For all the negative things that came out of the 2018 running of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, there’s a lot of positives that have from the event heading into this years running of the biggest Late Model Stock Car race in the country.
Erased heading into this years are the engine package concerns from the last few years and clearer and more precise rules are in place to ensure that last years issues don’t come up again. Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell and Race Director Lynn Carroll have worked hard since last years event to ensure that racers and race fans aren’t disappointed with this year’s race.
Campbell announced a series of changes for this year’s event in June outlining a bigger purse for the winner and the top five finishers, returning to single-car qualifying and tweaks to the race format. The biggest change came in the form of not allowing any changes to the rules to be made on race weekend this year after last years race turned into a fiasco when a rule change was made just hours before the green flag.
Carroll, who is a veteran Race Director and former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Director of Weekly Racing, wants this year’s race to go off without a hitch. And, he says that despite Campbell leaving the door open in the June announcement for changes to be made on test day, that there won’t be any competitive changes this year period.
“We (Carroll and Campbell) worked through the changes together,” Carroll told RACE22. “Of course the engine package is different this year in the rulebook. It seems to be more competitive, so we’re going with the rulebook and everything in the rulebook and not making any competitive changes like we did last year.”
He added that no changes would be made from a competition standpoint after practice or during the test.
“We’re not going to make changes during testing or after practice or after qualifying or anything like that,” Carroll explained. “It’ll be a much better race and a much more competitive race. We’re going to try and get all the information out to the drivers ahead of time so they know the procedures and race procedures and trying to make it as competitive an event as we can.”
Carroll said he doesn’t to be involved in the outcome of the race but won’t allow rough driving to affect the outcome either.
“We don’t want to be involved in the outcome of the race,” Carroll said. “We basically want the competitors to be the ones that decide the race. But, that being said we’re not going to let anyone take the guy out to win the race. We’re not going to do that.”
Unlimited green, white, checkered finishes have been added to this year’s event and Carroll explained what they will look at to determine whether or not to throw a caution or let the race play out.
“We always decide everything on the safety aspect,” Carroll explained. “If there’s a single car spin and there are no cars around him anywhere and he can get going then we don’t throw the caution. But, if a car spins and there’s any chance whatsoever there’s a safety issue we’re definitely going to throw the caution.”
When it comes to the engine packages, Carroll has attended a few races this season and has talked to inspectors from all over the region to assess where they are with the rules going in.
“We’ve talked to the inspectors that are at the race tracks and engine builders and competitors. Everybody seems to think that the engine package is the best it’s been for the different makes of engines and the different combinations that we have out there now.”
Carroll says that while Martinsville is different than other tracks in the region, he still feels this year’s rules will make this year’s event competitive.
“They seem to be as equal as we can get them. That’s why we decided to leave it as it is in the rulebook. Even though Martinsville is a different race track than they run on and it’s going the longer straightaways, we still feel like it’s going to be fairly equal even over there.”
Carroll and his staff have had to fight the engine packages over the last several years and it’s a relief for everyone to have a package that can be left alone.
“It’s really been hard and you don’t get a true reading on practice days,” Carroll continued. “Even in practice sessions, competitors are competitors and they can sandbag to try and get a little bit then they’re going to do that. This year we don’t have to worry about that. Nobody has to worry about that when they go to practice, they go to set up their cars for the race weekend and when they practice on race weekend they’re practicing for the event. They’re not going to be worried about any changes that are going to be made or worried about persuading us into making any changes, we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Carroll says his staff is also working to correct the scoring issue that cost Josh Berry the lead late in the race after the veteran driver had dominated the event. The issue arose on a late restart when Berry was beat to the line by Peyton Sellers and when the caution came out just after that and before another lap could be completed, it put Sellers in the lead and subsequently led to Berry and Sellers tangling in turn one on the next restart.
“We’re working on procedures to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Carroll said. “Last year was just a unique deal the way it ended up and everybody got the green on that restart and the number two guy beat the number one guy back to the line and that’s why it ended the way it did. We’re working on the race procedures to try and keep that from happening. The unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered will definitely help that.”
Carroll also explained that their realignment will be handled differently for restarts this year. They’ll still utilize the cone restarts but when a caution comes out they’re going to use split
“Also our realignment process, we’re working with scoring so that we don’t run into that issue anymore. We’re trying to do split cautions so if a guy is already across the line when we go back to the completed green flag lap, he’s going to get what he’s got. Instead of going back a whole lap for everybody, so they’re getting what they got.”
The split cautions will allow scoring to capture the cars that have crossed the line and score them as they were across the line for that lap while reverting back to the previous lap for cars that didn’t complete that lap. This process will not penalize a driver who made a pass in turns three and four on the lap coming to the caution and help with scoring and realigning cars for the restart an easier process.
Carroll also said that they would be assigning all the garage stalls, pit stalls, inspection order, and car numbers all based on the date of entry received. He also explained that duplicate car numbers would be allowed but the first car to enter the race will get the car number without a letter added to it for scoring purposes.
Carroll feels that not changing numbers will actually help everyone involved.
“They’ll get to keep their number but they’ll have a letter beside it,” Carroll said. “It was worse when we had to change the numbers. If a guy had a 24 and he had to change to a 25, well everybody is used to the 24. So when you say ‘alright 25 you need to do this or that” they’re not seeing that as their car. This way it’ll make it better. It’s better this way and I think it’s better for the competitor and the stands and everybody that’s used to seeing that number.”
Carroll and part of his staff will be at Martinsville Speedway tomorrow for the six-hour test session as teams prepare for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, which will take place next Friday and Saturday, October 4-5th with the race set for Saturday night under the lights.
RACE22.com will have RACEDAY LIVE updates all evening long starting at 3:00pm tomorrow for the test session and continuing well through the final car taking time on the track.
Cover photo by Corey Latham.