ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway – 9-23-2017
Scheduling a night race doesn’t necessarily mean we have all night…
Martinsville Speedway has a brand new, state of the art LED overhead lighting system. It was christened Saturday night, September 23rd for racing under the lights with the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
…and they certainly made the most it…
This is a “big deal” late-model race bringing in drivers and teams from the regional weekend circuit. Tracks such as South Boston, Langley, Motor Mile and others prep drivers for this event at Martinsville which runs as a showcase just a few weeks before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup weekend rolls in.
There were, as always, many more cars than available slots in the main event scheduled for 8:00pm. This sets the stage for the heat races in the afternoon. Scheduled to start at 4:00pm, the four heat races were set at 25 laps each with the top 10 from each advancing to the main. Heat #4 is actually the “last chance” race pulling all the drivers not making the top 10 from the first 3 runs.
Heat #1 took the better part of an hour…. In what generally should be about 20-25 minutes for each heat race, the fist bunch took the green flag as a metaphor for “anything goes” until it runs into something and stops it all, which it did, many times…
Heats #2-3 seemed to run a little smoother. They took some cues from the first, apparently, and realized that crunching up your best car wasn’t going to get anyone anywhere. Even so, as they were able to put together some 8 or 10 lap runs, the crashes of impatience took its toll and, unfortunately, took down a few front running “innocents” in the mix.
Heat #4 started late and ran short and such is the case in slower traffic, many with a good shot at the “last chance” top ten were caught in others’ wrecks taking them out for the evening.
The last shot at getting also brought the lights out giving the fans their first look at laps under the new LED system. The timing worked out with for the main event to get started around 9pm with introductions, National Anthem and pre-race festivities all set in plain view of the new lights overhead.
On the main… The two that qualified for the front row from Friday afternoon were both disqualified so row 2 moved to row 1. What “unapproved spacer” and “illegal fuel squirters” are is still a mystery to me but that’s what pushed them out.
At 100 laps, there was a mandatory caution and pit for fuel only. For the first 80 it looked like a totally different race experience than the heats brought out. They were actually racing laps and not wrecking. It is possible most of the wreckers were had wrecked out previously and, with the main event, experienced racers were content to save what they had for final 80 laps.
The wrecks, however, did come. Cautions began to slow progress from green flag racing. At the halfway, it was Peyton Sellers across the line. That changed after the fuel stop and the inversion of the top 6.
At 175 there was another scheduled stop for tires. The tires at this point were the same that ran their heat races, started the main and went hot and cold and worn to the switch. It was obvious the tires were beat as cautions and even a couple of red flag race stops were showing the tires’ age.
The final laps kept a battle up front with Timothy Peters, Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers, Jake Crum and Trevor Noles. Sellers made it up to the 2nd slot but couldn’t get enough on Peters to make it stick. Pulliam and Sellers did a drag race out of the final turn with Pulliam managing an edge on Sellers to take 2 at the checkers. Sellers rolled by on his side at 3rd. Jake Crum and Trevor Noles filled the top five.
It was also a “Triple Crown” for Peters. If Sellers had held 2nd, the math would have been in his favor but that fraction of points from finishes at the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 tagged with results from the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway and the Hampton Heat at Langley gave the prize to Peters.
It was a long day. The late afternoon heat gave way to cool LED lights and racing up to practically midnight. As Victory Lane faded the haulers were being loaded with survivors, wreckers and a winner.
Martinsville Speedway has new, state of the art, LED lights. The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 ran the lights for a good, long, excitement filled event.
The next time fans see these lights it will be as the First Data 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race runs the final laps. This comes up October 29th. It should play out epic.