VallyStar Credit Union 300 Review: Lemons Grabs Emotional Grandfather Clock

Front StretchAnother year and another action packed race at “The Paperclip.” Certainly one of the races every year that never disappoints! 80 of the best Late Model Stock Car teams converged on the seemingly flat half-mile track located in Ridgeway, Virginia all looking for two things; 1) a $27,000 payday and 2) the legendary grandfather clock. In a field stacked with more talent than any one person could shake a stick at Tommy Lemons, Jr. found a way to take both of those back home with him.

“Our season hasn’t been what we wanted but the win at Caraway back in July, that meant a ton to me. Rusty meant a lot to me and I think a lot of his family. To win here, it’s a pretty special year,” Lemons said after the race. “I said it a couple times tonight, you know.  When I get to hang my helmet up and my driving shoes, I get to say I’m a two time Martinsville winner.  Not a lot of people can say that.”

Besides a few technical glitches and hardware failures, and lets be honest here, when you’re messing with computers and electronic systems, things are bound to break at some point. That point just happened to be during the Mid-Atlantics most prestigious Late Model Stock race of the season. As many of you know Saturday was plagued with scoring issues, well the issue really was the lack of scoring rather. A broken wire in the scoring loop at the start/finish line, unfortunately, caused this. The wire was damaged when the track installed the new SAFER walls down the entire inside and outside walls of the track. I can tell you folks from personal experience, these wires are actually pretty small and easy to damage.

With the drivers in mind, and even talking with the drivers the track decided to keep everything rolling Saturday to allow teams maximum time on the track. When it came down to qualify they decided to stick with the five cars, five lap group qualifying. 10 officials (so if you think about it really, two officials per car) took to the stopwatches to set the 80+ car field and determine the starting line up for the heat races.

Well, when it rains it sure does pour doesn’t it? After getting someone to the track over night to fix the scoring loop we all thought we were in the clear and ready for some intense racing. Well, we sure did get the intense side-by-side action in the heat races, but what we also got were more computer issues. A computer that is located in the scoring tower that controls the infield scoreboard had crashed leaving fans, crew members, and members of the media in the dark for some time. I do have to give it to NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway for fighting through all the issues that kept coming up.

The race in its self however was nothing less than edge of the seat exciting, well if I am speaking for myself. You had your typical front-runners, just cruising till the breaks, yes I said breaks. After some calculations done by multiple teams they realized that they were not going to make it to the advertised lap 150 break, citing fuel was the issue (word I am getting was the teams were not allowed to hardly touch the car after the heat races let alone add fuel). NASCAR evaluated the situation and called for a competition caution at lap 100 for FUEL ONLY! Some teams ignored that call and were sent to the rear of the field on the restart because of it.

We also had some drivers really surprise us with their run. One that comes to mind almost seamlessly is 15 year old Todd Gilliland, who at one point during the longest green flag run, had about a ¾ straightaway lead over the second place man. I swear that car was super charged, nitrous boosted, and would pick up a US Navy aircraft carrier steam propelled launch cable out of the turns! His day would ultimately end far from where he, and the rest of the crowd, expected after getting shuffled up the track and into the wall late in the race after a few wild restarts.

“I don’t really know.  Someone just got in our left rear and sent us up the track a little bit and then I had marbles all over my tires.  It was just hard to regain your composure after all that, after you’ve been leading all those laps and it’s frustrating.  We’ll learn from this and it’s made me a better driver,” Gilliland told our partners at Race22 after the race. “My crew guys gave me a really good car and we led a bunch of laps, gained a lot of respect from other people and we’ll come back here next year that much better and hopefully make it to the end of one of these races.”

All in the entire race was extremely exciting and proved yet again why it’s the best Late Model race on the east coast. Even after taking out the mandatory 10-to-go caution the fans were still able to see great racing, and put more control in the drivers hands, which by the way they still left us with a thrilling GWC finish. A finish that had pole sitter Timothy Peters hard into the inside wall and then hit by a few more cars has he slid across the stripe.

“We had a good car and we were in the right place at the right time on some of them restarts,” Peters said in the press box after the race. “There at the end we go a good run coming through one and two. We took the white flag and I had a good run on Tommy going into three. He went up and I was just trying to chase him up the track, maybe try to slow him down a little bit coming off turn four, try to rub against his door panel. I ended up hitting his tire and that’s what caused me to go head on into the wall. Nothing he done, I was just trying to get Barry Nelson and everyone at Auto By Nelson that clock for the show room.” After video review Peters would ultimately be scored in the fourth position.


Lee Pulliam extended the curse of the National Champion not being able to win the race again in 2015. However, it was not because of misfortune, wrecked race cars, or a mechanical failure, a plus in my book. Another plus, the man was able to muscle his way to a second place finish just putting more icing on the cake that is the 2015 racing season. His second place finish was enough to earn him the 2015 Virginia Triple Crown title, with an average finish of 1.33 in the three races. Just one position away from being the first driver to sweep all of the events, the now 3 time NWAAS National Champion was able to take home an additional $10,000 check for his accomplishments!

 

OFFICIAL Results:

  1. | 27 | Tommy Lemons
  2. | 5 | Lee Pulliam
  3. | 16 | R D Smith
  4. | 12B | Timothy Peters
  5. | 21C | Travis Swaim
  6. | 01B | Jake Crum
  7. | 41 | Brayton Haws
  8. | 83 | Matt Bowling
  9. | 50 | Jamey Caudill
  10. | 12C | Ryan Wilson
  11. | 73 | Bruce Anderson
  12. | 58 | Tyler Ankrum
  13. | 88 | Josh Berry
  14. | 7 | Spencer Davis
  15. | 3 | Kaz Grala
  16. | 77 | Blake Stallings
  17. | 33C | Alex Yontz
  18. | 11 | Juan Garcia
  19. | 40 | C E Falk
  20. | 2A | Dennis Holdren
  21. | 00 | Shane Lee
  22. | 03 | Brenden Queen
  23. | 18 | Quin Houff
  24. | 98 | Todd Gilliland
  25. | 81C | PAtrick Coleman
  26. | 57 | Eddie Johnson
  27. | 2B | Myatt Snider
  28. | 2 | Matt Waltz
  29. | 8 | Thomas Scott
  30. | 15 | Kres VanDyke
  31. | 25 | Derrick Lancaster
  32. | 51C | Dalton Sargeant
  33. | 36 | Anthony Anders
  34. | 44 | Dillon Bassett
  35. | 17B | Stacy Puryear
  36. | 10 | Nick Smith
  37. | 21 | Chad McCumbee
  38. | 01 | GE Waldrop
  39. | 20 | Sam Yarbrough
  40. | 06 | Davin Scites
  41. | 99 | Tony Keen
  42. | 2 | Brandon Butler

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