C.E. Falk III enters the 2019 ValleyStar Credit Union looking to accomplish what no driver in the history of the event has ever done, which is to obtain back-to-back victories in a Late Model at Martinsville.

A win on Saturday would also put Falk in an exclusive two-time winners club that includes well-known Late Model names such as Tommy Lemons Jr., Lee Pulliam and Timothy Peters, but he and his team plan to keep working on his car over the next several days after Thursday’s test session produced mixed results.

“You have to go through everything,” Falk said. “I think we know where we want to be for the race, but we’re going to fine-tune this thing. We were throwing darts at the wall to see what worked, but what we initially showed up with was the best package we had. Now we just have to go back home and fix it.”

Falk had garnered a reputation of being one of the best active Late Model drivers to not win the prestigious ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in his first 11 attempts, but he finally silenced his doubters in 2018 when he drove his #02 A-1 Heating & Cooling Ford to victory lane on the front stretch.

The win did not come without controversy, as Falk found himself on the front row with Corey Heim for a third green-white-checkered attempt after accidents on the previous restarts eliminated potential winners from the race such as Josh Berry, Peyton Sellers, Bubba Pollard and Layne Riggs.

Another multi-car accident on the final restart brought the race to an end, with Falk being declared the winner after NASCAR reviewed the timing and scoring when the caution was displayed, even though video footage appeared to show Heim in front of Falk at the moment of caution.

With the race quickly enveloping into chaos, Falk was determined to immediately pull ahead of Heim once the green flag came out, but even though he understands Heim’s frustration on the outcome of the race, he is adamant that NASCAR made the right call in determining which one of them was the winner.

“A couple of guys before us had lost the lead by not being first to the start-finish line, so we knew it would be important to have a good restart,” Falk said. “I was trying as hard as I could, and I knew Corey was doing the same thing. I got to the gears a little faster than he did, and then the caution came out. That’s not the way I thought I would win this race, but it still counts in the record books.”

Falk took great pride in his long-overdue victory in the ValleyStar Credit Union, and still has the grandfather clock from Martinsville set to chime every 15 minutes at his house, but his focus is now set on Saturday’s main event, where he is expecting another challenging quest to victory lane with names like Berry, Sellers, Pulliam and Peters in the field.

CE Falk at speed in his familiar #40 car during last Thursday night’s test session. (Corey Latham photo)

Falk will look to accomplish a second consecutive Martinsville victory with the familiar #40 that adorned the side of his Late Model during the first decade of his career after previously piloting a #04 Late Model that paid tribute to his father Eddie Falk, along with the #02 owned by Doodle Dericho and Aaron Deplazes that he won with last year.

Falk stated that he does not feel as pressured to win the race following his success in 2018, and intends to have fun behind the wheel for Saturday’s 200-lap feature, but he stated that there are a lot of unknowns that are facing him and the rest of his competitors for the race, which includes the weather forecast.

“It was really warm [during the test session], but by all accounts, there’s going to be a difference in 20 degrees for Saturday,” Falk said. “We’ll have to wait and see honestly. This whole night thing is still new to us, and Thursday was only our second test session under the lights, so everyone is still learning. Our car was great in the day, but not at night, so we need to figure out why it did that.”

Falk will look to lock himself into the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 by being one of the fastest 20 qualifiers on Friday evening, while the rest of the starting grid will be decided by the top 10 finishers from the two heat races on the following afternoon.

Cover photo by Brad Newman.