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Purse increase, format change for the Martinsville 300

The race is once again the richest in the discipline and will have a new format in 2019 …

Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway officials made moves on Wednesday morning that ensured that it would remain home to the premiere Late Model Stock race in the Mid-Atlantic region with changes to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

The changes will see a purse increase for the top-five finishers, a new qualifying process and a new race day format.

The winner of the most-prestigious Late Model Stock race in the country will now receive $32,000, which is an increase from the $25,000 winners had previously been paid. The overall purse has also been increased from $100,000-to-$110,000.

Second place now pays $8,000, third place pays $6,000, fourth place pays $5,000 and fifth place pays $4,000. All 40 teams to make 200-lap feature will receive a minimum payout off $1,000, which is even from previous seasons.

 “We’re adjusting the purse this year to better reward the top-five finishers in NASCAR’s most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said. “This is, no doubt, the biggest Late Model Stock Car race in the country, and with the format and purse changes, we feel the 2019 edition will reflect that fully.”

The race had traditionally been the highest-paying race until this spring when the CARS Tour created the Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway in Roguemont, North Carolina, which paid $30,000.

Much like in the three national touring divisions, the Martinsville Late Model Stock race will also feature single car time trials this fall, replacing the group qualifying procedure that has been used for over a decade.

Time trials will lock in the top-20 qualifiers, replace the previous format that only locked-in two drivers, sending the rest to a series of heat races to determine the rest of the 42-car startling line-up. The top-20 will no longer have to compete in heat races.

The top-10 finishers from each heat race will advance to the feature race. Caution laps will count during the heat races.

There will also be a $5,000 bonus for the driver who wins the pole.

“This format really rewards the drivers who can perform under pressure, and rewards the fans in the grandstands,” Campbell said. “The drama of single-car qualifying on Friday night will really be something to watch. By making the heat races 50 laps, we are giving the drivers more time to work their way through the field, giving the fans two dramatic heat races on Saturday afternoon to set the field.”

The 200-lap feature race will also see format changes.

 It will be stopped at lap 75 and at lap 150. The leader at each break will receive a $1,000 bonus. There will be no invert after either break. DRP Performance Products has also added a bonus of $25 for each lap a driver leads, for a total of $5,000.

As in 2018, teams will have four fresh tires behind pit wall at the start of the race. The teams will be able to use those four fresh tires as they desire throughout the 200-lap feature event, with two opportunities to change tires during the planned breaks.

The breaks will set up a 50-lap dash to the finish for the $32,000 winner’s check and a grandfather clock trophy.

“When it comes right down to it, the changes we are making are for the fans,” Campbell said. “We want them to feel like they just saw the best race possible when they leave our parking lots on October 5. I feel confident these changes will produce just that.”

Lastly, the race will feature unlimited overtime attempts if necessary.

The 2018 race was decided by a caution during the third overtime. The field was frozen but the results was based on the previous time across the line, handing CE Falk the win, even though Corey Heim was ahead of him on the backstretch at the time the decisive caution came out.

Lynn Carroll will return as race director, despite several incidents last year when he implemented last minutes rule changes and engaged in verbal confrontations with teams — including David Gilliland, who pulled his son, Todd, out of the race following a verbal exchange between the two.   

The engine rules for the race will be governed in accordance by 2019 NASCAR rule book, and no changes will be made outside of the NASCAR rulebook by Martinsville Speedway to create parity between engine suppliers.

In other words, no last-minute gear rule changes this year.

“The engines teams find work best each and every week, from a competitive standpoint, will not be compromised or enhanced based on speeds during testing and practice,” Campbell said.

That last element pleased four-time NASCAR national champion and two-time race winner Lee Pulliam.

“This is a huge positive,” Pulliam said. “I’m excited about everything from the purse increases, locking-in the top-20 and especially locking in the rules so they don’t change. That was the biggest thing. It was frustrating because I’m a driver and crew chief. I work on my own stuff.

“We make the most logical decisions we can when we get the handout and that’s aggravating when it changes six or seven times. So, everything about this is a huge benefit for racers, fans and more cars. Qualifying is going to be exciting.”

Car numbers will be issued, and garage stalls assigned, for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 weekend based on the postmark date of the completed official NASCAR entry form.

The announcement was also attended by 2005 NASCAR national champion Peyton Sellers who praised the track for striking most of the right cords after last year’s controversies.

“There was such a firestorm afer the race here in the fall,” Sellers said. “Clay and his group did such a good job of digesting everything that happened, feedback and comments, and now they’re proactive.

“We’ve talked about the money, but I would have been very disappointed to have come here and the purse was increased to $40,000 but the format remained the same. People had concerns about the format and they addressed it. There is more money with single-car qualifying, you’re going to see guys put it on the line.”

The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 test day will be Thursday, September 26, with practice and qualifying on Friday, October 4, and the two 50-lap heat races and the 200-lap feature race taking place on Saturday, October 5.

The race will have a live radio broadcast presented by the Motor Racing Network. Three of the past four Martinsville Late Model 300s have aired on FansChoice.TV. Nothing is official on that front yet but it is expected to return.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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