There was fire coming in and smoke took him out. Bobby McCarty had an edge coming to Martinsville and practice pushed qualifying up a degree or two. He was also the “Triple Crown South Boston winner. (Brendan Queen came to Martinsville with the Langley win of the “Triple Crown”.) McCarty had the starting spot and had the early position. If he fell off the front he stayed close enough to challenged for it. It was practically his race for two thirds of it until the smoke came from under the hood and out the back and took McCarty and the #6 off the track.

Most of the “Triple Crown” hopefuls either had up front time or were close enough to keep pressure on. The final 25 laps following the scheduled pit stop option stirred the mix. The restart had most of the challengers within striking distance with Carson Kvapil next to Trevor Ward. Landon Huffman, Peyton Sellers, Doug Barnes and Brendan Queen were all there ready to push forward.

The final laps sparked some cautions and restarts and Peyton Sellers looked like he could repeat but fell back as Trevor Ward managed to battle to the inside of the #26. Kvapil had been running with Sellers but Ward on the inside managed to get by and pull Landon Huffman along with him. Ward and Huffman ran wheel to wheel pushing up front. Ward in the #77 had Huffman in the #22 on the outside as wheels rubbed and smoke flew from the contact. That bit of hard racing contact out of turn 4 made the #22 go loose allowing Ward to move in front but Huffman kept the heat on as Ward crossed the checkers with a half car lead for the win.

The finishing top 10: Trevor Ward, Landon Huffman, Carson Kvapil, Peyton Sellers, Doug Barnes, Mason Diaz, Kade Brown, Trent Barnes, Justin Hicks, Brendan Queen

The VSCU 300 win also put Ward on top of the average finishes in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown contest. He collected the winner’s purse and the top “Triple Crown” award. Brendan Queen had a run well enough to earn the second prize and Peyton Sellers came away with the third place position.

Full Photo Gallery from Martinsville Speedway – Valley Star Credit Union 300

It was coming… Every driver and team and official new it. The question hovered about as the day progressed.

Friday was the day to practice, dial in, tune up and prepare to qualify. The weather lingered in the southern Atlantic taking aim as laps and wrenches turned. The only plan, of course, was to stay on course. Get done what can be done. Let the chips fall, or the rain as it was, if that turns to be the case.

Which it was… Saturday was a push to Sunday. That decision came well ahead of scheduled activities so there would be little confusion.

For racing and positions, the Valley Star Credit Union 300 is the third race in the “Virginia Triple Crown”. The first two are South Boston Speedway and Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway. Bobby McCarty won at SoBo (Carson Kvapil crossed the checkers but failed post race inspection) and Brendan “Butterbean” Queen has the win from Langley. The two drivers finished 2nd (Butterbean at SoBo) and 3rd (McCarty at Langley) are 1/2 spot away from each other coming to Martinsville.

Trevor Ward, Brandon Pierce and Logan Clark are filling the top five bracket chasing the crown at Martinsville. Defending VSCU 300 Winner Peyton Sellers, coming off a Championship at Dominion Raceway, is joining drivers from across the region to challenge the track and points leaders for that Grandfather Clock prize.

Qualifying from Friday has Bobby McCarty showing top speed and will lead the first of four “heat” races setting the main event running order at the green. Landon Huffman will lead the second qualifying race. Carson Kvapil will lead off the third and Ryan Millington starts up front for the fourth. The top 10 of each go to the main. McCarty, and the other qualifying starters, have no guarantees so racing to the main will have the pressure on.

The 25 lap qualifying races start off at 1:00pm. Pre-race and introductions begin around 3:00pm with the main event set to go green at 5:00pm. This compressed schedule was set for Sunday after a major storm (Ophelia) swept the region through Saturday.

Photos From Friday – Valley Star Credit Union 300 – September 22, 2023

Virginia Is For Lovers… That’s how it goes… Country Lovers, Mountain Lovers, Scenery Lovers, Car Lovers… It’s all there with a visit to Virginia International Raceway. The “spectator” event season showcases several events but the real “international” comes into play on IMSA WeatherTech weekend.

It helps to know a little about the racing and who is driving what and leading in the points across the series on track but, honestly, it is not necessary. The variety, speed and close up action offers plenty to keep up with. The weekend is as much a celebration of racing as it is a celebration of the track itself. Is it necessary to know that a VIR win could shake things up for most of the series racing? Do you need to know that Corvette Racing is in striking distance of Lexus or that Aston Martin is chasing down BMW…? Who’s leading in the Lambo Trofeo or MX-5…? Does it matter to the fans who have come to see beautiful sports cars race in a beautiful setting…?

It does to some… People always have favorites. On a hot August weekend they all gathered for the cars, the drivers, the colors and the views.

It is possible that nobody is as proud as CEO Connie Nyholm of the unlikely yet impressive racing showplace that is the current incarnation of Virginia International Raceway. She has been with it from the purchase, update and re-introduction to the racing community around the year 2000. It is nothing short of phenomenal that the track, originally opened in 1957 and shut to the public in the 1970s, is now recognized as a jewel in the schedule of premiere racing series such as IMSA, FIA, GTWC, Moto America, NASA and others. Club racing is popular as ever and VIR is a hot challenge for aspiring drivers. It is determination and a little luck that has brought VIR to the status it has.

For IMSA weekend, the schedule falls later in the season. Points are a premium and the challenge of the course is a true test of drivers and teams. Full results on the races and the points can be found at IMSA online: Click for IMSA results and updates.

The fan experience continues to be expanded at VIR. The brand and performance variety on the track also sets the backdrop for a fan base as diversified as the paddock. The exotics of Lamborghini, Aston Martin or McLaren are mixed with Honda, Hyundai, Ford and Chevy. The cars are the stars and the drivers are open and approachable.

The headline race Saturday afternoon featured the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge running the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix. For the finale on Sunday, The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship raced the Michelin GT Challenge. The VP Prototype/Sports Car Challenge, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Mazda MX-5 Cup filled both days with racing from morning to the main event green flag.

New options on food and beverage were available this time around taking pressure off of the little paddock diner. The Pagoda Grill is still there but food trucks have been given space to take some of the demand and expand the dining experience. The Oak Tree Tavern is, of course, also available with a touch of class and excellent dining.

The IMSA season still has Indianapolis and Road Atlanta and points are getting tight in the top spots. For VIR, there is more to come also. The SCCA has a week long series late in September and the VIR SpeedTour comes in October. The SpeedTour in particular is another big variety weekend with GT, TransAm, Open Wheel and Classic / Vintage racing. There is also one of the largest rock music festivals in the country on tap.

Virginia International Raceway is a multi-faceted destination. It is often difficult to explain to race fans who have only visited stadium style oval tracks. It is worth a visit to find it all for yourself.

Photo Gallery – Virginia International Raceway – Saturday August 26

Photo Gallery – Virginia International Raceway – Sunday August 27

It’s just a few days from IMSA weekend at Virginia International Raceway and, somehow, Martinsville Speedway grabs some of the attention!

Consider, for a moment, a bunch of tuned Mazda MX-5 Cup race cars taking a couple of days to run hot laps around the historic oval. Yes… That is exactly what they did.

Racing history is combined as cars commonly running on the twisted track of VIR take laps around Martinsville. This merges names like Carroll Shelby and Paul Newman with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Speaking of, by the way… Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Bobby Labonte were on hand from NASCAR history to lend a lap or two in the Mazda Motorsport testing. Speedway President Clay Campbell also climbed in and put his driving to the test with the Mazda crew.

MX-5 Cup series drivers were on hand for Monday to dial the cars in. Campbell and the NASCAR guys came in Tuesday to throw their Martinsville racing experience behind the wheel.

The stage is early but all of this opened the door for the possibility of the MX-5 Cup series actually racing at Martinsville Speedway. Logistics are many but the test made a mark on all involved.

Dale Jr referenced the advancement of iRacing and how that virtual platform raises the bar. He said you can put any car on any track and the technology is such that the simulation is eye-opening. The difference on track from a NASCAR Cup car or Late Model is in the turns, he referenced. The Mazda is as fast in the turns but the entry and exit is different on the shifting. The Cup cars have the straights but these are close in the corners.

We’ve seen Bobby Labonte in the SMART Mods and SRX this year and now in Mazdas at Martinsville. He was just straight up having fun in the MX-5 dropping the power of SRX or a Modified for the low ride and easy handling convertible. His experience in multiple series aided his input on the testing.

Clay Campbell noted the speed of the Mazda through the turn. These are lighter so the brakes don’t play the major role like they do in a Cup or Late Model car. He said you stand on the brakes in those Cup cars and these it’s more in the downshift and easy entry in the turns. The low driving position also puts your perspective of the speed right on the edge.

The series drivers on their way to VIR this weekend said the tuning was not as much as they thought for the oval. There will be some camber and steering adjustments to get them back to turning right as easy as left but the mechanics of the MX-5 are the same.

Who knows for sure when, or if, the MX-5 Cup will race at Martinsville. This testing, however, showed that if they do it is going to be a fun watch. The size of the car would allow for some lanes of racing that larger, more powerful cars can not run in a race setting. The sound of these and the quick handling nature could be a race fan experience for sure.

*There were, unfortunately, no famous hot dogs available for the Mazda MX-5 crews to test.
**Ross Chastain was either unavailable or not invited to this test.

PHOTOS from Mazda MX-5 Cup testing at Martinsville Speedway (August 21-22/2023)

It wasn’t long ago we chased SuperStar Racing Experience stars such as Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Josef Newgarden (plus many more) at Pulaski County Motorsports Park.

Now, we’re back chasing the local stars in their division points battles. Season racing is coming into the final schedule so every lap and every position matter. Regional race fans are missing out if they don’t check out one of the remaining points races at Pulaski. Mixed in on the upcoming schedule is Monster Trucks and the SMART Modified Tour so there is plenty of variety still on the calendar.

For this Saturday (8-12-2023), the sun set with a colorful backdrop on the evening of racing. The schedule set twin Late Models and twin Sportsman races. Super Street, Mod-4 and Pure-4. The original schedule was switched just a bit as the DCT Towing Super Streets took the track first. Racing from P4 it was Jimmy Mullins up front at the checkers.

The twin Price’s Body Shop Late Model races were almost mirror images. Kyle Dudley started near the back and raced up to challenge pole sitter Mike Looney. The second race later that evening had Looney chasing through the field trying to catch Dudley. The two traded wins.

Daryn Cockram was another racer driving from several rows back to take wins in both of the Collision Plus Sportsman races. A packed track produced lap traffic but he raced from P5 in the first and P7 in the second to sweep the night.

The Total Car Care Mod-4 division was won by Rocky Yates.

The Blue Ridge Church Pure-4 division was won by Larry Yeary.

There is more racing coming up. Later this month the championship is up for the Stock-6 division with the other divisions chasing points to add up. Late Models, Sportsman, Super Street and Pure-4 are on track to put on a show on August 26th.

Photo Gallery – August 12, 2023 – Pulaski County Motorsports Park

The NASCAR Cup race on Sunday, July 30th, at Richmond Raceway went by with calculated strategy rather than “hit and run” havoc. The temperatures were still quite hot with in-car readings reaching 130 degrees. The pressure was on for a win as the Playoff season is coming fast. (The cut off race is Daytona at the end of August).

Team mates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher were the race lap leaders for almost half of the Cookout 400. Keselowski is also an owner for the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing team.

There were only 3 cautions and 2 were the stage finishes. The third came as the race was coming to a close setting up a 3 lap run for the checkers that had Buescher leading Denny Hamlin by half a second. The #17 Fastenal RFK Ford was well in front of the #11 of Hamlin before the caution.

Pit stops proved to be the “make it or break it” events for the race. Bubba Wallace had a good early run but a tire change mishap set him back. Pole sitter Tyler Reddick was flagged for a pit commitment violation and had to race back to a 16th place finish. Brad Keselowski also had a pit sequence which had him in the stall a bit too long with an odd angle going in forcing extra time on exit.

Tyler Reddick was the stage 1 winner. Brad Keselowski took stage 2.

Buescher’s win sets him into the playoffs. Denny Hamlin ran 2nd. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Ryan Preece filled the top 5.

PHOTO GALLERY – NASCAR CUP – Richmond Raceway – Cookout 400 – July 30, 2023

NASCAR mid-summer weekend at Richmond Raceway was a hot one. Temperatures pushed well into the nineties and the racing brought a challenge to teams and drivers. The late July schedule brought the Craftsman Series Trucks and NASCAR Cup to the Virginia capitol city on Saturday, July 29th.

The trucks faced a deadline as the Worldwide Express 250 at Richmond was the last race to make the series Playoffs. A win to secure or a points ride sufficient to cling to a spot was essential. Ty Majeski was going for it with a pole start and both stage wins. However, a pit road speeding mistake put him back in the field. This proved to be the point that upset the evening for the #98 ThorSport Racing Ford.

Majeski was able to race back to the front but it cost him a late race pit stop so he was out on track racing against fresh rubber on competitors’ trucks as the laps wound down. Those newer tires allowed #42 Niece Motorsports Chevy driver, Carson Hocevar, driving with the title sponsor Worldwide Express on the panels, to take the lead with three laps to go. The Richmond win for Hocevar made his third of the season as he drove from a 17th place start to win the night.

Majeski still had season points to make the Playoffs. The win would have been a boost but Majeski, Nicholas Sanchez, Matt Dibenedetto and series veteran Matt Crafton just made it in on points.

Corey Heim, Zane Smith, Carson Hocevar, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger, Ty Majeski, Ben Rhodes and Nicholas Sanchez, Matt Dibenedetto and Matt Crafton are racing into the Round of Ten with their next race coming at Indianapolis.

PHOTO GALLERY – Worldwide Express 250 – Craftsman Series Trucks at Richmond Raceway