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Wednesday October 16, 2019

What are the chances of a first-time series winner emerging when Martinsville Speedway hosts the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 for NASCAR’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series on Oct. 26?

Based on previous races, about as good as a run on the track’s famous hot dogs once the gates open.

For those into statistical lore, consider this: For the last five odd-numbered years – 2009 through 2017 - there have been five first-time winners in the series at the legendary .526-mile speedway.

In 2009, a young Timothy Peters, hailing from just down the road in Danville, Va., scored his first career victory in the NGOTS when he captured the a Martinsville truck series race win while competing for Red Horse Racing;

Two years later, another local favorite, Cup star Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., bested the field to earn his first victory in the series;

Bubba Wallace scored a landmark victory in 2013 at Martinsville when he became only the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series race, joining NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Wendell Scott. It was Wallace’s initial win in the series.

The 2015 fall truck race at Martinsville didn’t see a new winner – but that had been taken care of months earlier when current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano collected the victory in the March running of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race.

Rounding out the run of new first-time winners was Noah Gragson, the 2017 champ in the fall race.

Not only was the ’15 victory Logano’s lone win in the series, to date it’s been his only start as well.

“I wanted to win a truck race just to say I did all three,” the Team Penske driver admitted. “Honestly, since then, the opportunity has never really presented itself to run (a truck) again.

“I ran for (teammate) Brad (Keselowski) and he ended up hiring a couple of full-time drivers (for his trucks).”

Wallace, Gragson and Hamlin each won at Martinsville while competing for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Wallace, who now competes for Richard Petty Motorsports in the Cup Series, looks back at his victory as a catalyst that propelled him up the NASCAR ladder.

“A conversation Kyle and I had during the (’13) off-season,” Wallace said, “he said, ‘Dude, if you hadn’t won that race you wouldn’t be back here.’

“At the time I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ But then I started thinking about that and said, ‘Hell, if I wasn’t there (at KBM) for the ’14 season, I wouldn’t be here today in the spot I am. … It’s just kind of crazy how it all works out. That was definitely a huge win for me.”

Gragson has since moved on to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but hasn’t forgotten how special it felt to score that 2017 Martinsville victory.

“It was my first win in the series, obviously, but just all the history that goes with Martinsville – if you can win there, it‘s really big deal,” the 21-year-old Gragson said. “It has one of the coolest trophies with the grandfather clock, and there’s so much history there.

“It’s just a challenging race track in general to get around by yourself.

“With that being said, the way we did it passing Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton, that was really, really cool for myself being a rookie. Going up against two (series) champions and really the best guys in the series. Being able to pass Crafton on the outside, drive away from him and eventually to take the win was awesome.”

The NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 (FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET) is race No. 5 of this year’s playoffs for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Those looking for a Martinsville victory and a guaranteed spot in the Championship Four at Homestead Miami Speedway are Brett Moffitt (GMS Racing No. 21 Chevrolet), Stewart Friesen (Halmar Friesen Racing No. 98 Ford), Austin Hill (Hattori Racing Enterprises No. 16 Toyota), Ross Chastain Niece Motorsports No. 45 Chevrolet), Matt Crafton, (ThorSport Racing No. 88 Ford) and Tyler Ankrum (DGR Crosley No. 17 Toyota).

Will this year’s edition of the tremendously popular race see yet another fresh face in victory lane? Stay tuned.

In addition to the Hall of Fame 200, Martinsville Speedway will host the First Data 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Oct. 27. The race, slated for a 3 p.m. start (NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), is race No. 7 in this year’s 10-race championship chase.
Tickets to the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, the First Data 500 and the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Night Race at Martinsville Speedway can be purchased online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com or by calling 877.RACE.TIX.

Tags: Entertainment, Henry County, Martinsville Speedway, Motorsports, NASCAR, Racing, Ridgeway