The nation’s premier Late Model Stock Car event takes place this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. While the pit area is expected to be full of drivers hoping to win the grandfather clock, we narrowed the list down to 10 drivers to keep an eye on during the big race on Sunday.
Lee Pulliam – He has two clocks already and perhaps a third is in his future. The key for Pulliam is how he runs in the race. If he is lights out leading up front early on then it won’t end well. If he is in the mix then he could win again. That’s the way his luck has gone the past few years. Pulliam has only led 94 laps over five different races. Pulliam has two wins and two second-place runs.
Tommy Lemons Jr. – You want even money? You’re best bet is Tommy Lemons, Jr. A pair of wins and a third have been his results the last three years. Prior to that he was just kind of in the mix. He missed the race in 2012 before he started his magical run. Can he keep it going?
Matt Bowling – The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion looks to end the curse. No driver who has won the national championship, including Pulliam, has ever gone on to win the 300 at Martinsville during the same season. Bowling has been sixth and eighth the past two years. He has three top 10s in the race, but has never really been a threat.
Josh Berry – Just look at his track record. For someone who didn’t chase NASCAR points he did pretty well. Berry logged eight wins in 11 starts which included sweeps at Myrtle Beach (SC) and Greenville Pickens (SC). On the CARS Tour he won four times to become the series’ all-time winningest driver. Martinsville could be his playground as he seeks his first win at the paperclip. In fact, any luck would go a long way. Prior to last year, he had three DNF’s in three starts. His best finish has been 13th in the big race.
RD Smith – A proven winner in several locations this year leaves us to believe that Smith will be in the mix again. Last year he was second on the final restart and ended up third, a career best. That comes after back-to-back 40th-place finishes. Martinsville can be lucky and Smith is not shy with a green race car.
Nick Smith – 2016 was a championship year for Smith, who won 12 times at Dominion Raceway in Virginia. Despite having very little success we expect him to run well this year at Martinsville. Smith had his best run in 2009 when he finished 10th. He has had five DNQ’s for this race, but we don’t expect that to be a problem this year.
Deac McCaskill – The CARS Tour point leader will be looking to make his 12th start at Martinsville as he seeks his first win. His best was a fourth in 2009. He has qualified inside the top 10 three times, so there is a history of success. He might not run away with it, but if he is near the front then watch out for him in the final 25 laps.
Tyler Matthews – A bit of a sleeper, but this guy logged four wins in 34 starts and had 28 top 10 finishes. If you think about how the end of the Martinsville race can go, just being in the mix could be enough. He would be a Martinsville rookie this year.
Kres VanDyke – In the last few seasons he’s not had the success at Martinsville as he has had around the region. Perhaps that will change this year after another season with double digit wins.
Timothy Peters – He’s the only driver to finish in the top five six times at Martinsville and if he is within a sniff of the lead late he could be a contender. Better yet for Peters, if he’s leading it might be over already as he’s looked strong already this year.
The Rest: There are so many other stories out there and good drivers that could prove us wrong. That’s why we make the trip to Martinsville for the unknown. Be sure to follow Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage on both Saturday and Sunday to see who takes home the grandfather clock.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com