After six hours of testing at Martinsville Speedway (VA) Thursday in anticipation of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on October 4-5, Mike Looney set the fastest recorded time of the day at 20.088 seconds around the famed paper-clip shaped short track.
Looney, the 2016 winner of the Late Model Stock crown jewel, averaged 94.625 miles per hour on his fast lap, building on an incredibly successful 2019 season which saw him contend for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship.
“It’s pretty close,” Looney told Speed51 about his car. “We’re really pleased with how things are going. The engine’s running good, the Reynolds chassis is cutting pretty good.”
Looney knows one quick lap will not be enough to compete with more than 80 of Late Model Stock racing’s biggest names next weekend. He is hoping for more long-run performance when he arrives to Ridgeway, Virginia for the big race.
“Fast is okay for a lap or two, but we’ve got 200 laps around this dude. We’re looking for that little bit for the longer runs.”
It would also be a massive achievement for a team that worked feverishly throughout the season pursuing the 2019 NWAAS National Championship before finishing third in the final standings.
“I’ve worked the heck out of them all year long. I tell them what I want done and it’s done. They’re not seasoned professionals, just family members and friends working on this car. They worked on the cars like pros tonight.”
North Carolina’s Craig Moore set the second-fastest recorded lap of the session, clocking in at 20.134 seconds. Moore was not one of the quick cars early in the day, but a move to fresher tires helped the Rougemont native find speed in his machine.
“We started on some older tires,” Moore explained. “We probably stayed on them just one practice too long. We put some good tires on and fought a really tight condition. We’re still working on that.”
For Moore, a two-time Orange County Speedway Track Champion, $32,000 and a grandfather clock would be a career-defining achievement.
“It’d be really awesome for me, my team, my sponsor,” said Moore. “My wife would appreciate it. It would be, by far, the biggest win of my career if I won it.”
Peyton Sellers, the 2005 National Champion seeking his first Martinsville 300 win, was third-fastest, with Lee Pulliam and Josh Berry rounding out the top five on recorded times. More than 80 cars participated in the open testing session, but only 48 officially recorded times on transponders for timing and scoring.
While many Late Model Stock standouts flexed their muscle during the testing session, Bubba Pollard spent most of Thursday searching for speed in his entry. Pollard will be competing in the Martinsville race for the second consecutive year, competing alongside 2017 CARS Tour champion Josh Berry in the JR Motorsports stable.
The Senoia, Georgia racer was pleased with the balance of his car, but hoped to find more speed going into next week.
“The car drives good, we just need more speed,” said Pollard. “Me and Josh [Berry] drive a little different. We’ve just got to get used to that, do a couple of things different. The car is good, we just need to get some speed out of it.
“As long as you have a good balance on the race car, you can just tune on it. It’s just fine-tuning after that, nothing big.”
The testing session is part of a busy week for Pollard, which started with the major announcement that he would join Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s racing operation for Martinsville and will conclude with the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road SpeedBowl (VT).
“It’s been a crazy week so far, back and forth all week. Not much sleep, but this is what we live for. This is what we love to do. I’m looking forward to that race this weekend. It’s going to be a lot of fun this weekend.”
Berry’s car performed much better on the speed charts, offering promise for Pollard’s endeavor. Berry enjoyed the first day of working with Pollard and hopes they will be able to compete for the win in 10 days.
“He definitely is a very good driver,” said Berry. “I’m enjoying learning his perspective. We’ve been working on it, trying to get it better. If we give him what he needs, he’ll be there at the end.”
Berry spent much of the day walking between the two JR Motorsports entries, putting as much effort into improving Pollard’s car as fine-tuning his own.
“The car that Bubba is driving is a brand new piece for us,” said Berry. “We are trying to get the bugs worked out of it. We want to get a strong showing for both of us. I’d love nothing more to see both of us up front and racing for it at the end.”
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will start on Friday, October 4 with practice and single-car qualifying for the biggest race in the Late Model Stock Car discipline. Teams will return on Saturday, October 5 to compete in heat races to round out the feature field before the 200-lap main event.
Speed51 will be at next weekend’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300, providing live updates as well as Speed51 Network coverage of the event. For more information on the race, visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
ValleyStar Credit Union 300 Testing Results – Martinsville Speedway
|7||5C||Dexter Canipe, Jr.||20.223|
|8||40||C.E. Falk III||20.226|
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo