Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 Offers Big Pay-off
But a handful of drivers will be gunning for a big bonus, plus bragging rights as the winner of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown.
Martinsville Speedway, South Boston Speedway and Langley Speedway, all Virginia tracks, partnered to stage the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown series, a season-long battle for bragging rights in the Commonwealth and a $5,000 payout to the winner. The second-place finisher will claim $3,000 while third will pay $1,500.
Three races made up the Triple Crown: the season-opening South Boston 300, the Langley Heat 200 on July 28 and the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville on October 21. Points are awarded to drivers in each event based on their finish.
Norfolk's C.E. Falk leads the Triple Crown chase headed into the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 with 83 points. He won the first leg of the Triple Crown at South Boston and was second in the Triple Crown event at Langley, his home track.
Ridgeway's Matt Bowling is only four points behind Falk with 79 points headed into Martinsville with a win at Langley and a fourth at South Boston, his home track.
Nick Smith, who has yet to enter the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300, is third in the Triple Crown points with 64, followed by Eddie Johnson in fourth with 40 points. Peyton Sellers and Wesley Falk are tied for fifth in the standings with 36 points.
"The Triple Crown definitely is a big deal if we can pull it off," said Bowling, who won South Boston's track championship this year. "We think about it, but we try to keep it in the back of our mind. We're going out to win the race. It's Martinsville, you have to go in it with that mind set."
The $25,000 first-place money is the biggest in NASCAR Late Model racing, but it could be a much, much bigger payoff if the race winner captures the Triple Crown, has the fastest time, which pays $1,000, and wins the $2,000 half-way award. That would mean a whopping $33,000 payday, the biggest ever for a Late Model winner at Martinsville. That record is currently held by David Hyder, who pocketed $27,000 in 1997 when he won the race and the pole award.
NO NEW-FORMAT BLUES FOR MOST: When Martinsville Speedway announced earlier this year it was moving away from qualifying to an all-heat race format for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300, there were some outspoken critics among drivers.
Fans loved it from the beginning, and now it seems most drivers do, too.
"Real men love heat races," former race winner Jake Crum said recently in a tweet.
Bowling admits it's going to be a change, but tends to agree with Crum.
"It's a little different ... instead of two laps to get into the show, you've got 25," said Bowling, who two years ago at 16 became the youngest driver to ever qualify for this race. "You kind of have to let it all hang out for the heat race, but you have to be conservative, too. You have to have something left to race the race. I'm looking forward to it, but I wouldn't want to be the man in eighth-place at the end of a heat race."
The top eight finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the 150 laps feature. The final 10 slots in the feature will be filled through a 50-lap last chance race with the top 10 making the show.
THE SCHEDULE: Action kicks off for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 on Saturday, October 20 with inspection beginning at 6:30 a.m. Cars will begin practice at 1 p.m. Speeds from the final hour of practice, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., will be used to set the fields for the heat races.
There will be an autograph session on the front stretch at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The first of the four heat races begin at 12 noon on Sunday, October 21, followed by the 50-lap last chance race. The 150-lap feature should begin around 3:30 p.m.