The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway is guaranteed to have plenty of story lines. With three heat races, a last chance race and the 200-lap feature all taking place in one day, there's definitely no shortage of things to talk about when the day is over.
While all eyes were on the controversial finish, we wanted to make sure we told some of the other stories that may have gotten overlooked.
With only two Late Model Stock Car races under his belt, Corey Heim made the trip to Martinsville for the first time in his career with Lee Pulliam Performance.
Heim had a lot to learn in his debut at Martinsville and that showed early on in the weekend as he qualified 39th for the ValleyStar 300 on Friday. In the qualifier race, Heim started 12th, but made contact with another competitor, sustaining damage to the front end of his race car. However, He was able to rebound and raced his way into the last transfer spot.
“With this being my first time at Martinsville and only my third time in a late model stock car, I knew that there was going to be a lot to learn throughout the weekend,” Heim said. “We were able to finally get some practice in on Friday, but ended up qualifying pretty deep in the field for Saturday. We got caught up in a wreck in our qualifier, but were still able grab the last
transfer spot and make it in to the feature. These Lee Pulliam Performance guys did a phenomenal job of getting my car back together and making sure it was perfect for the feature.”
By claiming the last transfer spot in the qualifier race, Heim started 30th in the feature. From the drop of the green flag, he was picking off positions quickly. At lap 75, Heim had made his way up to 18th, picking off 12 positions before the halfway mark. He continued to move forward in the field and soon became a strong contender for a grandfather clock. At the final break at lap 180, Heim had made his way into the top-10, in eighth. After a couple of attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, Heim found himself taking the third and final green-white-checkered attempt as the leader. A controversial finish under yellow flag conditions declared C.E. Falk the winner and Heim with a runner-up finish.
“The Lee Pulliam Performance guys gave me probably the best car in the field,” Heim said. “We came from 30th, after wrecking in our heat race, through the field. We had the lead at the last restart and were still the leader at the time of the caution, but they gave the win to the 02 apparently. “
Peyton Sellers Claims Virginia Triple Crown
Heading into the ValleyStar 300 weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Peyton Sellers and Philip Morris were tied for the Virginia Triple Crown championship. Both drivers were strong competitors to bring home the championship title by the checkered flag on Saturday. However, it was Sellers who prevailed.
“This is an absolute honor to be from Virginia and to know the racers in Virginia that all contend for the Triple Crown Championship,” Sellers said. “There’s a lot of racers that have paved the way for racing in general and this is just etching my name in history with those guys, so it’s a big deal. Plus, we beat Philip Morris for it, which is an even bigger deal.”
Sellers was a very strong contender for a grandfather clock as well.
“We put ourselves behind the eight-ball a little bit in qualifying, but by lap 190 we were in contention for the win at Martinsville and that’s all you can ask for,” Sellers said. “Hats off to the guys, they made the car better each break and made the correct calls on tires too.”
On a green-white-checkered attempt, Sellers and Berry made up the front row. Contact between the leaders sent Berry spinning and expressed his displeasure on track.
“We both got a good restart and Berry was able to pull me a little going into one,” Sellers said. “I think he thought he was clear and cut left across my nose. At no point was he ever clear and I was as low as I could go to be able to still get through the corner. Clearly he’s upset about it. It’s a green-white-checkered finish at Martinsville. If he didn’t have passion, he wouldn’t be upset about it. By no means was it intentional. I was looking forward to duking it out with him because he’s one of the good, clean drivers to race it out with.”
Rollercoaster Weekend for Nelson Auto Sports
The Nelson AutoSports team brought a fleet of race cars to compete at Martinsville this past weekend. Timothy Peters, Bobby McCarty, Brandon Pierce, Matt Bowling and Todd Gilliland all had their eyes on the prize and had high hopes for a successful weekend.
All five cars qualified in the top-10 on Friday. However, during post-qualifying technical inspection, three Nelson AutoSports cars were disqualified. Bobby McCarty, Matt Bowling, and Todd Gilliland did not pass technical inspection due to rear-end violations. McCarty and Bowling would start at the tail of their respective heat races. Gilliland loaded up and did not attempt to compete in Saturday’s racing festivities.
The troubles didn’t stop there. Bowling was involved in a crash at the start of his heat race that ended his day. When the feature went green, Timothy Peters was involved in a wreck that ruined his race pretty much before it even got started. McCarty was involved in an incident just past the halfway point, too.
When all was said and done, the powerhouse Nelson Autosports team had just one car finish in the top 20. Brandon Pierce finished third, Peters finished 24th, Bobby McCarty finished 39th and Matt Bowling and Todd Gilliland did not start the event.
Bubba Pollard Catches on to Late Model Stocks Quick
It doesn’t matter what race track you go to, if Bubba Pollard is there you know he is going to be a contender for the win. He proved that this weekend.
In a car fielded by Jamie Yelton’s Fathead Racing, Bubba Pollard made his debut at Martinsville Speedway for the ValleyStar 300. He qualified 29th and finished eighth in his qualifying race, locking him in to the feature.
At the halfway point, Pollard had raced his way through the field and broke in to the top-10. By the next break at lap 180, he was in the top-five with his eye set on victory.
On the second attempt of a green-white-checkered, Sellers and Pollard made up the front row. At the drop of the green flag, third-place driver Layne Riggs saw an opportunity and made the battle for the lead three-wide going into the first turn. Ultimately, the leaders made contact, which sent Pollard spinning into the outside wall and ending his night. Pollard made his way to the No. 99 pit to speak with Riggs over his move on the race track.
While the night didn’t end the way Pollard had hoped it would, the Super Late Model standout opened a ton of eyes in the Late Model Stock community with his impressive performance on Saturday night.
“Toast” Keeps His Streak Alive
North Carolina’s Justin Carroll is certainly a competitive race car driver, but when more than 70 cars come out to race at Martinsville, including the likes of Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers, Bobby McCarty, Tommy Lemons Jr., and others, Carroll is still one of the underdogs (or underbirds, as those in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program might prefer he be called).
That’s part of what makes his top-10 streak so impressive. Martinsville is known for mayhem and calamity with the best of the best often finding trouble.
Trouble still found Carroll on Saturday, too. Carroll had a rough showing in qualifying, placing 40th overall. He then failed to transfer out of his heat race, so he was forced to race his way in through the Last Chance Race. Carroll ended up eventually winning the Last Chance Race and secured a spot in the feature event.
After starting in the 33rd position, Carroll eventually made his way to the top 10, finishing in sixth. Carroll now has finishes of eighth, sixth and sixth in the last three years at Martinsville.
-By Madison Mabry, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent - Twitter: @MadisonMabry23
-Photo credit: Speed51.com