Jake Crum arrived at Martinsville Speedway for the Bailey’s 300 on October 4, 2009, with only redemption and determination on his mind. Crum had failed to qualify for the prestigious Late Model Stock Car race in his first attempt in 2007, but had returned to the historic short track with more experience on his side, confident that he could be a contender for the win.
Starting in the 11th position, it did not take long for Crum to move his way up through a strong field that consisted of former Bailey’s 300 winners Dennis Setzer and Frank Deiny Jr., and by the 102nd lap of the race, Crum had taken the lead for the first time. Crum would find himself in a fierce battle with future NASCAR driver Brennan Poole, as the two exchanged the lead five times throughout the second half of the race. Crum eventually gained the upper hand on Poole, passing him for the lead with nine laps to go, and was able to hold him off for his first career Bailey’s 300 victory.
“My thoughts going into the weekend were to make the race and miss all of the wrecks and just stay out of trouble,” Crum said. “This was back when the field was set by qualifying times, instead of the heat races you have to survive now, but we made our way to the front, and I was very happy to say the least.”
Since that victory at Martinsville, Crum has made select appearances in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 over the past few years. Crum finished 21st in the 2011 edition of the race after being involved in an accident late in the race, and failed to qualify for the event in 2014 after crashing out in the last chance qualifier. His most recent appearance at Martinsville was in 2015, where he started on the outside of the front row and led 31 laps before settling for a sixth place finish.
Crum will be chasing a second victory in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on September 23, but will be for a different car owner. Crum will be driving for Jason Stanley, who normally fields Late Model Stock Cars for Justin Carroll along the east coast. Crum got the opportunity after receiving a phone call from Stanley, who asked if he wanted to drive one of his cars.
A part-time racer himself, 2017 has been an eventful year for Stanley. Along with helping Travis Kvapil with his son Carson’s driving career, and assisting David Gilliland Racing’s Super Late Model program, Stanley has been actively involved in both the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series and the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour with Justin Carroll behind the wheel. Carroll secured a Top 5 finish in the revival of the Hampton Heat 200, and scored his first career CARS Tour victory in the Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway in a paint scheme dedicated to the late Dick Trickle.
Crum is looking forward to the opportunity for another win at Martinsville as the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 itself enters a new era. The 2017 edition of the race will be the first night race in the event’s long history, as the track unveiled its new LED lights last October. Crum believes that racing under the lights will create plenty of excitement for the fans, as the cooler conditions will create better racing.
“There’s going to be a lot more grip in the racetrack,” Crum said. “That means everyone’s going to be glued to the surface whether they like it or not.”
Although the cool conditions are likely to create more intense racing, track position will still be important for all the competitors. Martinsville is a track that is known for its tight corners and close racing, which makes it difficult to pass, and often leads to several on-track accidents. However, Crum believes that maintaining patience and being conservative on the track will be important to surviving until the finish.
“I’m going to have the same strategy as last time,” Crum said. “I’m going to avoid the wrecks and stay out of harm’s way, as well as having a goal of being in one of the invert positions. However, it really comes down to just having all the luck go your way.”
Crum will have to compete with a talented field of drivers if he wants to get a second ValleyStar Credit Union 300 trophy. Lee Pulliam, Phillip Morris, Tommy Lemons Jr. and Mike Looney are among the repeat winners that are expected to file entries for the event. Crum will also have to fight off the fourteen drivers who are competing to clinch Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series, which includes Bobby McCarty, Nick Smith and Brendan Queen.
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race. The day starts with three 25-lap heat races to set the field, followed by a 25-lap “last chance” heat. Tickets for the September 23 event are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.