Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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VA is for Racing Lovers 300 brings diverse field of racers

The VA is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway, is arguably the most prestigious asphalt late model race of the year. Racers from all around the U.S. and internationally are in attendance going for the $25,000 prize. Perhaps even more important than the purse is the coveted grandfather clock trophy that Martinsville gives away to all race winners.

This season’s field has a very diverse mix of crafty, veteran experience and youthful enthusiasm. From former and current NASCAR touring series drivers to up and coming rookies who have only competed at their local short track, there are many different perspectives, goals and expectations.

Highlighting the field in this season event is the 2013 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion, Lee Pulliam. As Pulliam pointed out the series championship does not make a driver the favorite at this event, “The NASCAR Whelen All=American Series national champion hasn’t won Martinsville in their championship season. We’d like to win it as national champions. It’s the race everybody wants to win.” Pulliam was eighth fastest in qualifying and will start second in heat race 4.

Pulliam will have stiff competition. Also in the field is former race winner and NASCAR national touring series driver, Dennis Setzer. Setzer talked about his car’s performance on the morning of the race, “Well we haven’t been as good as we usually are, we’re tight in the center and a little loose off and haven’t been able to work that out for the test or in yesterday’s practice, so we’re searching for a little bit, but I appreciate Robert and Charlie Long and these guys on the Romeo Guest Ford, they’ve done a good job and they’ve got a good car under us, if we can just get that final little tuning in, so we’ve made another adjustment or so, so we’ll see how it goes.”  Setzer qualified 36th fastest and will start ninth in heat race 4.

The other side of the token for this event is the young guns. The up and coming racers that have been standouts at their local home track. These drivers will be the stars of tomorrow, the names you will see in the major NASCAR touring series in the years to come. They give us a completely different perspective on this event.

A prominent example of the diversity here at Martinsville is drive for diversity driver, 18 year-old Annabeth Barnes. Barnes started racing go-carts at age seven and has worked her way up to late models competing at one of the most historic tracks in NASCAR, Hickory Motor Speedway. She will be making her Martinsville debut this weekend. Barnes commented on her Martinsville experience, “Martinsville’s crazy, it’s awesome, I mean the whole experience, we’ve been here for two days now, so this is day three for us. It’s awesome, you prepare for so long to get everything perfect to come here and you get here and everybody tell you it’s not. … This track is amazing, it’s a super fun track to be on, especially for people like me who race short tracks from week to week to get to come to such a nice facility is a real treat.” Barnes was 72nd fastest out of the 89 entries, and has her work cut out for her as she will start 18th in heat race 4.

Another great example of the young guns here this weekend is Brenden Queen. A very well spoken articulate 15 year old racer from Chesapeake, VA and competes regularly at Langley Speedway where he won rookie of the year this season in late models. Queen spoke about his qualifying run, “We adapted pretty quick to the track, I played a lot of I-Racing here to practice, it’s always been my favorite NASCAR track, so to come here is really cool.  We were a little slower than we wanted. We came here for regular practice and ended up 27th. We went out for the European qualifying got caught up behind some slower cars then the tires got heated up and we ended up 43rd. I think we made the right adjustments for the heat race, hopefully we can get in the show. It’s all in the man above’s hands see what he can do.” “We’re comfortable, it’s just a racetrack, you know, I come here, I want one of those clocks bad. Nothing better than to be a rookie to win it.” He went on to thank his car owner, Larry Nelson and afterhours fabrication, along with his mom and dad who were instrumental in making this weekend happen. Queen will start 11th in heat race 3.

Other notables in the field are current Camping World Truck Series driver, Timothy Peters and former event winner and Whelen All-American Series National Champion, Phillip Morris.

A wide range of experience, ability and funding is represented in this race. This event is the short rack racers – “Daytona 500”, their crown jewel. For these racers, nothing compares to taking home that beloved grandfather clock trophy.

We will crown the VA is for Racing Lovers Champion today, will it be the cagy veteran or the hard charging young gun? Time will tell. Heat race begin at noon with the feature to follow.

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