Tommy Lemons, Jr. Looks for Repeat Success at The Paper Clip

Michael Diaz (left), Tommy Lemons, Jr. (center), Mason Diaz (right) hanging out in the garage stall right at the lunch break during Thursday’s test session. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)

Michael Diaz (left), Tommy Lemons, Jr. (center), Mason Diaz (right) hanging out in the garage stall right at the lunch break during Thursday’s test session. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)

To win at Martinsville Speedway has to be at the top of every Late Model Stock Car driver’s list of things to do. To win the race once is an honor in its own right, to win it more than once well, that puts you in a whole other league. Since the start of the fall only race in 1998 there have only been three drivers to win more than once and none to go back to back – Tommy Lemons, Jr. looks to add one more grandfather clock to his resume and be the first in twenty-two years to win back to back.

After holding off a hard charging Timothy Peters in last years edition of the Valley Star Credit Union 300, Lemons capped off what he described as a not so good year with one of the biggest paydays a driver can get in this division. With an impressive 2016 almost behind him already – sitting just 10 points behind Deac McCaskill – in the sophomore season of the CARS Tour Lemons has already found himself in victory lane twice this year. However, many drivers have said it before, Martinsville is a completely different beast.

“We came with a different package from last year just to try something different,” Lemons told The Weekly Racer Thursday afternoon as practice was wrapping up. “I feel like we are finally getting the car to where it needs to be. There was definitely a lot of grip in the morning when it was cool and with the sun out the track had started to slide a little bit. The track is taking a lot of rubber finally. Luckily we have been pretty free so we’ve been pretty good.”

With teams not running transponders for the test session, like they will do next weekend during practice and of course their time trials, all of the times gathered this past Thursday were unofficial stop watch times. With over sixty cars in attendance we were able to clock two laps back to back in the 20.40-second range – an unofficial 20.47 being The Weekly Racers official – unofficial time.

Teams got to experience a gambit of track changes throughout out the day with cool and overcast conditions early all the way to sunny and warm condition later in the day. What made things really interesting was the Goodyear tire test as well as the chemical NASCAR put down on the second groove to help with grip for the upcoming Sprint Cup race. We asked the defending champ of the race if that changed how he approached the test session.

“It didn’t affect us too much really,” Lemons stated. “From everything I gathered they were in the second groove for the most part for their test. I didn’t really see anything different with the bottom.”

At the end of the day Lemons seemed pretty happy with the car and they speed they were able to find.

“You really want to get all the speed you can get today,” said Lemons. “That way you can get a decent balance heading into next weekend so all you have to do is fine tune.”

Haulers will begin to roll into the garage area Friday evening. Garage and registration opens at 6:00 am Saturday morning. Gates for fans will open around noon and practice will run from 1 PM – 4 PM when group qualifying will get underway. The garage will open at 8 AM Sunday morning followed by the fan gates at 9 AM. The on track driver’s autograph session is slated to kick off at 10 with heat races starting at noon. Adult tickets are just $30 while youth 12 and under are $5.

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