Seven years have passed since Rougemont, North Carolina native Craig Moore last visited the prestigious ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, but his most recent successful qualifying attempt occurred in 2006, which resulted in a disappointing 41st place finish.
With a brand new Late Model Stock Car in his stable, Moore has elected to return to Martinsville to try and qualify for the 2019 edition of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, and is confident that he can hold his own with former winners that include Timothy Peters, Lee Pulliam, and CE Falk III even as his career begins to wind down.
“I’m probably going to scale back a little bit next year and maybe do about five or six CARS Tour races,” Moore said. “My little boy is going to be pretty wide open and I don’t want to miss out on him growing up, so I just can’t do a full season commitment anymore. This may be the last time I’m even able to do Martinsville, but I feel like I’m in a really good position with the car I have.”
Moore has been a regular in the CARS LMSC Tour since the end of the 2016 season, but he began to emerge as a frontrunner in 2018 after leading 38 laps in the Cloer Construction 300 at Hickory Motor Speedway, and earning a pole in the Thrifty Tire/Puryear Tank Lines 300 at Orange County Speedway.
Moore ended the season on a high note in the AutosbyNelson.com 250 at South Boston Speedway by leading 65 of the 125 laps and taking advantage of a late-race accident under caution between Timothy Peters and Brandon Pierce to secure an emotional first CARS LMSC Tour victory.
Moore took great pride in the accomplishment, but he knew that he would have to invest more in his program to keep up with the likes of Josh Berry and Bobby McCarty in the CARS LMSC Tour, which resulted in him purchasing a new Late Model from A&E Chassis halfway through the 2019 season.
“You hate to give up on something after you win with it, but I had done everything I needed to do with that car,” Moore said. “I knew that the only thing that would prevent me from working on the old car was selling it, but I’m definitely pumped up with what we have in our current car as we head into Martinsville.”
After skipping the Who’s Your Driver 125 to work on the new car, Moore put together four consecutive Top 10 qualifying runs and managed to lead 70 laps in the Throwback 276 at Hickory before being passed by Ryan Repko with 28 laps remaining and settling for a second-place finish.
Moore was poised to pick up where he left off at Hickory the following race by sitting on pole for the Thrifty Tire Mid-Atlantic Classic, but he would be one of several drivers to fall victim to a flywheel failure on Josh Berry’s Late Model, as Moore slipped in the oil and crashed hard into the outside wall in Turn 3.
The accident forced Moore to make extensive repairs to his brand new Late Model, but with everything now good to go for the ValleyStar Credit Union, Moore believes that he can easily improve upon his personal best finish of 23rd in the event after spending the past few years regularly battling the top drivers in the CARS LMSC Tour.
Moore will go up against many of those same drivers in a couple of weeks along with several staples of Late Model racing in Virginia that include Peyton Sellers, Lee Pulliam, and Mike Looney, which will put a heavy emphasis on qualifying on Friday with a new rule locking the fastest 20 drivers into the main event.
Moore is willing to take his chances in one of the two heat races if needed, but regardless of how he qualifies for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, he expects a lot of attrition to take place during the weekend and plans to be smart and patient in order to have an opportunity to contend for the win.
“This race is all about luck, and you have to be in the right place at the right time,” Moore said. “It’d be really awesome if I brought home a grandfather clock and that $32,000 paycheck wouldn’t be too bad either. We have the right pieces, and I think this is the best opportunity I’ve had to win this race.”
Depending on how the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 unfolds for him, Moore also intends to compete for a trophy in the Rodney Cook Classic at Ace Speedway and will attempt to defend his first career CARS LMSC Tour victory on November 2nd at South Boston Speedway.
Cover photo by Andy Newsome.