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Landon Pembelton Wins In First ValleyStar Credit Union 300 Start

Landon Pembelton stunned the Late Model Stock community on Saturday evening with a victory in his first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 appearance.

Eric Creel

The return of an old proud Late Model Stock tradition in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday evening yielded a new face in victory lane.

A bold decision by rookie Landon Pembelton to take tires early and assume control of the lead following the Lap 150 competition caution enabled him to hold on for the victory in his first career ValleyStar Credit Union 300 appearance.

Pembelton entered the weekend focused on just obtaining a Top 10 finish but was left stunned knowing that he would join drivers like Philip Morris, Lee Pulliam, Josh Berry and others as a winner at Martinsville.

“This is pretty unbelievable,” Pembelton said. “I never thought I would win a grandfather clock until I got a lot more experience so tonight is pretty amazing.”

Pembelton, whose team receives support from Sellers Racing Inc., proved to be one of the fastest cars at Martinsville from the opening practice session.

After qualifying fourth on Friday, Pembelton finished second in his heat and maintained solid track position inside the Top 10 while trailing race leader Bobby McCarty in the opening stage.

Pembelton was confident that he could maintain his track position but was unsure about his ability to contend for the win against McCarty and several other strong cars.

By electing to take tires sooner that most of his competition, all Pembelton had to do was keep his competition behind him during the final 50 laps.

“My crew chief wanted to try something different,” Pembelton said. “We got the tires on Lap 75 while everyone else came in on Lap 150. It actually played out a lot better than I thought it would and everything went pretty good.”

Pembelton’s toughest challenge in the closing stages came in the form of 2016 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Mike Looney, who managed to pass Pembelton for the lead on the final restart. Pembelton kept his composure and charged ahead of Looney moments later to claim the most significant victory of his young career.

Like Pembelton, Looney also took tires during the first stage break. He was disappointed to come up one spot short of his second career ValleyStar Credit Union 300 but was thrilled to have the opportunity to race at Martinsville once again.

“That was a smorgasbord of racing right there,” Looney said. “The tire strategy was risky but in the end we made the right call. Track position was key but circumstances have to fall your way at Martinsville. Fast cars aren’t enough.”

Pembelton has a long way to go before he catches Looney in wins, having only won in a Late Model Stock for the first time at South Boston Speedway in August, but he plans to cherish his victory at Martinsville for the rest of his life.

“Just leading laps here is amazing enough,” Pembelton said. “We didn’t leave the Top 10 tonight until we pitted the first time and I thought that was a good call. Even then, I was still surprised to qualify inside the Top 5 [on Friday], so I can’t say enough about amazing this victory is.”

1. Landon Pembelton
2. Mike Looney
3. Layne Riggs
4. Sammy Smith
5. Jared Fryar
6. Bobby McCarty
7. Jacob Borst
8. Justin Johnson
9. Daniel Silvestri
10. Kaden Honeycutt
11. Bubba Pollard
12. Brenden Queen
13. Doug Barnes Jr.
14. Trey Crews
15. Blake Stallings
16. Connor Hall
17. Carter Langley
18. Justin T. Carroll
19. Peyton Sellers
20. Dexter Canipe Jr.
21. Kyle Dudley
22. Jonathan Shafer
23. Kres VanDyke
24. Josh Kossek
25. Matt Waltz
26. Dylan Ward
27. John Goin
28. Jake Crum
29. Stacy Puryear
30. Timothy Peters
31. Colin Garrett
32. Corey Heim
33. Mason Diaz
34. Trevor Ward
35. Matt Cox
36. Ryan Wilson
37. Jacob Heafner
38. Justin S. Carroll
39. Kevin Leicht
40. Trent Barnes

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Brandon White graduated from the University of North Carolina pursuing a career in journalism. Prior to joining Short Track Scene, he worked with the CARS Tour and at Race22. He predominantly covers the CARS Tour as well as other races throughout the year.

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