2017 South Boston Speedway Limited Late Model Track Champion Colin Garrett comes into Martinsville looking for experience and a solid performance. Dinah Thompson Photo

Every year at Martinsville there’s always a rookie sensation or young gun that stands out from the competition. This year is no different, as it promises to bring out the drivers that’s either been reluctant to compete or young drivers that’s ready to make their mark at NASCAR’s oldest and most prestigious race track. This year’s breakout star could come in the form of Colin Garrett.

In the relatively short three years of racing, Colin Garrett has race at South Boston Speedway in their Pure Stock division and then he moved up to the ultra competitive Limited Late Model division. At first, the Elmo, VA native didn’t know what to expect and his team didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they started out. Garrett then quickly moved up to the limited late model in 2016 with some help from a powerhouse team in Sellers Racing Incorporated and Frank Deiny Jr. from FDJ Motorsports.

“I leaned pretty heavily on Frank Deiny Jr. at the beginning of the season. He was coaching me through a lot of stuff such as passing and how to conserve tires, etc, when he left me mid season to go spot for Jr Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports, I still had his voice in the back of my mind telling me what to do. He would come test with us on a Wednesday before the race and Mathew Dalton would fill in for him on Saturday. Frank was always a phone call away if we needed him. When we won a race without him and ended our two month drought, that kind of re boosted our confidence. Now that we’re winding the season down, I don’t rely on him as heavily as I did at the beginning of the season, but I always listen to what he has to say.”

“Peyton is great. He gives me a lot of advice, and a lot of times I don’t listen and then he’ll say I told you so afterward which kills me, but he spotted for me a few times while Frank was gone and he coached me through multiple situations where I couldn’t have done it myself.”

Garrett also was jokingly talking about both men’s advice and how it’s made him a better driver.

“It depends on the day, they often give conflicting advice, so one day I take ones advice and the next day I take the others. Maybe it’s a mix of both. I don’t know they’re both great drivers and coaches that I lean on and I’ve learned to be pretty successful this season.”

Garrett had a relatively good rookie season in 2016 (even though Colin thought it wasn’t the “ideal season”) he had probably one of the best rookie campaigns. Colin didn’t have the best of luck towards the beginning as he was finishing in the latter part of the top 10. The back half of the season proved to be his shining moments has he rattled off multiple top 5 finishes behind the like of Joey Throckmorton, David Latour Jr. & Mike Jones. Colin finished the 2016 season with a respectable 4th place finish in the championship with 1 podium, 5 top 5’s and a record 17 top 10’s and rookie of the year honors. In addition to rookie of the year season, he also won the UNOH Youth Achievement Award, which is given to the tracks divisions rookie drivers between ages 14-18. The award goes to driver that accumulates the most NASCAR points based on his/her best 14 finishes at the track. Also a sweet bonus is the driver that wins gets $500 cash and $500 scholarship to attend UNOH (University of Northwestern Ohio).

After a pretty good 2016 season, how would the Sellers Racing Inc. young driver top that? Easily, he would race capture 5 wins in 13 starts and the track championship. He swept the twin 25’s on June 17th and he wouldn’t finish outside the top 5 in his last 8 starts. Garrett also traveled to Dominion Raceway and Southern National Motorsports Park on the off weeks and race late models. He started 8 races among the two tracks and finished top 10 every race with 2 top 5 runs against the always stacked competition. He’s also ranked in the top 50 of the UNOH Youth Achievement Award National Points Standings..

One personal achievement Garrett accomplished this season was breaking the old track record at South Boston, with the addition of the new asphalt at South Boston it produced new track records in every division and the limited late model track record was shattered by Garrett.

“It makes me feel really good. At the beginning of the season, Frank (Deiny Jr.) signed on with us to be my crew chief for the 2017 season, with the exception of a few races where FDJ Motorsports’ Mathew Dalton filled in while Frank was away spotting for Justin Allgaier in the Xfinity Series. We had a great car built over the winter that the guys from Sellers Racing did a phenomenal job on. The new track really fit my driving style and we were quite pleased with the first few test days spent there. When the first race rolled around we shattered the track record which was pretty amazing to do with the competition of guys who I was up against in that division, such as Trey Crews and Mike Jones.”

This season’s success at South Boston gave Garrett some confidence heading into his first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 test.

“Well when we showed up that afternoon, I had never driven around the place except for on my iRacing simulator. When I got out there for the first time I got up to speed, I use that term very lightly, I was mostly trying to get used to how long and fast the straightaways were and how quick the corners came up on you into the braking zone. I believe it was into the dusk hours that I became more comfortable with that. When the second practice session started that night, I felt pretty good, my teammate Peyton Sellers ran some 20.30s to 20.40s I believe so we have some work to do. That’s why I’m glad I’m bringing this other car. Peyton has been giving me a lot of advice on how to drive the track, and even some of my good friends such as Ryan Repko. Hut Stricklin called me last Friday night and gave me a few pointers on what I should do when I return this Friday that legends such at Dale Earnhardt Sr. and others taught him. I believe my EMRYS Properties Toyota Camry will be a lot better this Friday.”

The question that’s been asked more this year than whose going to win is, what do you think the brand new state of the art LED lights and racing under the lights? “I think it’s really cool. The Late Model Stock Cars seems to have been getting a lot of press about it, which it doesn’t normally get on the national level, so I think it’s a big deal for LMSC racing. I think they announced the other day that Kelley Earnhardt is going to be the pace car driver for the race as well which is really cool.”

Garrett was among the long list of drivers who made the trip to Martinsville for the first ever test session under the lights last Thursday. He echoed the words of many others including fellow rookie Brandon Pierce, the turns had a lot more grip in the night time hours and the cars seemed to pick up a tenth or two on the straightaways.

“It was terrible,” said a sarcastic Garrett, “No it was okay, we unloaded pretty decent. The car had speed, but it had a few kinks we had to work out with it, sadly at the shop on Friday. The track definitely picked up speed and grip when the sun went down and the new LEDS turned on. We just had a few mechanical troubles, but nothing too major. We will actually be bringing my favorite car and what I feel is my best piece back to Martinsville. I’ll be bringing my South Boston championship car from this season over there. We kept it all in one piece this past weekend so we are able to do that. I’m actually really excited to bring it. My other car is a really good car, but you just can’t beat the feeling of getting in the car that you’ve won 6 Pole awards and 5 races in this season.”

With the confidence and momentum that Colin Garrett is riding from a successful season and a good test session last week, he thinks they’ll be a team to watch this weekend.

“Yes I believe we could make the race and be a threat to win. The guys from Sellers have been working nonstop the past few days trying to get it switched over for Martinsville. I went and picked up the engine a few days ago down in Charlotte, so they’re all working hard to make sure it’s perfect, so that means I have to be. The last two times I’ve raced this particular car I have won so hopefully this weekend will be a repeat. I went into this past weekend with a job to do and I have the same job to do this weekend as I do every other weekend… win.”

Although Garrett doesn’t know what the future holds in store for him, he knows that he needs to compete and try to win every race he can this year.

“I don’t really know what we have planned quite yet for next season. I can go ahead and confirm that I will not be returning to Limiteds but other than that nothing is solid yet. We still have a bunch of races left in 2017 before we have to figure things out. I know Sellers Racing and Frank have talked, but as of now I have job to do in my #24 EMRYS Properties Toyota Camry and that’s to go out and win for Sellers Racing. You can’t think about the outcomes, that’s what breaks you.”

“I definitely think that the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 can make me, but I don’t believe it will break me. Yes, it is the most prestigious LMSC race really in the country. Everyone’s watching to see who wins or runs well. Teams, sponsors, etc. so I believe that if I were to have a good solid run this weekend it could be really good for me and my career. On the other hand, there’s A LOT of stiff competition there. It will be disappointing if we don’t make the race or don’t have a good run in general but we do have other chances at the spotlight later this year at races such as the Myrtle Beach 400.”

Colin would like to thank his sponsors EMRYS Properties, Springfield Distillery, Mission 22, St. Lawrence Radiology, Simpson race Products, and all of the guys from Sellers Racing.

The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race. The day starts with three 25-lap heat races to set the field, followed by a 25-lap last chance race to set the feature lineup. Tickets for the September 23 event are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.