For Trevor Ward, patience was key as he waited until the final stage of the race to make his move to win the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway after Mother Nature delayed NASCAR’s biggest and richest Late Model Stock Car race to Sunday.
Ward also pulled off a come-from-behind victory in the Virginia Triple Crown points to earn the $7,000 bonus. Ward
“It’s awesome and we put in the work to do it this year. It’s the first time I’ve even run for it,” Ward said of winning the Virginia Triple Crown. “It’s just amazing, I love that they do the Triple Crown deal and put this gig together. It makes a lot of people race harder and it makes you look forward to the races that are coming up.”
One of the fastest cars all weekend had trouble early in the race, as Ryan Millington came to a stop in turn four when the power steering belt broke on his No. 15C only 28 laps into the race. He had been running fifth at the time after leading wire-to-wire to win his qualifying race earlier in the day.
2016 race winner Mike Looney spun 37 laps in and collected a handful of cars in turn four, bringing out a red flag to clean up the incident. Looney ultimately went behind the wall less than 60 laps into the race.
At the halfway break, pole sitter Bobby McCarty remained on point, winning the $1,000 bonus awarded at Lap 100 by Clarence’s Steakhouse. Carson Kvapil was second, Ward was third, Landon Huffman was in fourth and Doug Barnes Jr. wrapped up the top five.
Kvapil and McCarty battled for the lead at the start of the second half of the race, with Kvapil taking the lead from McCarty after just a pair of laps. McCarty then quickly slipped back to fourth, in what may have been the start of bigger trouble brewing for the favorite.
With 55 laps to go, McCarty went up in smoke and came to a stop in turn four, bringing out a caution and eliminating him from the running for his first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 win.
“Just had a motor go, just unfortunate,” McCarty said after exiting the race. “I don’t know if it started at the halfway break, just felt like I was driving through mud.”
But Ward continued to lurk near the front of the field for the entire race, and as a series of unfortunate circumstances took out top contenders and set up late-race restarts, he capitalized on a perfectly set-up car to hold off Landon Huffman in a fierce battle through the final laps.
After the caution for McCarty’s blown engine set up a close battle at the front with 35 to go, Ward started to pressure Kvapil, with Sellers right on his bumper in third. By the final break with 25 to go, Huffman had joined the picture and was right next to Sellers as the caution flag flew for the break.
Kvapil captured the $1,000 bonus for leading at lap 175, and led the field back to green for the final 25-lap segment.
A fierce battle between Sellers, Ward, Huffman and Kvapil ensued and Sellers initially held the advantage. But he wasn’t able to get away, as Ward continued to poke his nose inside Sellers – finally taking the lead and pulling away with less than 20 laps remaining in the race.
A late caution bunched the leaders back up and set up the key restart with seven laps to go. Ward took the inside and Sellers restarted outside of him with Kvapil behind him in row two. Sellers and Ward came together as they came to the start/finish line, which sent Sellers backwards on the outside. He recovered to land in fourth as everything sorted out on the track.
Huffman shuffled through on the inside to take the lead, but Ward stayed right on his bumper. As they came to the line with two laps to go, Ward was ahead of Huffman on the inside. The pair came together as they got to the white flag, but both maintained control, leaning on each other through the final lap when Ward edged out Huffman for the checkered flag.
“I didn’t know it was going to boil down to the last 25 laps and what it was we needed to do, but all in all, I knew it was going to take a good driving car to do it tonight,” said Ward, who collected his first Martinsville Grandfather clock with the win. “A lot of times these cars, they get in heat cycles, and they’ll go haywire then you’ll burn the tires up, but this car never changed all night. I can’t thank everyone enough for what they’ve done for me.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the qualifying races that set the field for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 brought the heat, as there were no drivers locked in for the main event leading in.
McCarty led the field to green in the first qualifying race after setting the fastest lap in Friday’s qualifying session, and ultimately took the checkered in the race. Defending race winner Sellers and 2023 South Boston Speedway track champion Carter Langley both advanced out of the opening qualifying race.
Huffman was on point for the start of the second race, and in a race that saw six cautions, finished second to Barnes to advance. Looney finished third to advance.
Meanwhile, newly crowned NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion Connor Hall nearly saw his ValleyStar Credit Union 300 chances vanish when he tangled with Magnum Tate going into turn one on a late-race restart, losing the driver’s side door panel from his car. But he bounced back to finish 10th and advance to the main event.
Kvapil started on pole for the third qualifying race, with Queen alongside him – and the pair finished one-two.
The 2023 ARCA Menards Series East champion William Sawalich was solidly inside the top 10 with three laps to go when he wrecked in Turn 3, with Kyle Dudley. The damage bent up his hood and the team couldn’t rebound. He finished 14th and failed to make the main race.
The fourth and final heat race spelled trouble for 2021 race winner Landon Pembleton, who faced some difficulties a mere four laps into the final qualifying race. The team ultimately couldn’t recover from the damage to advance, finishing 14th in the final qualifying race.
Next up at Martinsville Speedway will be the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale on Thursday, Oct. 26, and penultimate races of the Xfinity Series in the Dead On Tools 250 on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m. and the Cup Series in the Xfinity 500 on Sunday, Oct. 29, at 2:00 p.m. In an intense short track battle that can only happen at Martinsville, the Dead On Tools 250 and Xfinity 500 will set the field for the respective series for the NASCAR Championships the following week at Phoenix Raceway.
Tickets to the NASCAR Playoff weekend and the Valley Start Credit Union 300 are available for purchase via phone at 877-RACE-TIX or online at martinsvillespeedway.com.