All of the big names in Late Model Stock Car racing turn out to Martinsville Speedway (VA) every year for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. But even with all of those big names like Lee Pulliam, Matt Bowling, Tommy Lemons, and Peyton Sellers here, an underdog of sorts claimed the pole for Sunday’s 200-lap race.
Mike Looney, a two-time winner this year at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway, ripped off a lap of 20.323 seconds to win the pole. Looney will share the front row with Pulliam, a former winner of this race. Looney and Pulliam have the only guaranteed starting spots. The remaining 69 cars will have to race their way into the feature through the heat races.
“I had a feeling, but I didn’t dare think it,” Looney told Speed51.com powered by JEGS when asked if he thought he could win the pole. “I thought it would be arrogant to think we’d have a chance at the pole. It crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to think about it and jinx ourselves.”
While Looney told the media after qualifying that he doesn’t necessarily like the underdog moniker that his team has, he says its hard to disagree with it.
“If you looked at our check book you could call us underdogs all year long,” he said. “I don’t feel like an underdog when I’m driving, but you can only be as good as your equipment. I’m just fortunate I have really good equipment this year. I’m really blessed.”
Ryan Repko was another driver that surprised many with his speed in qualifying. The 17-year-old driver turned in the third-fastest lap in his first attempt at the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. His lap was a time of 20.354 seconds.
“It’s huge being close to the top of the board with all these big names here,” said Repko.
Repko said he learned how to drive Martinsville like any other 17-year-old kid: video games.
“I ran iRacing to try to get as much experience as I could,” Repko said. “I also watched a lot of YouTube videos.”
One driver that has plenty of experience in Late Model Stocks at just about every one of their tracks is this year’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Matt Bowling.
When looking at the qualifying results, one would think that Bowling didn’t have the greatest run, but after being near the 21st position on the board for much of practice, Bowling’s qualifying time of 20.421 seconds was a pretty good one. It put Bowling seventh of the 71 cars to take time.
“We were a little off in practice,” Bowling said. “We just didn’t have the speed we needed. We definitely freed it up for qualifying. It was a whole lot better. I’m pretty happy with that run. We’ll see what happens. I think we have a good piece for the race.”
Sunday’s on-track action begins with heat racing at noon ET. Speed51.com will be live with Trackside Now coverage beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
For an on-demand replay of Saturday’s Trackside Now coverage presented by Centroid Machines and Five Star Race Car Bodies, click here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
ValleyStar Credit Union 300
Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Virginia
|8||27||Tommy Lemons Jr||20.428|
|18||15||Kres Van Dyke||20.502|
|64||38||Mark Kessee Jr||20.888|