Martinsville Speedway announced Wednesday multiple changes to this year’s ValleyStar 300. In addition to an increased winner’s purse to $32,000, changes to the race format were also made. The top 20 cars in qualifying will be locked into the main event via single-car qualifying, compared to just the front row in recent years. Also announced was there will now only be two scheduled breaks during the race, coming at laps 75 and 150.
Three of Late Model Stock Car racing’s best were also on hand with Track President Clay Campbell.
Defending race winner C.E. Falk was excited to hear the top 20 drivers will now be locked in to the ValleyStar 300. He is a fan of the excitement single-file qualifying will bring as nearly 80 cars vie for one of the top 20 starting positions.
“I really love the top twenty deal. I grew up coming here and it was the twenty baddest dudes in Late Model racing showing up and you’ve got three laps to do it and it’s a lot of pressure,” Falk said in the press conference. “You can psych yourself out just waiting for your turn on the front straightaway. I’ve seen guys have the fastest car bar none in the morning practice and then just lose it in qualifying. It’s always a big thrill to be in the top twenty, you don’t have to worry about a heat race and save your equipment. It always seemed like the top two had an advantage with only two laps on their tires and everybody else running heat races and having twenty-five laps on their tires.”
Lee Pulliam was also excited to hear about the increase in the number of drivers that will be locked into the race after qualifying. The four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion and two-time Martinsville 300 winner said the feature field will be stronger with more drivers not having to run heat races to get themselves into the field.
“All four of us have dedicated our life to racing, short track racing for us three drivers,” Pulliam said. “A lot of times, you see drivers come and go, and me, Peyton, and C.E. have been a part of this sport for a long time. I love to see grassroots growing and I think this is the biggest event in the country as far as Late Model Stock Car racing, and they just made it that much bigger. When I started coming here as a kid, it was a hell of an accomplishment if you made the top twenty and you got locked in. That’s a big deal to these teams.
“I think you’ll have a better race because of it. A lot of times, some of the best cars get wrecked out of the heat races. It puts a little bit of a damper on the feature because you know you didn’t have Matt Bowling or whoever in it that got wrecked out in the heat race, so I think it’s going to make the feature race better. Basically everything (Campbell) covered is going to be a big improvement.”
Current NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points leader Peyton Sellers appeared to be the biggest fan of the increased purse. He sees potential in more drivers competing in the event due to the increased amount of money on the line.
What has been a big topic on Speed51’s The Morning Bullring over the past two weeks, Sellers also brought up purses for the biggest dirt races in the country and compared them to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
“When they said they were going up some on the top money, I’m a fan of that,” he said. “I’m glad to see that stepping up some, it helps everybody through the field. Now we’re paying a lap leader award for twenty-five dollars a lap, that’s huge. That means more to me because that makes the guys race up front. Nobody’s riding, nobody’s saving tires, you want to get up to the front and accumulate as many of those twenty-five dollars as you can get. I’m a big fan of that, I’m a big fan of them spacing the money to third and fourth and on down the row there.
“I hear so many of the guys talk about dirt racing and how much money they pay and how much they do this. They don’t realize that dirt races don’t pay back more than five, ten positions,” he would also say. “All the money’s so heavy on top.”
Overall, all three drivers were happy with the changes made to this year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300. They believe it will be a better show for the fans and the drivers will be given a fairer shot at a higher purse. Ultimately, new rule and purse changes or not, the drivers are excited to get to Martinsville Speedway for the final leg of the Virginia Triple Crown.
“That’s a heck of a start,” Pulliam told Speed51.com. “There’s some pretty amazing changes for what was already a great race. We had a couple hiccups last year that they addressed and I think it’s just going to make this event even bigger going forward. Every single change they’ve put forward here is going to be better for the fans, the drivers, car owners, and I think it’s going to be a better show all around.”
“As a competitor, we all have different opinions about who could do this and who could do that, but at the end of the day, we want to show up and race under the guidelines Clay and his staff give us.” Sellers said. “I think that every step they’ve took today is heading into the right direction. They digested a lot of opinions and made some changes in the right direction. We’re just hearing this for the first time too. I’m sure more questions are going to pop up and be different.”
“The rules are what they are and as long as they’re the same for everybody, I’m good with them,” Falk said. “Having the top twenty locked in is pretty cool, having the lap money is really exciting. I think it’ll make for a better race up front and having fifty laps to the end is going to be better for a long run car and things like that, it’ll make for a more natural race. I think it’s all positive but it’s still Martinsville, you still race for a grandfather clock. It’s about getting the checkered flag.”
“I think it’s already a great event but don’t tell Clay we’d come anyway without the money,” he continued. “The money incentive, the grandfather clock, everything about it. The racing’s the best and that’s what it’s all about.”
The ValleyStar 300 will be held at Martinsville Speedway on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5. For more information, visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com National Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com