The first leg of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown is in the books and for the second year in a row, Peyton Sellers will head into the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway at the top of the standings.
Sellers, who won the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Resort at South Boston Speedway on Saturday night, knows there’s still work to do if he wants to repeat as the Triple Crown Champion.
“We’ve definitely got a leg up on everybody with the win,” Sellers said. “Obviously we still have work to do. Lee Pulliam, Mike Looney, Timothy Peters are all there. There’s a lot of guys lurking around the top-10 that are going to run well at Langley.”
One of the drivers Sellers mentioned, former ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Mike Looney, is racing for the Triple Crown for the first time in his career and said his efforts are two-fold.
“If you don’t fire any bullets, you won’t hit any targets,” Looney said. “It would be a pretty big goal. Virginia is the hot bed for Late Models and the list of the names who have won it are household names. It would be a big thing for the accomplishment, but the money would go a long way for our team. We are pretty unfunded and unsponsored and are doing it out of pocket.”
One thing most drivers tend to agree on when it comes to winning the Triple Crown is to minimalize the “bad luck” factor and one driver who hopes he has gotten the bad luck out of the way is Tyler Hughes.
Hughes led a majority of the second half at South Boston, before a cut tire relegated him to an eighth place finish.
“As far as the Triple Crown goes anything can happen,” Hughes said. “Last year, we went to Langley third in the standings and had terrible luck. We just weren’t that good. As far as this year goes, I feel our program has improved and we’ve found a lot of speed. I think I’ve been able to prove that. I think we can go into Langley and run pretty well. Anything can happen. We can go into to it have bad luck or go in and come out in the top-3 or top-5 and be a contender.”
Brandon Pierce is another driver who, like Hughes, had some bad luck at South Boston. The difference was his bad luck came early in the race and he was able to overcome being two laps down at one point to finish sixth.
“These races you’re running against the best of the best in the country, but if you just keep after it the cards will usually fall your way and you have something to look forward to.,” Pierce said. “We did that and now we can put or sights to the Hampton Heat.
“At halfway, I would have told you we can go to Langley and try to win, but there goes the Triple Crown. Yet, here we are. So, we’re well in positioned going to Langley. I’m tickled to death.”
Both Sellers and Looney have wins at Langley this season, and that gives the pair some confidence heading into the July 20 showdown.
“We went to Langley for the first time ever two weeks ago and won the race,” Looney said. “It was the first time we’d ever seen the track, so we’re going to go back and try to do it again.”
Sellers won there earlier in the season and has had solid runs in the handful of starts he’s made there this year.
“We went last weekend and ran well,” Sellers said. “We won the big race early this year. We know how to win at Langley Speedway. You don’t have to win Langley to win the Triple Crown, but you’ve got to have a solid run there to win it.”
This year the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown will pay for first, second and third place, a change from the winner-take-all format of the past few years. That change has drivers excited knowing a bad run won’t keep them out of the bonus.
“In the past, to win it you’ve got to have a perfect slate, and don’t get a mulligan,” Looney said. “But, it’s a hell of an effort to be competitive in all three of those race and to work to get some money back on the investment form a business standpoint. We’re not looking to make money; just enough to keep racing and make ends meet.”
“As far as paying the top-three goes, that’s a good deal for any driver. Any Late Model team could use the extra cash,” Hughes said. ”It does give you some wiggle room to have some bad luck, but I still think the competition is going to be pretty stiff.”
Pierce referenced last year when talking about the changes and what they mean to teams.
“To give some perspective on it, if this format had been used last year, I finished fourth (at South Boston), I got knocked out at Langley and finished third at Martinsville, and I would have finished third in the Triple Crown,” Pierce said. “So, that would have been nice.”
The Virginia Late Model Triple Crown is a bonus that rewards the three drivers who have the best average finish in the Thunder Road Harley Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Resort at South Boston, the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway and the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.
The Triple Crown pays $7,000 to win, $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third.
The next leg of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown is the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway on July 20.
The Triple Crown will conclude on October 5 at Martinsville Speedway with the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.