Matt Waltz on track during qualifying at Martinsville Speedway in 2018. (Jaden Austin photo)

A familiar face in the Virginia Late Model scene will attempt to make his grand return to auto racing on Saturday evening when former Langley Speedway champion Matt Waltz gets behind the wheel of the #2 for one of two heat races in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

Although Waltz has not competed in a Late Model race since 2017, he enters Martinsville ready to do battle with many of his old rivals from Virginia and around the East Coast, and hopes to bring home a grandfather clock for his birthday.

“I’m turning 30 on Sunday, so this is a nervous birthday weekend for me,” Waltz said. “I was thinking about what I wanted to do for my birthday, but even though I didn’t want to do anything too wild and crazy, I didn’t want to sit at home. I saw the date for Martinsville, and I put some thought into it, and everything just ended up working out.”

Prior to his retirement, Waltz was an active competitor at short tracks all around Virginia  for nearly two decades, but he enjoyed the most success at Langley, where he tallied numerous victories, including an impressive 12-win season in 2012, and brought home a track championship at the facility in 2017.

Despite being a long-time competitor, Waltz has only made five attempts in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, with his best finish in the event coming in 2014, where he kept his Late Model out of trouble all afternoon after starting in 13th and managed to come home in seventh.

Waltz’ most recent start in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 was a disappointing 28th place showing in 2015, but he does not plan to let his past issues at Martinsville hinder him during the weekend, as he is confident that the equipment provided to him by Cameron Bowen and his family will keep him up near the front of the pack.

“Cameron Bowen’s moving to Texas, but his family still had all of their stuff,” Waltz said. “Cameron’s dad still wanted to do some racing, and we talked about it and managed to get a deal together for Martinsville.”

Waltz was not among the 78 drivers that descended upon Martinsville for the annual test on Thursday due to a previous commitment, and took his first laps around the track with the rest of his competitors when everyone arrived on Friday afternoon.

Waltz was unable to put down the lap he was looking for when the lights came on at Martinsville, but he stated that his focus for the remainder of the weekend is to stay patient and keep his Late Model out of trouble in the heat races so that he can add his name to the long list of ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winners.

“We want to put our best foot forward,” Waltz said. “We’ve been working on this car at the shop for over the last month, and we have a pretty good notebook from the place when I race at Martinsville in my car. I feel like I know where I want us to be, but this is a different year and a different race track.”

Waltz will line up tenth in the first heat race later this afternoon, where he will have to fight drivers such as Matt Leicht, Jake Crum, Mike Looney and others in order to make the 40-car starting grid for the 200-lap main event tonight.