Thursday night, former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Peyton Sellers added another feather to his cap in Late Model Stock Racing, winning the inaugural Grassroots 200 at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway (VA). On Monday, Sellers joined Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” and discussed the win and cleared the air on a couple of debates stemming from the event.
One such debate stemmed from Sellers’ post-race comments in victory lane, as many believed he made a pointed statement towards Denny Hamlin after the race. The Grassroots 200 was scheduled as a replacement for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown after the Denny Hamlin Foundation opted out of the 2019 running of the event.
“Unbelievable night to race here,” Sellers said during his post-race interview over the public address system, which was also broadcast on Fanschoice.TV. “Unbelievable that Bill Mullis and these guys stepped up to the plate when short track racing was let down by Denny Hamlin. To not have the Denny Hamlin Showdown, they stepped up and filled the gap.”
Sellers stated during Monday’s interview that he had no malintent in his comments regarding Hamlin, calling him a “good friend” who he hopes will bring the race back in future years.
“I meant nothing by that,” Sellers said. “Denny Hamlin is a friend of ours. He’s a good friend of mine, he’s done a lot for short track racing. I know he hated dropping the event. I’m glad that Bill Mullis and his team stepped up to the plate. A lot of teams had hotels booked, had things going, sponsors coming for that event. To step up and find the funding to put on that event was unbelievable.
“Now, moving forward, I hope Denny Hamlin will come back and do it,” he added. “It was no slight to him, and I don’t think Bill Mullis put it out there as a slight to him for not putting on the race. I know everybody wants to get somebody else to pay for the race. We all do. All of us want a free ride. Denny wasn’t able to come up with the funding to do it. It definitely wasn’t a slight to Denny, because he’s done it for many years and will hopefully do it again.”
Sellers also discussed his decision to focus on preparations for the Grassroots 200 over participating in the CARS Tour’s inaugural $30,000-to-win Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway on Sunday, April 7. The race was billed as the richest race in Late Model Stock Car history.
“I caught a lot of heat for not going to Orange County Sunday,” Sellers explained. “That’s a home track for me. I grew up there, won a championship there in a Limited Sportsman years ago. I caught a lot of heat for not doing the CARS event there.
“Long story short, I’m building a new car, and all my extra funds are going towards that new car,” Sellers added. “We had that Denny Hamlin Showdown on our radar for a long time. Ran well there last year, had a car in the top five, came back for the Hampton Heat and ran second. That was a date we had circled on the calendar a long time ago.”
Sellers also noted that, as a track under the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series banner, Langley was able to offer points towards the national title hunt at the Grassroots 200, adding another incentive to prepare for that event rather than compete in the CARS Tour event.
“Let’s face it, I was fourth in the national points last year,” he stated. “Langley pays national points. It was paying good money as well. For me, going to run the CARS race was a bucket list thing, too, running at my home track for that kind of money. But Bill Mullis and Langley put together a good race as well.”
As for the race itself, Sellers credited the win to patience and perseverance. He felt there were faster cars at Langley Thursday night, but by staying out of trouble and saving his tires for the push to the finish he was able to take the win.
“I didn’t think we had the best car,” Sellers admitted. “We were a tenth off the pole in qualifying. Once we got into the race, I started to think, you know, this car is pretty good. Let’s just be smart. Philip qualified on the pole and did his best to blow his tires off in the first part of the race. He had a straightaway lead on C.E. Falk. Josh Berry and myself, we were just tagging along [with C.E.] and he was a straightaway off. When the tires gave up, he fell off pretty quickly.
“Something happened with a lapped car and C.E. got into the back of Josh and turned him around, cut his left-rear tire,” Sellers added. “He got a new left-rear and two right-sides with 20 to go and we got two right-sides so it made for a pretty good race at the end. Track position was key, being able to qualify well, keep our nose clean, and be there at the end to use it up when it mattered.”
While Sellers acknowledged the importance of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points on the line, he said it is still too early to talk about national championship aspirations. Sellers currently leads the South Boston Speedway track championship and is opting to focus on taking care of business there first.
“We’re leading the South Boston points right now, but we’re going against Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam every week too, in addition to the local guys,” Sellers said. “Thomas Scott and guys like that run good there every week. When you can go away from home and pick up a win like we did on Thursday night, it puts a lot of things in your mind. I told my guys we’re not even thinking about that until the end of June.”
In the full interview, Sellers also discussed the maturation process from a former second-overall selection in the Speed51 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes to a veteran racer, his thoughts on the incident earlier this season at South Boston between Morris and Pulliam, and more.
Fans who missed “The Morning Bullring” and wish to see the show and Howard’s interview in its entirety can click here for the on-demand replay of the broadcast. Fans can also visit the Speed 51 Five Star Bodies Facebook Feed to watch the replay of the broadcast.
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-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo / Rick Ibsen