With Josh Berry set to pick up a dominating victory in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville, Trey Crews found himself in a great position to come out of his first start in the prestigious Late Model race inside the Top 5 with drivers such as Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers and Timothy Peters.
Crews would not get the opportunity to hold the position, as his car sputtered following a brief red flag that forced him to relinquish his spot at the front of the field and come down pit road, which relegated him to a 22nd place finish.
“We were trying to get all we could there,” Crews said. “We made the call to get five gallons of fuel on each stop and it didn’t last to the end. We had a better call than fifth, and I think we would have gained some more positions, but for our first time here, we really learned a lot and the team worked their tails off to get me in that position.”
Crews entered Martinsville with confidence on his side despite posting only the 18th quickest time out of 48 cars with transponders during the annual test session last Thursday, as he was able to put down a solid time of 20.149 that put him seventh on the board.
Crews backed his speed up in qualifying with a 20.120, which earned him a starting position of 12th for the 200-lap Late Model feature and enabled him to watch the two chaotic heat races from the comfort of his own pit stall.
The first two stages of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 did not feature Crews as a primary contender inside the Top 10, but he gradually moved his way up to the front of the field in the closing stages after carefully observing what other drivers were doing correctly and incorrectly out on the track.
“Divebombing the corners on entry really isn’t the way to do things here,” Crews said. “I tried to bide my time and set up cars coming out of the turn, as that’s a really good way to pass here without tearing stuff up.”
Crews found himself in the fifth position with less than ten laps to go, and was ready to fight Pulliam, Sellers and others for a spot inside the Top 3, but his team’s gamble on fuel mileage would cost Crews an opportunity at the solid finish that he had hoped to obtain.
Crews said that he believes the decision of his crew to go with a lighter load of fuel came down to getting the weight just right on his Late Model to make a run at the Top 5, but he admitted that no strategy would have been enough for him to chase down Berry for the victory.
“I doubt that I had anything for Berry, but we were turning some of the fastest laps out of that group of four behind him,” Crews said. “We would have been right up there with them, but Berry had a strong car all night. It’s all really a bittersweet feeling knowing that your car was that strong, but you didn’t have anything to show for it.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Crews stated that he and his team learned a lot about setups and the right techniques to get around Martinsville, and they plan to put that knowledge to full use when the 2020 ValleyStar Credit Union arrives.