The best Late Model Stock Car drivers on the East Coast will make the trip to Martinsville, Virginia next weekend for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. Timothy Peters will look to add another grandfather clock to his collection after holding on to win the race in 2017, while five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Philip Morris is looking to become the first driver to win the race four times.
Among the handful of drivers who are looking to make their first career start in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is Marietta, Georgia native Corey Heim, who will be driving a Late Model fielded by two-time Martinsville winner Lee Pulliam. Heim normally competes in Super Late Models, but he hopes that a strong run in one of the most prestigious Late Model races in the country will be beneficial towards his racing career.
“I want to make appearances in a lot of big races,” Heim said. “Martinsville is a pretty big attraction, and a lot of people around me said that I could get noticed if I do really well there. It turned out that Lee Pulliam had an opening for a driver, so we contacted him, and it all worked out really good.”
Heim grew up watching drivers such as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson battle it out every weekend with his father, but he began to follow in their footsteps when his father surprised him with a quarter midget at the age of five. Heim initially used both the #11 and #77 but elected to switch to the #78 later in his career after multiple drivers began using duplicate numbers at his home track, with Heim modeling his number after his favorite driver Martin Truex Jr.
After finding success in quarter midgets, Heim continued to develop his career in Bandolero and Legends competition, before his family elected to purchase a Pro Late Model near the end of the 2017 season. Heim’s first major test behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model came in the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway, where he was able to hold his own in a field that included Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse and Chandler Smith, and brought his car home in eighth place.
For the 2018 season, Heim decided to move up to Super Late Models, and competed in several different divisions along the East Coast, which included full-time campaigns in the CARS Response Energy SLM Tour and Southern Super Series. Between the two series, Heim has accumulated four Top 5 finishes, with his best run coming in the Thrifty Tire/Puryear Tank Lines 300 at Orange County Speedway, where he finished second to Kyle Plott.
While Heim was putting together a solid first season in Super Late Model competition, he and his team began talking with Pulliam about making his Late Model debut, which eventually came on Aug. 11 at South Boston Speedway. Heim ended up winning both 75-lap Late Model features that evening, but a post-race inspection revealed that his car had too much camber in the rear, which disqualified Heim from both races and handed the victories to Ryan Repko.
With South Boston behind him, Heim is focused on improving himself in order to remain in contention during the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. Heim credited his strong run at South Boston to the advice that Pulliam has been giving him, adding that his constant mentoring is what allowed him to stay in front of drivers such as Philip Morris and Peyton Sellers through the entirety of both features.
“Lee’s been a really big help,” Heim said. “I don’t think I would be anywhere near as good as I am now if it wasn’t for Lee. He could see every little thing that I was doing wrong, and he would just keep instructing me and tell me how to get better.”
Heim understands that Martinsville will present a much different atmosphere than South Boston, as he will be competing against one of the largest and most talented fields in his career as opposed to the 21 other drivers he raced against in his Late Model debut. Heim is confident that he can add his name to the noteworthy list of drivers who have won the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 but plans to be patient and observant in the early stages of the race in order to have a chance at victory.
“It’s going to be a really long race, and success is going to depend on survival,” Heim said. “Approaching this race, I’ve obviously got to do a lot of studying, and I plan on watching every race from the past three years to observe how people who won their race started out, and how they conserved their tires. I hope to pick up things pretty quickly, especially with Lee by my side, but I just plan to conserve my stuff and stay out of trouble.”
Heim is finalizing his plans for the 2019 season, but he intends to make regular appearances in Super Late Model events while also balancing a part-time schedule in the ARCA Racing Series. Heim is also working on running a couple of more Late Model races after the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 concludes, and is optimistic about finding room on his schedule to regularly compete in Late Models in 2019.