For approximately 20 minutes, it seemed that no one, not even NASCAR, knew who won the 2018 ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

After two green-white-checkered attempts that knocked out several contenders for the victory, Super Late Model rookie Corey Heim found himself alongside Late Model veteran CE Falk III on the front row for the final restart of the evening. The run to the checkered flag would be cut short when another accident in Turn 1 involved several cars while Heim and Falk battled it out for the win, which left the fate of the race in the hands of the NASCAR rulebook.

NASCAR officials carefully examined the video and scoring evidence to determine whether Heim would get the victory after going through a tumultuous weekend, or if Falk would take home a grandfather clock in his 13th attempt. After careful deliberation, NASCAR determined that Falk was out in front on the last completed green flag lap and declared him the winner of the 2018 ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

“My family’s been coming here a long time,” Falk said. “They’ve sponsored cars, and my dad is in the Martinsville Hall of Fame for most heat race wins. We all come here wanting to win it, but that’s like winning the freaking lottery, and we did. We missed the wrecks, we were out front all night long, and my team did it. We might not have had the best car, but we were there when it counted, and this is something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”

While Falk was overcome with emotion, Heim was visibly frustrated with how the race turned out, as he had gradually worked his way into a position to win after starting 30th on the evening. While Heim offered his congratulations to Falk and his family, he firmly believes that he should have been the one taking home the grandfather clock, and compared his misfortunes to his previous wins at South Boston Speedway that were stripped away.

“In a way, I’ve won three Late Model Stock races, and I’ve come home not winning,” Heim said. “I’m three for three at this point, and I don’t know how many races I’ve been in where I’ve crossed the line first and had them taken away from me, but congratulations to the people who do end up winning it. Sometimes it just a racing thing, but it’s just a consistency at this point.”

The controversial end to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 capped off what had been a chaotic 200-lap feature up to that point. Stacy Puryear would take control early on, but the lead would exchange several times over the first 180 laps of the event, with names such as Philip Morris, Trevor Noles, Jeff Oakley, Layne Riggs and Josh Berry all finding the front at different points in the race.

The intensity would pick up after the second and final break on Lap 180, as Berry, who had the race lead at the time, was forced to hold off challenges from Peyton Sellers and Super Late Model veteran Bubba Pollard, both of whom had fresher tires. Berry was able to pull away from his competition as Sellers battle for second with Riggs, but a spin by Justin Hicks with less than five laps remaining, which would set up a late-race shootout.

An accident on the frontstretch involving Oakley, Matt Leicht and Mike Looney immediately brought out the caution, but timing and scoring determined that Sellers had passed Berry for the lead prior to the yellow being displayed. As a result, Sellers would restart on the inside of the front row, which had been the preferred line all evening, while Berry would be forced to try and win the race from the outside lane.

Berry was able to get the run that he needed after receiving a strong push from Riggs, but collided with Sellers going into Turn 1, which sent his #88 around in front of the rest of the field. Berry escaped the accident scene with minimal damage to his car, but responded by making contact with Sellers on a couple of occasions during the ensuing caution periods, angry that he had lost his chance at a Martinsville victory after a strong night.

The chaos would continue on the second green-white-checkered attempt, as Riggs attempted to go three wide on Sellers and Pollard for the lead, which caused another accident that knocked all three out of contention for the victory. Pollard went to confront Riggs and his crew during the red flag, where both drivers engaged in a heated discussion over the crash, but were separated by NASCAR officials to prevent further conflict.

Falk and Heim intended to settle the victory amongst themselves with several strong cars damaged or eliminated from the race, but another crash in Turn 1 involving Noles, Lee Pulliam and four others ended the race on yellow. Falk waited anxiously for NASCAR to call the winner of the race, and was relieved when he received word that he would be driving his #02 Virginia Heavy Equipment Late Model to victory lane on the frontstretch.

“Considering how my career has gone, I was counting on not being scored as the winner,” Falk said. “We just put faith in higher beings than ourselves, and I told my guys on the radio that if it didn’t go our way, then it would be OK, as the car would get to roll back onto the trailer. When they said that the next flag would end the race, I knew I would have to have the best restart of my life, and that’s what counted. This is an amazing feeling.”

Falk considers his triumph at Martinsville to be the biggest win of his long Late Model that includes three victories in the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway, and one victory in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown that came in 2010. Falk stated that there have been many big races throughout his career that have gotten away from him in the final moments, which is one reason why he plans on savoring every moment of his victory, which includes finding a place to put his new grandfather clock in his home.

Falk was one of several driver who was eligible to win the 2018 Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, but came up a few spots short of a championship despite taking home the win at Martinsville. The title would be awarded to Peyton Sellers despite his late-race issues, as he had recorded the best average finish of all Triple Crown participants by the time the checkered flag dropped.

Race Results:

  1. 02 CE Falk III
  2. 78 Corey Heim
  3. 42 Brandon Pierce
  4. 97 Trevor Ward
  5. 26 Peyton Sellers
  6. 57 Justin Carroll
  7. 18 Ty Gibbs
  8. 15 Kres Vandyke
  9. 16 RD Smith
  10. 07 Kevin Neal
  11. 41 Woody Howard
  12. 01 Philip Morris
  13. 8 Thomas Scott
  14. 6 Lee Pulliam
  15. 77 Blake Stallings
  16. 54 Jeremy Burns
  17. 2 Trevor Noles
  18. 61 Justin Hicks -1
  19. 88 Josh Berry -1
  20. 17 Stacy Puryear -1
  21. 25 Derrick Lancaster -1
  22. 73 Bruce Anderson -2
  23. 12 Austin Thaxton -3
  24. 82 Timothy Peters -4
  25. 99 Layne Riggs OUT
  26. 86 Bubba Pollard OUT
  27. 0 Matt Leicht OUT
  28. 11 Jeff Oakley OUT
  29. 87 Mike Looney OUT
  30. 23 Myatt Snider OUT
  31. 5 Dexter Canipe Jr. OUT
  32. 08 Tyler Hughes OUT
  33. 14 Ryan Repko OUT
  34. 75 Ryan Millington OUT
  35. 84 Colin Garrett OUT
  36. 04 Jonathan Findley OUT
  37. 31 Mike Darne OUT
  38. 27 Tommy Lemons Jr. OUT
  39. 22 Bobby McCarty OUT
  40. 71 Kyle Benjamin OUT
  41. 20 Grayson Cullather OUT
  42. 24 Mason Diaz OUT