Late Model Stock Car Practice a Success
More than 85 teams showed up for the practice day, countering the notion the new all-heat race formula to set the field would keep them away.
At the end of the day, some familiar names were at the top of speed charts, with a few fresh faces mixed in.
Former Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 winner and four-time national champion Philip Morris had the fastest speeds of the day, topping the chart at 92.493 mph (20.473 seconds). Kris Bowen and Jeff Oakley weren't far behind him at 92.420 mph and 92.411 mph respectively around the .526-mile oval.
Mike Looney of Roanoke was fourth fastest in a Chevrolet, followed by former national champion Peyton Sellers, also in a Chevrolet.
Despite sitting atop the speed chart, Morris wasn't totally happy with his car.
"It was an up and down day ... that's the way it always is here at Martinsville," said Morris, who is from Ruckersville. "You make big swings and sometimes you go the wrong way and sometimes you go the right way. By the end of the day today, I felt like we had pretty good balance in the car, though."
Lee Pulliam, the defending Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 champion who recently captured the NASCAR Whelen All-American national championship, ran among the leaders all day, but thinks he has to find a little more speed before the race on October 21.
"We tried a lot of different things, different combinations," said Pulliam, who won 22 out of the 36 races he started this season. "But I think we found a happy balance for the race car. There was a lot of experimenting going on today to figure out where we need to be when we come back. I think we have a good idea, but we still have a little more work to do before we come back."
For the first time the starting lineup will be determined solely from heat races. There will be four heat races on October 21, with the top eight finishers in each race advancing to the 150-lap feature. For the first time, the remaining 10 spots in the 42 car field will be filled through a 50-lap last-chance race, open to any cars which aren't already in the field.
"I think it's going to make for some exciting racing for the fans," Pulliam said of the new format. "I think sometimes you need change to re-energize things. It's the same for all of us. We just have to adapt to conquer it. However it is, it's Martinsville. It's still just as cool to win. It's the most fun place we run."
There are two big weekends of action coming up at Martinsville Speedway, the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 on October 21 and the TUMS Fast Relief 500 weekend Oct. 26-28. Tickets for all of the fall events are on sale and may be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX or by visiting www.martinsvillespeedway.com online.