MARTINSVILLE, VA – Christiansburg, Virginia native Derrick Lancaster was one of the biggest surprises during the 2017 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway. After starting in the 25th position, Lancaster methodically carved his way through the field and survived several major accidents to bring his #25 Total Car & Truck Services Chevrolet home in 11th.

The long-time Late Model has been preparing all month for his return to Martinsville, and is hoping to not only contest for his first Top 10 at the historic short track, but also for an opportunity to take home a grandfather clock. Lancaster’s strong run in 2017 has given him confidence going into the weekend, and will roll off 10th in the second of three heat races.

“It was awesome,” Lancaster said. “We made leaps and bounds on getting the car better, but we just have to keep moving forward and not let anything happen in the heat race.”

A long-time regular at both Motor Mile Speedway and Kingsport Speedway, Lancaster has been attempting to make the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 almost every year since 2006. However, Lancaster often struggled to find the speed and luck that he needed for the race, as he failed to qualify during all eight times he attempted the prestigious event between 2006 and 2014.

Lancaster’s luck would finally turn around in 2015, where he was able to hold onto one of the final transfer spots in the Last Chance Qualifier to race his way into his first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in the 40th starting position. Lancaster managed to keep his Late Model out of trouble for most of the event, but he was swept up in an accident with less than 15 to go, which forced him to retire in the 31st position.

Outside of Late Model racing, Lancaster elected to make select appearances in the ARCA Racing Series, where he earned a best finish of sixth in the four starts he made between 2014 and 2017. While Lancaster did end up purchasing a composite body shortly before they were introduced in ARCA full-time, he decided to sell his equipment near the end of 2017 in order to focus on Late Models.

Lancaster has been looking forward to this year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 since he took the checkered flag last year, but he admitted that he did not get the start to the weekend he was looking for. After only posting the 68th quickest time in the Friday morning test session, Lancaster began adjusting his #25 RGM Erectors Late Model and posted the 34th fastest time in qualifying, and believes that he has the car where he wants it to be in time for the heat races.

“I made a big mistake,” Lancaster said. “We brought a new car here, and we had some steering problems with it as well as some different stuff, but we have everything going now. It’s been bottoming out, but we put some packers in it, and we’re going to see what we can do with it.”

Lancaster knows that it will be difficult to repeat his performance from last year, as he will be going up against over 70 other drivers who want a grandfather clock as badly as he does. However, Lancaster plans to stick to the same strategy that earned him his 11th place finish at Martinsville in 2017, and hopes to survive the chaos and attrition once again to have a chance at victory.

“The main thing is to stay out of trouble,” Lancaster said. “We’re going to try and stay inside the Top 10 during this heat race and get in the feature, stay out of trouble during the first 100-150 laps and just go from there.”

Lancaster will have to hold off a strong field of drivers in order to advance to the main event and avoid the LCQ, including JR Motorsports development driver Sam Mayer and former Rodney Cook Classic winner Blake Stallings. Josh Berry will start on pole in Lancaster’s heat while Philip Morris and Brandon Pierce will lead the field to the green flag in Heat 1 and Heat 3, respectively.