Another 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.