MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kres VanDyke is a household name to race fans in and around his hometown of Abingdon, VA. He’s easily one of the most successful drivers at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway over the last two decades but the veteran driver is looking to put an exclamation on his career with a win in the biggest race of all.
VanDyke came close in his quest for Martinsville Speedway gold when he finished second in 2003 to Jamey Caudill before taking a hiatus from racing for several years. In the last five seasons his performance has been on point, winning track championships at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway as well as capturing the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Tennessee State Title. In 2016 he again came close to winning as he finished third behind Mike Looney and Lee Pulliam in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
VanDyke hopes that 2019 is the year that he’s able to break through and get his first triumph on the half-mile track but knows that it’ll all come down to luck and the fastest car rarely wins the race.
“You got to have a lot of luck on your side,” VanDyke stated. “I feel like Martinsville is a place that you can conserve and conserve all you want. You just get tangled up in the wrong mess and you’re right in it. Just stay out of the messes and keep the car clean and be there at the end of it. If we can be there at the end of it. I don’t think there have been a couple handful of races up there that the best car won the race.”
VanDyke abandoned a championship opportunity at his home track of Kingsport Speedway in hopes that competing all season against Mike Looney and Philip Morris at Motor Mile Speedway would better prepare him for Martinsville.
“That was one of the biggest reasons why we went up there,” VanDyke explained. “We had a good toolbox and a good old notebook full of stuff, but our stuff was not against these guys that we race against up here and now we’ve moved up to Motor Mile. We’ve had to dig in a little deeper and find more stuff and get more resources and as it’s helped a lot. We’ve actually got a little bit better and we can actually hold Mike (Looney) off for 30 or so laps instead of 10.”
The 39 year-old driver is excited about the changes to the race format, but more than that, he’s excited about the event returning to single-car qualifying and locking in the top-20 drivers on speed.
“I think that’s going to be the biggest thing they changed,” VanDyke explained. Locking in a top 20, like we used to in the past. I think in 2003 we qualified like 14th and we were locked in. I mean that’s like a win itself. You get a top 20 at Martinsville and it was a party back in the day. I knew the next day they were heat racing and our cars were in the shade for half a day watching everybody else race. I think it’s a good deal. It’s going to be tough to get in the top 20, but I think we’ve got a good enough piece to do it.”
VanDyke has a new car this year for the first time since 2002 and he’s hoping that his new TORP Chassis will be the key ingredient he’s needed to close out the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 with a victory. He knows that Thursday’s test session will be important to his chances of accomplishing that goal.
“I think the test is invaluable,” VanDyke said. “This is worth everything. If it wasn’t for Thursday coming, you couldn’t do what you need to do. You take these open test days and you make the most of them and you can come back race weekend and really be where you need to be. It’s going to be valuable to us, I think that we’ve got a baseline set up to start with and we can only get better from there.”
VanDyke will be one of an estimated 75+ cars that will take to the track on Thursday, September 26th in preparation for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. It’s the biggest Late Model Stock Car race in the country and boasts an even larger purse of $32,000 to win this year. With that kind of money on the line and a new format for the event, the stage is set for it to be one of the best races yet.
Tickets to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, the First Data 500 as well as the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Night Race at Martinsville Speedway can be purchased online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com or by calling 877.RACE.TIX.