When the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 rolls around at Martinsville Speedway on September 23, a handful of drivers will be fighting for more than just the $25,000 check and grandfather clock trophy.
After a one-year hiatus, the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown is back. The driver with the best average finish in the three biggest NASCAR Late Model Stock Car races in Virginia picks up a $10,000 bonus, following the Martinsville finale.
After the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway and the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway, Bobby McCarty and Nick Smith find themselves deadlocked atop the Virginia Triple Crown standings heading into the September 23 finale at Martinsville Speedway under the track’s new permanent LED lights.
“Weekly racing in Virginia is some of the best and toughest in the country and all three tracks believe in rewarding the drivers who support it, week in and week out,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said. “The first two races were both exciting and I don’t expect anything less at the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. We’re really looking forward to handing out that check at the end of the race.”
In total, 14 drivers participated in the opening two legs of the Triple Crown, making them eligible for the $10,000 prize after the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. If a driver were to take home the race win and the Triple Crown at Martinsville, they could leave Victory Lane with $35,000 in prize money.
McCarty, who won the Hampton Heat in his first ever trip to Langley, noted that picking up the win has him and his team feeling good about their chances.
“It gives me a ton of confidence (heading into Martinsville),” McCarty said. “I can’t even imagine what it would mean to win (the Triple Crown)…This (win) is a step in the right direction after we finished sixth at South Boston. We’re definitely planning on running well at Martinsville and I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody at winning that Triple Crown.”
Four-time Whelen All-American Series National Champion Phillip Morris, who won at South Boston, but struggled at Langley, sits in a tie for fifth in the Triple Crown standings.
Those struggles didn’t keep Morris down, however, as he said he is looking forward to a chance at the Triple Crown title at Martinsville, where he has visited Victory Lane three times.
“I think we’re still in it. All we need is another ‘W’ at Martinsville to have a good chance at it,” Morris said. “We’ve got a really good crew, a really good car and I’ve got a lot of experience at Martinsville so I think we’ve got as good a shot as anybody at it.”
Smith has taken a different route to the top of the Triple Crown standings.
With a pair of top-five finishes, but without a win in the first two Triple Crown events, Smith has placed himself in prime position with consistency rather than victories.
A top contender for the Triple Crown in the championship’s inaugural year in 2012, Smith said he has no intentions of letting another opportunity at the $10,000 prize fall to the wayside.
“It’s really exciting knowing that we’ve had some solid finishes,” Smith said. “I don’t want that Triple Crown to slip out of my hands. The very first year they had it, I came into Martinsville second in the points and was really looking forward to it and it slipped away.”
Part of the appeal of the Triple Crown is the fact that drivers get the opportunity to go up against strong fields three times in a year at three premier events, but do not have to run a full-season schedule to earn points.
Stacy Puryear, a veteran racer running a part-time schedule, has taken advantage of that fact and finds himself in fourth place in the standings with two months to prepare for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
“The Triple Crown is big for Late Model Stock guys,” Puryear said. “It gives you something to shoot for even if you don’t run on a regular basis. We circle the Triple Crown and we’re pretty excited about being a part of it.”
Puryear noted that Martinsville’s race, particularly in its first year under the lights, stands out as the jewel in the Triple Crown.
“It’s pretty awesome to have a shot at (the Triple Crown) and Martinsville is definitely the premier short-track race out there in my opinion,” Puryear said. “I’m really excited to race under the lights and have MRN broadcasting that race.”
C.E. Falk III claimed the inaugural Triple Crown title in 2012 with Peyton Sellers claiming the prize in 2013 and 2014. Lee Pulliam claimed the last Triple Crown in 2015 before the championship took a one-year hiatus in 2016.
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race. The day starts with three 25-lap heat races to set the field, followed by a 25-lap “last chance” heat. Tickets for the September 23 event are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
TRIPLE CROWN STANDINGS HEADING INTO THE VALLEYSTAR CREDIT UNION 300
The driver that has the best average finish in the three Virginia Late Model Triple Crown events picks up a $10,000 bonus in Victory Lane following the Martinsville finale. After the events at South Boston Speedway and Langley Speedway, 14 drivers are currently eligible for the Triple Crown:
(Position, Driver name, Average finish through first two legs)
T1. Bobby McCarty, 3.5
T1. Nick Smith, 3.5
3. Brenden Queen, 5
4. Stacy Puryear, 7.5
T5. Philip Morris, 8.5
T5. Peyton Sellers, 8.5
7. Timothy Peters, 9
T8. Austin Thaxton, 12
T8. Terry Carroll, 12
10. Justin Carroll, 13.5
11. Mark Wertz, 15.5
T12. Eddie Johnson, 19
T12. Cameron Bowen, 19
14. Dean Ward, 19.5