Two-time ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Lee Pulliam finished Friday’s practice in a familiar place at Martinsville Speedway (VA), topping the charts in the three-hour session.
The four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion logged a lap of 19.984 seconds around the 0.526-mile oval, setting the tone for Friday night’s qualifying session. However, the Late Model Stock veteran has his eyes set on simply locking into tomorrow’s feature field.
In Friday’s single-car qualifying session, the top 20 cars will transfer directly to Saturday’s 200-lap feature, avoiding a pair of 50-lap heat races to round out the field.
“I think we’re pretty good. We’re working on this new car trying to get it driving better,” Pulliam told Speed51. “We were good at the test, but not where we wanted to be. If we can get this thing locked in the top 20, I’ll be tickled to death.”
Pulliam questioned if he would be able to repeat his sub-20 second lap time during the qualifying session, acknowledging the pressure that rides on drivers and teams with a Martinsville spot on the line.
“That was pretty quick, but it takes a lot of pressure on driver, car, crew, everybody to run a lap like that. I’m proud of the effort but we just want to win the big show tomorrow. That’s the main goal.”
Layne Riggs finished the session second-fastest, with a 20.029-second lap. While he’s unsure how much he will be able to improve on his mock runs.
“I know that a lot of people are going to pick up a whole lot,” said Riggs. “I don’t know how much we’ll pick up. My prediction is in the low 19.90s.”
Pulliam’s focus on making the top 20 was a common refrain throughout the garage following the practice session. Dustin Rumley, a veteran making his first Martinsville appearance since 2014, echoed that thought after finishing fifth in practice.
“It’s all about qualifying in that top 20 so you don’t have to do the heat races tomorrow. That’s the main thing, get a good, solid run and get in that top 20 so we can work on our race trim.”
Craig Moore, eighth-fastest in the session, admitted he’d love a shot at the payday for setting fast time in qualifying but was more focused on avoiding Saturday’s heat races.
“We just want to make the top 20. Sure, we’d love to get the pole and the $5,000, but right now we just want the top 20.”
Friday’s qualifying session will not be short on drama, with cars competing in single-car runs to claim one of those coveted spots under the lights at Martinsville Speedway. It’s a sensation three-time NWAAS Tennessee State Champion Kres VanDyke struggles to describe.
“This place is ecstatic at night time with the LED lighting,” said VanDyke. “It’s a hell of a job by the Speedway. It’s hard to find the words to pick to describe what it’s like to be on this track when it is like that.
Live updates from the qualifying session will be available at Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage, presented by FK Rod Ends. Click here to follow the live updates.
|21||5C||Dexter Canipe, Jr.||20.246|
|26||40||C.E. Falk III||20.280|
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo