Denny Hamlin rubbed his chin, gritted his teeth and said “the Late Model race at Martinsville.”
The question was simple, “what race would you want to have another chance at winning?”
Hamlin, who has won major races from the Daytona 500 to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, made no bones about the fact that he thinks about the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway on a regular basis.
“That’s one race that I have never won,” Hamlin said of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. “One race I could have back? It’s probably the Late Model race there where I won the pole and ended up finishing second or third.”
NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Mark Martin noted that he had to be on top of his game to collect his Late Model Stock Car win at Martinsville in 1987.
“There’s a huge level of competition in Late Model racing and it’s so tough for people to win at Martinsville,” Martin said. “Fortunately for me, I was in the peak of my Late Model career when I went there. I was really on top of my game and went in there with a fast car.”
Short-track regular and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson said that the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is an important celebration of local racing.
“I think it’s important because, not only is it something different, it is grass roots and a nice place to go see these guys, teenagers and adults, who are working extremely hard,” Larson said. “They work a normal job nine to five then find time when they get home to work on their cars and prepare them for the race track. Those people are just really dedicated hard workers and great racecar drivers too.”
For Hamlin, it is the atmosphere that makes the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 special, something he said the addition of LED lights and a primetime race will only add to.
“I remember the atmosphere signing in two days early and watching all the haulers pull in, being nervous about what the other drivers had,” Hamlin said. “It’s a battle of attrition race and I think it’s just one of the best races a Late Model fan could go watch, especially a night race at Martinsville.”
Martin agreed with Hamlin’s sentiment.
“That’s a major, major event for Late Models. Especially on the east coast,” Martin said. “It’s very prestigious for a Late Model guy to be able to race on Martinsville Speedway with the history that racetrack has. It brings the best out of the woodwork for that event. It’s something that every Late Model guy looks forward to.”
Kyle Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion, said that top-flight venues offering other series a chance to race is always a positive for drivers.
“I think it’s cool that some of these Cup venues have opportunities for other series to race at their tracks. You dream of that as a younger racer,” Busch said. “If you don’t make it to the Cup series, it’s cool to be able to race at those venues in what you’re good at doing. It’s fun for those guys.”
As for Larson? He will have his eyes out for highlights of the race on September 23.
“I always hear about that race every year as being one of the most exciting of the year, so it’s always fun to go back and watch the highlights,” Larson said.
Busch said that the event has gained a reputation that could entice him to visit Martinsville as a driver in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in the future.
“I know it gets hectic there at the end (of the race). It would be fun to go do that one year and see what it’s all about,” Busch said.
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race. Race day – Saturday, September 23 – starts with three 25-lap qualifying races to set the field, followed by a 25-lap “last chance” qualifying race. The feature race is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. under Martinsville Speedway’s new permanent LED lights.
Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com. All tickets are general admission and are $30.
Motor Racing Network (MRN) will be broadcasting the race live on their website, mobile application and select affiliates.
Martinsville Speedway PR