Short track racing fans throughout the Carolinas and Virginia have likely seen Mack Tatum parked on the frontstretch of their local short track after a race. Tatum is the president of the Southern Ground Pounders Vintage Racing Club, and a two-time champion in its Sportsman division.
This weekend, the Virginia native is checking off a bucket list item for many racers in the Mid-Atlantic region, entering a Late Model Stock Car into the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA).
The second-generation racer has dreamed of competing at Martinsville since watching his father, Allen “Bubba” Tatum, race at the historic 0.526-mile oval, driving Modifieds and Late Model Sportsmen cars.
“I’ve been involved in racing a long time,” Tatum told Speed51. “My dad raced here in the 60s and 70s. The last time he came here was 1979. To me, as a kid, it was the epitome of going racing.
“My dad raced Modifieds here in the 1960s, and Sportsmen in the 70s. Did double-duty some in the early 70s.”
Tatum couldn’t help but follow in his father’s footsteps, competing in Dirt Modifieds before transitioning to vintage racing.
One day, Tatum felt the urge to compete at Martinsville Speedway in Late Model Stock Car racing’s biggest event.
“Fast forward to my racing career, we ran dirt modifieds and vintage cars and stuff and always wanted to go to Martinsville. One day, I told my wife, ‘Hey, we’re going to get a Late Model and go to Martinsville.’
“She didn’t believe me, but we did it. We’re here. It’s truly a bucket list. We’re not here to win championships. We’re going to run, and this may be the only Late Model race we run the rest of the year.”
Tatum did compete in one Late Model Stock event earlier this year, competing in twin 40-lap features at Southern National Motorsports Park’s (NC) NASCAR Whelen All-American series finale on September 14. However, he does not anticipate an extensive future in Late Model racing.
“I’ll be 100 percent a vintage racer next year. We’re just going to have some fun. The guys helping me are guys who are involved with the vintage car. We’re just here to have some fun.”
Tatum knows the odds are stacked against him for making the feature field as an inexperienced competitor in modern Late Model Stock Cars, but he is enjoying every minute of the Martinsville experience.
“I figure we have a 30 percent chance of making the field. We’ll give it our best shot. We probably won’t make it on time, I don’t have experience on new tires.”
How would it feel if Tatum qualified for the feature field and earned the opportunity to walk across the stage on Martinsville’s frontstretch ahead of the 200-lap main event? He struggled to put it into words.
“It would be pretty cool. It would be pretty cool.”
Speed51 will be at Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, providing live updates as well as free video coverage presented by MPM Marketing.
For more information about the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com