Last year, Stacy Puryear qualified second for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA) en route to an eighth-place finish. Saturday night, he will start one spot better.
The 48-year-old veteran racer claimed the pole for the 200-lap feature, locking himself into the feature field and avoiding tomorrow’s qualifying races with a 20.100-second lap. Puryear said the fast lap surprised even him.
“I’m still amazed and very thankful,” Puryear said. “I knew we had a good race car, I didn’t think we had a pole-winning car. I was trying to work on longer runs and stay on older tires. When it started to get dark, we really went to work on this thing and worked the guys to death. They deserve this.”
While it may not be a trip to victory lane, Puryear was nothing short of jubilant for the chance to start on the pole for the biggest Late Model Stock race of the year.
“This has got to be one of the greatest days in my racing career,” Puryear said. “It’s an awesome feeling to sit on the pole here with the caliber of competition and the history here. All the praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ, because I couldn’t do anything without Him.
“I’m still just in shock,” Puryear continued. “We had a good car last year, we learned a lot, and transferred it over to this year.”
Two-time Martinsville 300 winner Tommy Lemons, Jr. qualified second, also locking into the field. Lemons considers that advantage vital this year, between the level of competition and a format change that will allow teams to use four fresh tires at their discretion at two breaks – laps 100 and 180 of the feature.
“I think this year [locking in]’s going to be even more of an advantage,” Lemons said. “With the way they’re going to play the tire game this year and leave it to the teams. It’s 25 less laps we have to worry about it when it comes to halfway or 180 to put tires on, whatever we decide to do.”
Lemons has struggled to find the pace he normally holds throughout the 2018 season, with only three top-ten finishes on the CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Tour to his credit. He hopes that a strong run will make a happy ending to a struggle-filled year.
The remaining competitors must compete in the 25-lap qualifying races to earn their spot in the 42-car field. Those will begin at 3:00 P.M. tomorrow, with ten cars advancing from each race. There will also be a last chance qualifier for the final ten spots in the field, among drivers who do not advance from the qualifying races.
By virtue of qualifying third through fifth, Philip Morris, Bobby McCarty, and Josh Berry were slated to start on the pole for their respective qualifying races. However, Bobby McCarty (along with Matt Bowling and Todd Gilliland, who qualified sixth and seventh) failed post-qualifying technical inspection for rear-end violations. Brandon Pierce inherited the fifth position in the official qualifying results, earning a qualifying race pole.
As a result, McCarty, Bowling, and Gilliland will start at the rear of the field for their respective qualifying races. Only Kyle Dudley and Dylan Ward, who missed the qualifying session with engine changes, will start behind them.
Morris enters this weekend’s event as the newly-crowned five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion. No driver has won the National Championship and the Martinsville 300 in the same year, a statistic Morris hopes to erase tomorrow.
Speed51.com will present live Trackside Now coverage of tomorrow’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300, starting at 2:00 PM Eastern. Click here to view the Trackside Now updates from Friday’s practice and qualifying.