After a brief one-year hiatus due to the closure of Langley Speedway, the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series returned in full force during the 2017 season with one of the closest championship battles in the event’s history. Nearly a dozen drivers found themselves in contention to take home the series’ title in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, but Late Model veteran Timothy Peters managed to hold off the rest of the field to pick up the victory and clinch his first Virginia Late Model Triple Crown title.
The 2018 Virginia Late Model Triple Crown season is scheduled to being on June 30th with the Thunder-Road Harley Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway, with many Late Model veterans, including Philip Morris and Peyton Sellers, expected to contend for the championship. 2016 Whelen All-American Series champion Matt Bowling will also be seeking his first Virginia Late Model Triple Crown championship, and will be doing so under a new partnership with Nelson Motorsports.
Bowling has had his fair share of success in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series during the course of his career, which includes a victory in the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway in 2012, but Bowling is confident that his partnership with Nelson can give him the momentum he needs to bring home three strong finishes.
“Nelson Motorsports has always had great equipment,” Bowling said. “Both of our teams are local, and I’ve known a lot of people on that team for a while, so I started talking with them, and we just put a deal together, and I am very thankful for the opportunity.”
The 2018 Late Model season has been quiet for Bowling to date, as he only has one start in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour this season in the Do the Dew 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway, in which he brought his #83 Hopkins Lumber Late Model home in 11th after starting third. Bowling was also one of the drivers who participated in the revival of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Langley Speedway, but he was forced to settle for a 27th place finish after breaking an axle on Lap 138.
Bowling is optimistic that his partnership with Barry Nelson will help turn his season around, as Nelson Motorsports is currently in the middle of one of their most successful seasons in the team’s history. Timothy Peters opened the year for the team by winning the IceBreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway, while Bobby McCarty has visited victory lane in two of the five CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour races, and currently leads in the standings by 12 points over Lee Pulliam.
Bowling had planned to make his debut with Nelson Motorsports during one of the weekly events at Ace Speedway last weekend, in which he would have gone up against many track regulars and CARS Response Energy Tour drivers who were using the race as a test session for the Race to Ace 125. However, the evening’s activities were interrupted by scattered rain showers, which forced track officials to postpone the event, delaying Bowling’s debut.
Although Bowling had hoped to get some laps in at Ace, he is now focused on giving Nelson Motorsports a strong run in the Thunder-Road Harley Davidson 200 at South Boston. Bowling brought home a Top 10 finish in the event last season, but a strong start to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 was cut short after he was involved in two accidents during his heat race that prevented him from qualifying for the main event.
Bowling knows that winning all three legs of the Virginia Triple Crown will be an immense challenge, as he will have to deal with the unique characteristics of South Boston, Langley and Martinsville, as well as the strong competition that will be prevalent at all three tracks. However, Bowling remains confident in his ability behind the wheel, and believes that his partnership with Barry Nelson will be beneficial to both of them for the rest of the season.
“We’re just going to try and go out and win races,” Bowling said. “That’s what we always try to do every week, and everyone at Nelson Motorsports shares the same mindset. They’ve been improving a lot recently, and I feel like I’ve been improving as well, so I don’t see why we can’t compete for wins at all three of those races and win the Triple Crown.”
Bowling plans to make the most of his opportunity with Nelson Motorsports, and is currently working out details to add more races to his 2018 schedule. Along with the Virginia Triple Crown, Bowling plans to make a couple more appearances in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour later this season, along with starts at South Boston, Ace, and other tracks.