Nobody saw it coming – Not even Landon Pembelton as the crew made the early tire decision to gain position later. Pembleton, a rookie with his first laps at Martinsville Speedway, thought he may have a top 10 but came away with the win in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

They set the tire change earlier than most which allowed a restart up front at the lap 150 mark following a scheduled full track pit. Race veterans were already having some issues that were keeping their cars from performing at the usual pace. When Pembleton took the lead he mostly took off with it. Other late race cautions gave others a chance at it but they couldn’t pull the #0 of Pembelton off the lead for long. Mike Looney, the 2016 winner, gave it a challenge on the final restart but Pembelton pulled him back for the lead and the win. The 16 year old driver took the checkers with his first run at the historic short track.

For the most part, the race was on for the younger drivers more than seasoned veterans. Daniel Silvestri, a young driver with a CARS Tour win earned the pole from qualifying the night before. Bobby McCarty, a two time CARS Tour champion, was also on the front row. The rest of the drivers had to run the heat races for position on Saturday before the main event.

Veterans like Peyton Sellers and Mike Looney started barely within the top 10. Other long time drivers such as Timothy Peters and Stacy Puryear started mid pack. Philip Morris had terrible luck in his heat race with a tire and crash incident that put him out of the main completely.

For the most part, even with this being the late model return to Martinsville since 2019 and the Covid cancel of 2020, the race was relatively mild for cautions. There were spins and some other contact driving but it seemed to be much less than previous late model contests here.

Sellers was anxious to go for his first ValleyStar 300 win as he was just named the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series National Champion. He has won the “Triple Crown” but hasn’t notched the Martinsville Clock. For the 2021 Triple Crown (combined best finishes at South Boston, Langley and Martinsville), it was front row starter Bobby McCarty taking the honor.

The top 10 finishers for the race at Martinsville: 1-Landon Pembelton 2-Mike Looney 3-Layne Riggs 4-Sammy Smith 5-Jared Fryar 6-Bobby McCarty 7-Jacob Borst 8-Justin Johnson 9-Daniel Silvestri 10-Kaden Honeycutt

Next up for Martinsville Speedway is the NASCAR Cup weekend of October 30-31. Camping World, Xfinity and CUP will all be running before the season finale the following week in Phoenix.

Full Photo Gallery Below – 2021 ValleyStar Credit Union 300

The Late Model racing season is coming to a head this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will draw drivers and teams from around the region to compete in what is billed as the largest late model race to run. The “Virginia Triple Crown” will take the points from the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston and the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway and push that into the results at Martinsville.

The race returns after the Covid hiatus of 2020 as tracks on the regular season were down across the region. Returning 2019 winner Josh Berry is expected to race carrying a bit of a streak into the weekend. He also won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Martinsville earlier this year.

Peyton Sellers, recently named National Late Model Champion in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, will also be chasing his first win in the “300”. He has run it many times and has been a repeat “Triple Crown” winner but has not been able to take the checkers on the final lap.

Timothy Peters is another name which is no stranger in winner’s circles. His connection to Martinsville and Southside Virginia racing has put him in the spotlight with NASCAR national series races and is another local favorite that could repeat a win at the VSCU 300.

Bobby McCarty and Ty Gibbs will also be drivers to watch. McCarty has the Thunder Road win and Ty Gibbs is expected to show with experience in ARCA and Xfinity.

Motor Mile Speedway just ran their Champions weekend and drivers Kres VanDyke and Ryan Wilson should be on hand to showcase their skills under the big lights. Other tracks from all around the region should also be represented by fan favorites taking their shot at Martinsille.

Previously, there have been full days of practice at Martinsville a week or so before race weekend. This year the format has been compacted into Friday and Saturday. Friday , the 24th, there will be a 4 hour open practice session before qualifying at 8:00pm Friday night. The top two qualifiers will make the 200 lap main event on Saturday night. The rest will race it out in four 25 lap heat races to make the main. The heat races begin at 3:00pm Saturday with gates open at 12:30pm and track walks / autograph session on track until 2:30pm.

The NASCAR Playoffs are set for Martinsville with Camping World, Xfinity and NASCAR Cup all racing October 30-31st. However, all eyes are on the Late Models under the lights coming up this weekend (September 24-25) for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

NASCAR points math ranks right up there with income tax math and black jack card counting. With that, we could dig around and find out how Kyle Larson with 4 wins is 13 season points behind Denny Hamlin with no wins. Larson and Hamlin are tied in Top 5 and Top 10 finishes and Larson actually has 7 more stage wins than Hamlin. Larson has 1 DNF, however, he is leading the “Playoff” rankings while Hamlin sits in the 4th slot.

With the Tokyo Summer Olympics taking the spotlight on NBC, NASCAR is on a break until August 8 weekend and Watkins Glen. It’s a great time to take stock and set the stage for the final 4 races of the regular season in August. The playoffs begin at Darlington in September with Richmond the weekend after.

The most recent winner was Aric Almirola at New Hampshire. Kurt Busch has a win from Atlanta the week before. Chase Elliott won at Road America and earlier at Circuit of the Americas. Kyle Busch has 2 wins from Pocono and Kansas. Alex Bowman grabbed the first of the double-header weekend at Pocono with 2 other checkers from Pocono and Richmond. Kyle Larson had a string of points win around his All Star victory. Nashville, Sonoma and Charlotte were practically back to back with a 4th win at Vegas. Martin Truex Jr was hot early in the season with wins from Darlington. Martinsville and Phoenix. Brad Keselowski came out of Talladega on top. Joey Logano won the dirty Bristol Race. Ryan Blaney snagged Atlanta. William Byron pulled his first win at Homestead. Christopher Bell also hit his first Cup win at the Daytona Road Course. Michael McDowell started the season with his first Cup win at the Daytona 500 opener. McDowell also had a fairly hot early season but seems to be hanging on with performance currently.

Denny Hamlin is hanging on near the top with now wins. Notable, also, is the struggling season of Kevin Harvick. It is an oddity to see the hard charger #4 not notching a win with the season looming late in the schedule. The past few years have seen Harvick sitting comfortable with post season assurance. This season he is just above the cut with 4 races to make it.

So… Here we are with swimming, fencing, cycling and all the other Olympic events carried over from Covid cancel in 2020 to barely Covid live crowds in 2021 in Tokyo. All the NBC channels have the variety of sport across the spectrum and the daily schedule.

Watkins Glen is set to roll out August 8. NASCAR returns to Virginia with the 2nd race of the playoffs on September 11. Virginia race fans have Richmond with Bristol (just over the border) the week after. Later, The race before the season finale at Phoenix is October 31st at Martinsville.

In the Olympic off time, find a local track with some hot laps on track and take advantage of the NASCAR off weeks and get reacquainted with some home track racing.

Cup weekend at Martinsville Speedway just has this reputation lately. It almost is a “given” that there will be some kind of weather thing that hangs over the events like Lucy promising to hold the football…

The Whelen Modifieds, Xfinity and Cup races had high fan interest as Virginia was opening up a bit more for entertainment and race venues to have more folks attend. The weather, however, went “all in” to keep things capped.

The Modifieds went by OK but the Friday Xfinity series was halted at lap 91. Saturday night’s Cup race was also attempted but rain ultimately pushed it all to Sunday.

Whelen Modified Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 200 winner: Eric Goodale

Xfinity Series Cook Out 250 winner: Josh Berry

Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 winner: Martin Truex Jr

The CHASE is well under way. Racing at Richmond sealed the deal for the 16 drivers and teams still in the “chase” for the Sprint Cup Championship. From Richmond the circus has raced through Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover to fill out the “Challenger” round of the CHASE. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick were winners in that set and advance forward with nine others with points to the “Contender” round of three more races at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega.

Wins or points will advance. Four at the bottom will be out of “Cup” contention after Talladega

This will begin the “Eliminator” round consisting of Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. There will be over 40 drivers on the tracks but only eight will be on the grid for the Sprint Cup. The others will be along to race for their sponsors, their team, their fans…

When they reach Homestead there will be four going for the “Cup”.

The only short track in the CHASE is Martinsville. The Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 is positioned at the start of the “Eliminator” round and could be a wild card on the way to Homestead. Having Talladega close the “Contender” round and Martinsville up next to start the next round is set to shake things up. The danger of the “big one” at Talladega and the challenge of the short track is going to test the patience and the strategy of racing.

For Martinsville the track is getting set to start the three races of the “Eliminator” round with a big regional lead-in as the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 rolls just three weeks before the Cup folks come in. (The VSCU 300 was put off a week as east coast storms battered the original run date)

The general consensus from late model to Cup is that Martinsville is a hard nut to crack. Drivers running for the first few times find it difficult with the low banking, tight lines and rhythm of speed to braking. Veterans are caught up in the traffic of those who can’t quite find a groove. The tight racing causes bumps and pushes and frustration.  Keeping the wheel in the center of patience is often key to a good finish but the temptation to push the driver a little harder for the bump that lost you 4 spots 80 laps ago runs hot.

Martinsville is a driver’s puzzle and a fan favorite with good views of the entire race from practically anywhere.
The curbs are pink for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There have been visits by drivers having some fun with the speedway from Clint Bowyer racing go-karts with track President Clay Campbell to Kyle Larson picking up a pink brush and driving cancer survivors around the track. The late model drivers in the region have already had a practice day and the Cup drivers have it in their sights.

Martinsville, and the CHASE, is coming together.

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The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is the latest of many incarnations for the regional  late-model highlight at Martinsville Speedway. It is even a new name for the region’s sponsor (ValleyStar) which formerly was known for years as Martinsville Dupont Credit Union which lended the name and sponsorship for the race in 2014.
The race coming up this weekend (Oct 3-4) will once take the season of racing at the region’s weekender short tracks and pack the track at Martinsville with the talent that turns laps and heads and crowds from all over the area. These are the drivers of the cars from back yard garages scraping to make the next race. These are the drivers that have earned some wins and recognition from local fans and have managed to bring some sponsorship and attention to themselves. These are the drivers that are looking to the future with big dreams of national sponsors and even bigger rides. These are the drivers that have carried the weight of NASCAR from the dirt to the biggest speedways. Some of these drivers might even get their names over the window for the top NASCAR racing series. Some racing this weekend already have.
Clay Campbell, President at Martinsville Speedway, echoed the excitement of the drivers present at a dinner and sponsor introduction held in Roanoke, VA at Corned Beef and Company. The early beginnings of the “300” have grown into a highlight for the track, the city and the region. With the Fall “main event” of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 and the the Sprint Cup CHASE just a few weeks away the late-model race offers a great opportunity to put racing in the minds of the fans and tickets in their hands. Campbell, while acknowledging the Sprint Cup aspect of the timing of the ValleyStar 300 also made it clear the late-model event stands on its own with real racing based on the roots of the sport and the foundation of what NASCAR is now. The attraction of the prestige of this event attracted close to 90 drivers and teams for the practice session last week which has been a good indication of the turnout for making the race, Campbell noted. He also took the time to mention the partnership with ValleyStar which has taken the sponsorship to heart with their own efforts promoting the race, the speedway and the region they serve.
Drivers on hand at Corned Beef and Company looking forward to racing represented the hopes of all that will be running at the track this weekend. Winning at Martinsville means keeping time with a grandfather clock trophy and bragging rights for years to come. It could underscore sponsorship and certainly delivers a hefty paycheck for the hard work of the season.
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will have practice and qualifying on Saturday October 3rd with the heat races and main event under the flags on Sunday October 4th. For a full schedule and ticket information check Martinsville Speedway online.

Fans and drivers went to Martinsville Speedway a little bewildered by news of a “new” famous Martinsville hot dog. If you could tell any difference by the checkered flag on Sunday you must have some kind of super sense for processed meat products…

By the time the checkers fell on Sunday and the STP 500 it is a good bet nobody was concerned about hot dogs. Virginia native Denny Hamlin drove the #11 Fed-Ex / Joe Gibbs Toyota to the win and huge applause from the stands.

It was a good day for some and others fell back during the first short track race of the season. Many who tend to do well were caught with mechanical issues, wrecks or just out of the rhythm. Jimmie Johnson and team mate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. suffered issues that put them down several laps. Dale, Jr. was involved in a crash that had him back out several laps later with no front end sheet metal.

Jeff Gordon held the front for a bit and went on to finish 9th but was still hit during the race with a pit road penalty that put him back. Kasey Kahne even lead some and finished 11th.  All in all a split day of results for the Hendrick cars.

Stewart-Haas teams were up front and overall did well but couldn’t manage the end with Hamlin. Kevin Harvick lead a good chunk but couldn’t extend his run of top-2 finishes (8th). Kurt Busch also held the front but fell back to 14th at the end. Tony Stewart ran mid pack early on but by the later laps was up front to challenge but was edged outside and the train went by as he finished 20th. It was Danica Patrick that seemed to get in the groove at Martinsville, avoided some traffic and crashes and finished 7th.

It was the Joe Gibbs and Penske teams that filled the top 5 at the finish having a good race day in general. JGR cars finished 1st (Denny Hamlin), 4th (Matt Kenseth) and 5th (David Ragan in for Kyle Busch). Penske teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished  2nd and 3rd with Logano starting on the pole.

Others in the top 10 were Martin Truex, Jr (6th) and Jamie McMurray (10th).

For fans it was a big day of racing with 31 lead changes involving 13 drivers and a familiar winner. 16 cautions gave fans a chance to examine their hot dogs for any signs of change.

It could be a momentum changing race for Joe Gibbs Racing and Denny Hamlin in particular.

The Easter break is on and the circus rolls on afterward to Texas then back to closer racing at Bristol (4-19) and Richmond (4-25).

PHOTOS: Friday Practice | Saturday Practice | Kroger 250 | STP 500