2016 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner and 2019 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National points runner-up Mike Looney stood tall after a six-hour test session at Martinsville Speedway on Thursday evening.

Looney toured the half-mile track at 20.088 seconds during the evening portion of the test session under the lights and his time would be fast enough to break the track record set last year in qualifying by Stacy Puryear at a 20.100. Looney spent most of the day in the top five on the speed charts and ended the night in the number one position but he and his team had to work hard to find the speed he was looking for.

“We played it too conservative the last couple of years,” Looney said after testing. “We were really trying to stick to our old setup that we won with and we thought maybe it was a fluke that the following year we weren’t that good at night. We come back last year and struggled again after the sun went down and we made our mind up last year when we left that we got to get our work gloves on and get busy.”

Looney said he knew he was good during the day but knew he didn’t have the right feel in the car to give his team the confidence they needed.

“We thrashed on that car today and we were good but we knew it just didn’t have that feel I was looking for, that feel that I remember when we won. I think we changed every spring but the right rear, sway bar, track bar, bump stops, shocks, we threw everything in the trailer at it. My buddy Forrest Reynolds was floating me some tips from down at Concord. He was home building chassis’ today and this is a new car he built us and we’ve got 11 wins on it.”

Craig Moore, a regular on the CARS Tour, found himself sitting second on the speed charts at the end of the night and he was thankful for how well the car ran especially given that it was destroyed in the most recent CARS Tour event at Orange County Speedway back in August.

“We’re just blessed to be here,” Moore said after testing. “I tore my car up pretty bad at Orange County in the last CARS Tour race. Just been blessed to get this thing back together and had some awesome help from some awesome sponsors. We made some really good gains on it today and we weren’t really that good when we unloaded. I feel like we have a really good game plan to come back with for next week.”

Craig Moore at speed during the Thursday, September 26, 2019 test session. He ended the session second fastest overall. (Corey Latham photo)

Despite the speed, Moore isn’t getting ahead of himself for next weekend. He says he just wants to make the top 20 in qualifying and keep the fenders on his car.

“As long as we can qualify in the top 20, keep the fenders and doors on it and be there at the end of the race, I feel like anybody’s got a shot to win it,” Moore explained. “I feel like that’s what the goal needs to be and I think we got a car that’s capable of doing it. Being second today proved that. I feel like hopefully, we’ve got a shot at it.”

Behind Looney and Moore were a host of formidable challengers including defending Virginia Triple Crown championship winner and current Virginia Triple Crown points leader Peyton Sellers. Despite Sellers speed, he has an eye on weather changes for next weekend that could change the handling of the cars.

“I didn’t know what to think earlier today,” Sellers said. “The track was really green the first hour or two hours. It had decent grip but it was like it was real hazy. This temperature right here is going to be more comparable to what we’re going to see next week. To go from 90 to 70 is a big transition. I think we learned more the last two hours than we’re going to learn the whole night. We made decent adjustments and I feel pretty comfortable with our program right now.”

Two-time race winner and current runner-up in the Virginia Triple Crown points standings, Lee Pulliam was fourth fastest among the 80-cars that took to the track today. The most dominant driver in last year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300, Josh Berry, was fifth fastest on the day. Other notables included last year’s winner CE Falk who was eighth fastest, former winner Jason York was ninth and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Brennan Poole was 11th.

Around 80 cars are expected to return next weekend for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and with just the top 20 being locked in by qualifying on Friday, October 4th, many teams will be searching for a spot in the race in the two heat races on Saturday evening to finish setting the field for the 200-lap main event on Saturday night. With all of the format changes from single-car qualifying returning, fewer heat races and stage breaks in the feature, it could very well be one of the best ValleyStar Credit Union 300 races yet.

Tickets to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, the First Data 500 as well as the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Night Race at Martinsville Speedway can be purchased online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com or by calling 877.RACE.TIX.

Cover photo by Corey Latham.

Rankin Race Engines Test Times

  1. Mike Looney – 20.088
  2. Craig Moore – 20.134
  3. Peyton Sellers – 20.175
  4. Lee Pulliam – 20.189
  5. Josh Berry – 20.204
  6. Ryan Wilson – 20.215
  7. Dexter Canipe, Jr. – 20.223
  8. CE Falk, III – 20.226
  9. Jason York – 20.249
  10. Trevor Noles – 20.254
  11. Brennan Poole – 20.258
  12. Brandon Pierce – 20.272
  13. Dylan Ward – 20.278
  14. Travis Swaim – 20.299
  15. Kres VanDyke – 20.304
  16. Justin Carroll – 20.324
  17. David Gilliland – 20.340
  18. Trey Crews – 20.346
  19. Jamey Caudill – 20.350
  20. Brenden Queen – 20.365
  21. Jeff Oakley – 20.375
  22. Brandon Clements – 20.388
  23. Derrick Lancaster – 20.407
  24. Taylor Gray – 20.421
  25. Colin Garrett – 20.431
  26. Bubba Pollard – 20.439
  27. Jake Crum – 20.478
  28. Kyle Dudley – 20.479
  29. Mike Darne – 20.484
  30. Grayson Cullather – 20.493
  31. RD Smith – 20.516
  32. Stacy Puryear – 20.523
  33. Tommy Lemons, Jr. – 20.552
  34. Jason Barnes – 20.553
  35. Jonathan Findley – 20.563
  36. Bruce Anderson – 20.614
  37. Austin Thaxton – 20.633
  38. Justin Snow – 20.662
  39. Mason Bailey – 20.703
  40. John Moore – 20.718
  41. Amber Lynn – 20.739
  42. Annabeth Barnes-Crum – 20.790
  43. Davin Scites – 20.831
  44. James Sweeney – 20.848
  45. Owen Smith – 20.921
  46. Kyle Barnes – 20.928
  47. Chris Elliott – 21.094
  48. Jeff Shiflett – 21.409