All eyes were on Josh Berry, who led each of the 200 laps of Saturday’s feature race at the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway. But there was plenty of action in his rear view mirror, as well. Here’s what happened elsewhere on the track throughout the day.
Sellers settles for 6th place, second in VA Triple Crown
Danville’s Peyton Sellers was in contention for a top-five finish all evening, and he reached as high as second late in the race, but he ultimately finished in sixth place—3.766 seconds behind Berry.
“We had a good car right at the end, it just wasn’t good enough after that last restart,” Sellers said.
The last caution came with about 12 laps to go, but it lasted long enough that, upon the restart, it would be a six-lap race to the finish.
“Six laps to go, we just had all rear-brake, and something with the balance bar or some issue, we’ve got to figure that out,” Sellers said. “I don’t know what it was.”
The top five behind Berry traded hands several times during the race, speaking to the strength of the field.
“Berry was just in another time zone tonight, for sure,” Sellers said. “The rest of the field was just so competitive. It didn’t surprise me those guys were swapping spots and nobody could get away from anybody because everybody’s so good right now.”
Lee Pulliam’s second-place finish pushed him ahead of Sellers in the Virginia Triple Crown race. Pulliam earned $7,000 by having an average finish of 3.33 in the three races that make up the series. Sellers’ average finish was 3.66, earning him $2,000. Timothy Peters placed third in the race and in the Triple Crown; his average finish of sixth earned him $1,000.
Looney exits early
Mike Looney, of Billy Martin Racing in Stuart, started the first heat race slotted fourth but managed to work his way up to first in the heat, navigating around several cautions along the way. The heat win gave him the 21st starting position in the night’s feature.
His luck ended there, however, as he experienced some tire rub following a brief collision with another driver, and he eventually blew the tire on the 33rd lap. Looney’s fender was pushed into his right front wheel and ultimately caused it to blow along the front stretch.
“I could feel it in the wheel, it was pretty heavy. I kept hoping it would (fix itself), but it didn’t get any better,” Looney said in a track-side interview following his exit. “I just thank God for letting that thing blow out on the straightaway instead of going into Turn 1, because that would have hurt bad and killed our race car. … It just wasn’t in the cards here tonight.”
Looney, the 2016 winner making his eighth start at Martinsville, did not finish the race but was officially credited with a 37th-place finish.
Gray, 15, suffers rollover accident
On lap 132, 15-year-old driver Taylor Gray got the worst of an accident along the back stretch out of Turn 2.
Sammy Smith, of Nelson Motorsports, had a tire go out, forcing him to spin out to the left and clip the front end of Gray’s car.
“I had a tire go down. There’s nothing I could do or he could do,” Smith said in a track-side interview upon leaving the medical center. “I just started to lose it, and (Gray) didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Gray’s car, upon striking Smith’s, elevated and rolled two-and-a-half times before coming to a stop on its roof.
“It’s a hopeless feeling. You’re kinda just bracing for dear life,” Gray said about going airborne and rotating. “You can’t really do anything about the situation.”
Gray and Smith were evaluated and released from the infield medical center without any reported injuries.
“I’m perfectly fine. … Momentum just took me right there,” Gray said. “Everything’s good. It’s just unfortunate because we had a really good race car. … We’ll just have to wait for next year.”
The crash resulted in a red flag delay of 30 minutes, 31 seconds before the race resumed.
PHCC’s Anderson bows out in Heat 1
Bruce Anderson, driving for Patrick Henry Community College’s racing team, looked to be in good shape during the final laps of Heat 1, but he got spun out on Turn 2 of lap 47.
Anderson had been in the third position with three laps remaining in the heat race, situating him nicely to advance to the feature race. But he got nudged from the side and ended up facing the oncoming field.
Somewhat surprisingly, Anderson’s car was the only vehicle damaged in the accident as the drivers behind him managed to avoid his wreck. He missed out on the top 10 of the heat and, thus, was unable to race in the feature.
- Defending champion CE Falk was the 20th and final car to make the cut for the feature race during Friday’s qualifying. He eventually worked his way up to 11th place in the feature, but he fell behind following some car trouble around lap 92. He placed 21st.
- Layne Riggs held a comfortable second position behind Berry for much of the evening, but he and his team called it quits after the second stage due to mechanical problems. Riggs was in the eighth spot when he exited, and he was credited with 26th place overall.
- The biggest riser, in terms of starting position relative to where they finished, was Brendan Poole, who started his day by taking ninth in Heat 2 and starting the feature in the 38th position. He finished 15th.
- Other notable risers include Kyle Dudley, who started 29th and finished eighth; Kres VanDyke, who started 27th and finished 10th; and Jacob Heafner, who started 25th and placed 12th.
Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton.