Winning the Valley Star Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway is something not many drivers have ever done. Just making the race is a huge accomplishment for budget racers like the guys who compete at Franklin County Speedway week in and week out.
One of the drivers to accomplish the feat of winning the race is 1998 Franklin County Speedway Pure Stock champion Mike Looney, who will be returning to his roots this season to chase victories at Franklin County Speedway. The fame and glory that comes with winning the most prestigious Late Model race in the country hasn’t changed Looney.
“Winning Martinsville is a major accomplishment, just making the race is a huge accomplishment on my budget,” said Looney. “But winning that race didn’t change me or my situation. I’m still just a nobody from nowhere. I’m still just Mike Looney. I’m still going to do what I’ve always done.”
Looney who made one start in 2016 at Franklin County Speedway finished third but he’s looking to get some wins this season as he returns to his home track. However he knows it’s going to be tough to win and expects the competition to be tougher than ever.
“Dennis (Holdren) stomped me down there last year. We didn’t test and just showed up to race and you can’t do that now. The competition is too good down there to show up and not be 100% prepared and know what you have. We tried running what we had before and it didn’t work. I ain’t above getting beat but I don’t want to get beat because we were lazy and didn’t put the work in to be the best.”
Looney calls both Franklin County Speedway and Motor Mile Speedway his home tracks being that he lives about an hour from each venue. However Franklin County Speedway has a special place in his heart.
“That’s where it all started,” Looney continued. “That’s home. Raced there first, won there first, won a championship there first. That’s the place all of us racers in this area call home. We might leave the nest to chase other dreams but we always come back because that’s the place that gave us our start. Every person there will talk to you and help you and it’s just such a good feeling when you go there. Too awesome of a place. All us old timers, it will never lose a place in our hearts.”
Looney has his sights set on winning races but he’s not counting out a championship run at Franklin County Speedway.
“We have tested there twice and we’re pretty good but you know the competition is so tight and the guys who know how to get around that place are so tough to beat. It’s going to be hard to win races but that’s our goal right now. First lets win some races and we’re preparing for a good points year but it’s really hard to predict what will happen. We might have won Martinsville but we’re still low budget. If we destroy a car we’re done and I don’t know for how long.”
Looney continued saying that he’s confident in where he’s at and where the team is at heading into this season.
“We have good equipment. We’re sitting better than I’ve ever been before. Good cars. Fresh engines and everything we need to run good everywhere we go. We’ll just have to see how the season goes and what happens. You can never predict how a race or a season is going to go.”
Asked who he was going to have to beat this weekend, Looney offered his take on several drivers.
“I don’t know, you know all those guys are so good,” responded Looney. “Ain’t no easy win here. Dennis (Holdren) has beat me every time I’ve raced against him there. He’s done his homework and he has beat me every time. I’ve been chasing Kelly (Kingery) my whole racing career starting with Street Stocks and he’s as fine of a wheelman that’s ever sat in a car there. He showed a lot of speed in testing, so he’s going to be tough.”
“I wouldn’t count anyone out. Last time we were there BooBoo (Dalton) had the fastest car and had to start in the back because of weight or something. He was clearly the fastest car there. Kyle (Dudley) is now a seasoned racer who you have to know you’ll be contending with at Franklin County. He’s good there, he might be one of the best there right now. Those other guys, I haven’t raced a whole lot but Devin (Steele) won some races there last year and you know he’s going to be good.”
Posed the question of why after winning Martinsville he’d be racing at Franklin County Speedway instead of some NASCAR sanctioned track, Looney offered several reasons.
“Number one it’s my home track but there’s a lot of good things about that place. It’s so fast that everywhere else you go seems slow. It’s my gym, it’s where I go to work out. It’s a mental tuneup for every other race track you’ll ever go to. Those other guys when we get to Motor Mile will have run 10-12 races but I only have to race there and I’ll be as mentally prepared as they are for racing everywhere else.”
“And I love to race, why not run there? Who gives a damn if it’s a NASCAR track? You win there, you’ve been some great drivers. When Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace made it to Cup through ASA, no one cared that they weren’t racing in NASCAR. They knew they beat some of the best drivers in the area and it’s the same way here.”
Looney also mentioned that the tire deal and the purse structure make it easy for any racer to want to come to Franklin County Speedway.
“The tire deal is so good. You have a lot of variables with used tires but everyone is on the same playing field. Everyone might get bad tires and everyone might get good tires. Sure someone might get a better tire but the driver can make up for it there. And the purse structure is the best around. Where else can you finish last and know your tires are paid for? That’s unheard of.”
Looney will be looking to open the 2017 season with two wins as the Late Model Stock Cars compete in twin races on Sunday April 9th at 3pm. The event will kick off the 48th consecutive season of racing at Franklin County Speedway. Adult tickets $10, kids 5-12 $5 and children under 4 get in free.
More information check out www.FCSpeedway.com or find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MoonshineCapitalPromotions/ or contact Langley Austin at 276.613.4208.
-Franklin County Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com