The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 was a long day full of ups and downs for many teams and drivers. While Mike Looney was celebrating his win, others were left to wonder what could have been.
Since it’s been close to 24 hours since the Last Chance Race ended, we decided to take a look back at Sunday’s crazy day of Late Model Stock mayhem on the Martinsville Speedway half mile.
Two Former Winners Find Little Luck
All weekend long drivers kept saying “the fastest car doesn’t win the race at Martinsville.” Unfortunately for three-time winner Philip Morris and defending winner Tommy Lemons Jr., that was indeed true.
Morris ran up front for much of the race and even led quite a few of the 200 laps before losing the lead with about 60 laps to go. At the final competition caution with 25 laps to go Morris’ team made unapproved adjustments that resulted in a penalty. With about 15 laps to go Morris eventually parked his car and finished 22nd.
Tommy Lemons’ day was plagued from the start. He was given a stop-and-go penalty for beating the leader to the green flag on the initial start of his heat race. He eventually rallied to make the race, but started near the rear of the field.
His poor starting spot meant that he was in the middle of the field where all the mayhem was. Lemons avoided a few incidents but on Lap 85 Lemons’ little bit of luck ran out. He received heavy damage in a crash with RD Smith and Garrett Bunch.
National Champion Rebounds After Struggles
Matt Bowling didn’t show too much speed during practice on Saturday, but was able to click off a pretty good lap in qualifying. He had an uneventful heat race on Sunday, but the feature didn’t go as planned for this year’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
Bowling ran around 15th or 16th throughout much of Sunday’s 200-lap feature race. He said after the race that he was battling power steering issues for much of the day.
However, Bowling was still able to score a seventh-place finish. Bowling has now finished seventh on two occasions. His best finish in this race was a sixth-place finish in 2014.
Tough Weekend for Former National Champions
While Lee Pulliam and Matt Bowling both scored top 10 finishes, three other former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champions had rough weekends.
Philip Morris (four-time champion) finished 22nd after a penalty for unapproved adjustments.
Peyton Sellers (2005) had to make his way into the feature through the Last Chance Race, but he eventually parked his car early in the event. He finished 37th.
Barry Beggarly (1993) crashed during Saturday’s practice session. His crew deemed the damage to be too severe and did not attempt the heat races on Sunday.
Pulliam Puts in Another Strong Run
For the second year in a row, Lee Pulliam finished second in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville. It’s the third year in a row that Pulliam has finished in the top two as he won this race for the second time in 2014.
Pulliam started Sunday’s race from the second position. It was the fourth time he started this race from the front row.
There’s no doubt that Lee Pulliam has figured out how to get around the paperclip that is Martinsville Speedway.
- Mike Looney became the first driver to win the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 from the pole in the history of the event.
- Looney’s car owner Billy Martin had never qualified for the race before this weekend.
- Looney’s best finish prior to Sunday was a 10th-place result in 2010. Looney has four DNQ’s in this race.
- Mike Darne started 34th after transferring from the Last Chance Race. He finished sixth in the feature.
- All three female drivers that attempted to qualify made Sunday’s feature. Annabeth Barnes-Crum finished the highest of all three in 23rd.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com