It’s hard to believe that 2017 is only 12 days old and yet Speed51.com has already taken heat for a glaring omission. Yet, that is the case, and we can’t say we didn’t deserve the heat that we took. When the calendar flipped to the new year we put out a story naming the top 10 short track races to watch for in 2017. We left out one big race: They ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA).
Leaving out that event is a big enough mistake. We realize this. But when you add in the fact that for the first time in Martinsville Speedway’s 70-year history the track will have permanent lighting and the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will be run at night for the first time, well, it’s an even bigger mistake. And yes, we realize that as well.
We are aware that this year’s version of the event will make an already incredible event even greater in stature, and we aren’t the only ones that can’t wait for it to be race weekend at Martinsville. The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion and a nearby native of Martinsville, Matt Bowling, can’t wait either.
“It’s my hometown track and with it being under the lights that’s pretty neat that we get to race under the lights first,” Bowling told Speed51.com. “That’s kind of the last thing on my checklist is winning Martinsville. I’m definitely going to try to be at that race and try to get a win.”
The 23-year-old Bowling grew up in Ridgeway, Virginia, which is about a 10-minute drive away from the legendary half-mile paperclip. Bowling has been to more races at Martinsville Speedway than he can remember, including the couple of times the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ran under temporary lighting.
But that’s why Bowling, like so many others, was so surprised to hear the announcement last fall that Martinsville was installing LED lights all the way around the facility. He knows the history of the track, and knows that this is like when Chicago’s Wrigley Field installed lights for night games.
“It kind of came out of nowhere really, I thought. I think they had one night race a while back with the Modifieds. I remember that and that was pretty cool. I think it’ll definitely be a good deal, and I hope to see Cup under the lights in the next couple of years. I think it’ll add value to all of it.”
Not only does it add value, but it adds some more prestige to what is already a prestigious race. Whoever gets to win the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 this year gets to not only claim a grandfather clock, but they can also say they were the winner of the first Late Model race at Martinsville held at night.
“It would definitely be cool, man,” said Bowling. “With it being under the lights I feel like it’ll bring even more excitement to it and it’ll be an even bigger turnout. It adds a different excitement to it and it would definitely mean a whole lot to me. It would mean a whole lot to me in general as it would to anybody I’m sure.”
Mike Looney is the defending winner of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. The dates for the 2017 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 have yet to be announced.
(Editor's Note: Martinsville Speedway announced that the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will take place on September 23. The announcement was made just a few hours after the publishing of this story.)
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo