by fellow racer Rusty Skewes, has brought in noted short track crew chief H.C. Sellers to serve as the crew chief. The combination has some strong pieces already in place, but they are going to be spectators for the next two races.
"We are putting focus on the future," Pulliam told Speed51.com. "The K&N car needs some work and we could have rushed and maybe got things ready for Iowa, but when we unload we want to be fast. When we got to the track we go to win races."
Part of the reason not to go to Iowa is distance, however Bowman Gray is in their own back yard. The team does not want to roll out a brand new body on the tight quarter-mile track in Winston-Salem, NC.
"It's about quality and not quantity," said Pulliam, who won 31 short track races a season ago. "I am really looking forward to driving for Rusty Skewes and Top Gun Motorsports. I am really looking forward to having my (Late Model) guys working on the car and H.C. Sellers as the crew chief. I really do feel like we can win some races. Hopefully we can built on it and we can run full time in 2015."
Pulliam was impressive in his five prior starts with HRE which included a pair of top five finishes to open the season at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) and the short track at Daytona International Speedway (FL). In both instances, he had never seen or been on the track. He was running well at Bristol in March only to be taken out by a lapped car.
"I think we could have won New Smyrna," said Pulliam. "We had a flat tire and still finished fifth. I was running third at Bristol and got wrecked. We had some really good runs with HRE and it has given me a fire and desire to go and make this next deal work. I want to make it worth wild and open some eyes."
Perhaps the right people opening their eyes to his abilities are just what Pulliam needs to have continued opportunities at the higher levels of NASCAR racing. He was already a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion last year when he teamed up with Kiker Motorsports and now they have pocketed nine wins in 14 starts including the last two this past weekend at Southern National Raceway Park (NC).
"I was very thankful for the opportunity at Hattori, but we just didn't have the right chemistry," said Pulliam. "Everybody there is fully capable of getting the job done, but the team just didn't mesh."
Skewes, Pulliam's new K&N car owner, provided the driver with a ride in the CARS X-1R Pro Cup Series in 2013, which he took to victory lane late in the season. The team's crew chief, H.C. Sellers, is a proven championship-winning head wrench having plenty of Late Model success with his brother Peyton Sellers and several winning drivers out of the Sellers Racing Late Model stable.
"I am at the age where I have to make things happen and that's what I am doing," said Pulliam.