On a wild and eventful night at Martinsville Speedway (VA), C.E. Falk, III took the win in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, adding his name to a list of the all-time greats in Late Model Stock Car racing.
The dramatic, controversial conclusion came on a third and final green-white-checkered restart attempt, which ended like the two before it – in turn one of the first lap. A multi-car incident collected many front runners, while Falk battled Corey Heim for the win.
Falk comes from a long line of Virginia racers who have been making pilgrimages to Martinsville for years. This makes the victory especially sweet for Falk after more than a decade of trying to capture Martinsville glory personally.
“My mother informed me it’s been 13 years since we started coming here,” Falk said. “Apparently my math sucks. My family’s been coming here. They’ve sponsored cars. I think my dad is in the Martinsville Hall of Fame for the most heat race wins.
“We all come here wanting to win it, but it’s like winning the freaking lottery. We did it. We missed the wrecks. We were up front all night long. My team did it. We might not have had the very best car, but we were there when it matters. This is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
Heim felt bitter disappointment, as three times he has strapped into a Late Model Stock Car and all three times he saw victory slip away. He swept a Late Model Stock doubleheader at South Boston Speedway earlier this season before a disqualification stripped him of the wins. Now he was runner-up after a review at the biggest race of the year.
“Congratulations to C.E. and his wife. They wanted it just as much as I did, if not more. Unfortunately, I’m going down as a person who has won three Late Model Stock races in a way, but went home not winning. Three-for-three at this point. I’m not sure how many times I have to cross the line first and have it taken away from me. Thank you to Lee Pulliam Performance for giving me a great car tonight.”
According to race director Lynn Carroll, the outcome was determined based on the last completed lap in scoring.
“When a caution comes out, that lap that they crossed the line for the restart was the lap of record for those cars. So we scored those cars the way they came across that green flag lap, minus the cars involved in the caution. Any caution we have, the restart is based on the last completed lap, minus the cars involved in the caution.”
The two previous green-white-checkered attempts erased many of the top contenders for the $25,000 and the Ridgeway grandfather clock. On the first attempt, Josh Berry and Peyton Sellers made contact battling for the lead, sending Berry into the wall.
While Berry contended Sellers dumped him on that restart, Sellers maintained he stayed as low as he possibly could on the racetrack to avoid contact.
“I guess Peyton beat me by 0.006 at the line [the lap prior to the caution]. They’ve got the data I guess. On the next restart, I thought it was pretty even. He spun the tires a little bit. I feel like he went in there and took me out. It’s disappointing, but I’m really proud of the car we had tonight. We’ve struggled here, it’s well documented we’ve struggled here, and we still don’t have the finish we deserved but tonight we had the best car.
“We didn’t get the win or the clock,” Berry continued. “But I think everybody saw we had a good car tonight. If things could have been a little different, maybe we could have won.”
“I was just going into turn one as low as I could,” Sellers said about the incident. “I assume he thought he was clear, because he took a pretty abrupt left. At no point did I think I was going to move him out of the way."
On the second attempt, Layne Riggs collected Sellers and Bubba Pollard attempting a three-wide pass for the lead. This led to a heated confrontation between Pollard and Riggs on pit road.
Riggs was penalized by race control for aggressive driving and ultimately brought his car to pit road. Riggs felt wronged by the decision, in light of the previous incident between Sellers and Berry which went without penalty.
“I’m just trying to win the race like everybody else. Peyton Sellers can go in there and wreck Josh Berry with no penalties to him. I am just trying to do the same thing, win the race like everybody else here, and I get penalties and get into fights.
“I had a good time out here,” Riggs said. “Thanks to all the sponsors that got me here. We had a good time, the car got tore up, we didn’t finish. I had a good time. I hope everybody who saw the race saw I did a good job and think I did the right thing.”
Pollard couldn’t comment much on the incident, but was frustrated by being unable to discuss it with Riggs in hopes of figuring out what happened.
“I was on the outside, I got a good restart,” Pollard said. “I was in position to do what I needed to do to come off [turn] two ahead of him. Just people driving over their heads. I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
“I couldn’t tell him nothing,” Pollard said about the confrontation. “People kept getting in the way. He’s a kid, I’m an adult. That’s the problem with racing, you can’t talk about it anymore. The kids are never wrong. If the kids are never wrong, then they’ll keep doing it. You can’t talk it out to settle this deal. Everyone wants to get involved and cause a problem. It’s not a big deal, just why can’t two drivers talk it out anymore? We always gotta fight.”
Even Falk had to admit he doubted he would win as the finish was reviewed – not because of race control controversy, but because of his fortunes as a racer.
“Considering how my career has gone, I was pretty much counting on not being scored the winner,” Falk admitted. “I just told my guys on the radio, if it didn’t go our way it was okay, the car rolls back on the trailer, thank God.
“I’ve had a win stolen from me in Daytona [at the 2013 UNOH Battle at the Beach],” Falk added. “I’ve been monster-trucked after a race and had my car tore all to hell. I’ve come here thinking I had the best car and not make it to the end. You don’t try to count your chickens before they hatch. I just take whatever it gives me. I couldn’t have dreamed of this when I was eight years old starting out in a go-kart.”
Heim may not have been a favorite entering the race against the likes of Sellers, Berry, Pollard, and Philip Morris, but he had complete confidence he would have a winning car.
“We came here with the expectation of one goal, and that was to win,” Heim said. “Even though we had limited experience with the car and the track and it was our first time here, Lee Pulliam’s won this race twice. I knew coming here we had a shot at winning, I just had to drive really hard.
“I can take a ton of positives out of it,” Heim added. “You could see with eight to go, there were four people in front of me who were National Champions, who had won this race numerous times. The best Late Model Stock Car drivers in the world, and I was running right next to them. Being behind Bubba Pollard at any point in time, that’s something to be proud of. He’s a wheelman. He’s probably the best in the country in Super Late Models.”
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 concludes the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series. Sellers collected the $10,000 and his third trophy in the mini-series, which also includes the South Boston 200 and the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway.
“To be part of Virginia history now with the Triple Crown under my belt is a real honor,” Sellers said. “It’s a privilege to be with some big names of Virginia drivers. I hope this puts me in the record books with big names like [Ray] Hendrick and [David] Blankenship and a lot of those big names through the years."
Race fans who missed Saturday's action can relive the event by visiting Speed51.com's Trackside Now live updates, presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies and Earnest Performance. Click here to view the Trackside Now coverage from the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
ValleyStar Credit Union 300 Results
|1||02||C.E. Falk, III|
|31||5||Dexter Canipe, Jr.|
|38||27||Tommy Lemons, Jr.|