As Friday evening concluded, it appeared that Jeff Oakley and Deac McCaskill would start 1st and 2nd, respectively for the first ever ValleyStar Credit Union 300 under the lights, and would earn the privilege of skipping the chaotic heat races. However, it was revealed that both Oakley and McCaskill had violated post-qualifying inspection, and would be forced to forfeit their starting positions and start from the rear of their heat races.
Friday night would only serve as the beginning of Oakley and McCaskill’s issues. In Heat 1, McCaskill began to make his way through the field when his car encountered mechanical troubles early on, which forced him to retire from the race. McCaskill’s team was unable to repair the issues with his Late Model, and they elected to withdraw from the event and head back to North Carolina.
Oakley would not fare much better in his heat, as he struggled to find ways to pass cars from the back of the pack during Heat 3. A cut tire in the final laps of the race ended any opportunity that Oakley had of transferring in to the main event through the heat, but more problems were discovered in his car as the team prepared for the LCQ. Oakley was unable to turn a lap in the LCQ, and was one of the 40 drivers who failed to qualify for the event, ending a weekend that got off to a strong start on a sour note.
Oakley and McCaskill were not the only two Late Model veterans that failed to qualify due to their performance in the heat races. Matt Bowling, who started on pole in the second heat race, battled with Peyton Sellers throughout the race as the two traded the lead several times. However, when Sellers took the lead late in the race, Bowling was spun by Mason Diaz in front of the field, but was able to continue without damage.
With less than 10 laps remaining in the race, Dylan Ward and Jason Barnes spun in the middle of the pack, forcing many drivers to take evasive actions. However, Bowling was unable to stop his car in time, making heavy contact with Barnes that caused extensive damage to Bowling’s left-front suspension. His team attempted to make repairs for the LCQ, but the damage was too severe for Bowling to be competitive, ending his chance at a grandfather clock.
Martinsville proved to be brutal to many drivers who were expected to be contenders for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. Barry Beggarly, a former ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner, and Davin Scites, a double-digit winner at Motor Mile Speedway, both missed the event after getting involved in an incident together. A good portion of the Martinsville rookies encountered trouble, as JR Motorsports driver Anthony Alfredo blew an engine in Friday’s practice and was forced to withdraw, while Colin Garrett, who was receiving help from Peyton Sellers, failed to qualify after crashing in the final laps of Heat 3.
With so many drivers encountering misfortune at Martinsville, it created opportunities for other drivers to take advantage. Jake Crum and Stacy Puryear benefited from the disqualification of both Jeff Oakley and Deac McCaskill, and started on the front row for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. They will have many strong competitors to fight off for the win, including Tommy Lemons Jr., Lee Pulliam and Philip Morris, who are all looking to add another win at Martinsville to their resumes.