The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway is supposed to be an “away game” for the more than 100 teams that will battle to win the richest, most prestigious NASCAR Late Model Stock race in the nation.
Don’t try to tell that to the five drivers racing out of the Nelson Motorsports’ shop that is based in Martinsville, also home to several of team owner Barry Nelson’s auto dealerships.
Defending race winner Timothy Peters heads up the of list of Nelson Motorsports’ drivers that also includes team regulars Bobby McCarty and Brandon Pierce. Matt Bowling, the 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion will be joining the team for the VSCU 300 on Saturday, September 29, after making several starts for the team this season.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Todd Gilliland will be driving a car owned by truck series crew chief Marcus Richmond that is housed and prepared in the Nelson shop.
“Barry does a lot of things for the community in Martinsville and the track is right there in the heart of Martinsville,” said McCarty. “It is a home race for us.”
“With Danville so close and my dad’s business (his sponsor, Thunder Road Harley-Davidson) there and with everything Barry does for the community, it has the feel of a home race,” said Pierce, noting that Peters lives a short drive from the historic Martinsville oval. “And I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some pressure with all of the folks from Barry’s dealerships coming out and family and friends coming out and pulling for us.”
The Nelson Motorsports group of drivers come into Martinsville riding the wave of a strong season, producing seven wins between four different drivers. McCarty and Pierce have campaigned regularly on the CARS Response Energy Tour while Peters and Bowling have competed in select events.
A couple of the team’s wins came in marquee races.
NASCAR Cup driver Denny Hamlin won his own charity event … the Denny Hamlin Short-Track Showdown in a Nelson owned-and-prepared Late Model while Peters won the prestigious season-opening Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
McCarty has put together a dominant rookie season on the CARS Tour with four wins in 11 starts to lead the season-long points battle with one race remaining.
Pierce captured one pole on the CARS Tour and picked up a win in a 75-lapper at South Boston Speedway, where he made a couple of starts when the CARS Tour was idle.
“We’ve had a phenomenal year,” said McCarty, whose wins came at Hickory Speedway, Carteret Speedway, Ace Speedway and Tri-Counties Speedway. “I’ve won races in CARS, which for me was big and racing and winning on different tracks.”
Hurricane Florence’s recent path through the heart of Late Model Stock country in Virginia and the Carolinas forced Martinsville Speedway management to shuffle the VSCU 300 schedule, postponing the traditional test day the week before the race and moving it into the race-week schedule on Thursday, September 27.
That schedule change should have little impact on the five Nelson entries, Peters said.
“It’s going to affect everybody some,” Peters said of the change. “You don’t have that extra week to fluff on the car. From experience, though, I don’t think it will affect any of the drivers out of this shop because of the notebook we have (on Martinsville) and the quality of our drivers.”
Gilliland, one the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ bright young stars, will be making his first start in a car prepared in the Nelson shop. The car is owned by Richmond, who is Gilliland’s truck series crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Richmond is also Peters’ best friend and served as his crew chief for many years.
“Marcus has been a big part of this. He brought it to Barry and I appreciate him doing that,” said Peters, noting Richmond was instrumental in attracting Busch to the team to drive in the Denny Hamlin Short-Track Showdown earlier in the year. “Marcus and I have had a lot of success together over the years.”
The Nelson drivers have experienced success at Martinsville. Peters had two wins in this event in addition to a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. McCarty has led laps and won a heat race in the VSCU 300. Pierce finished ninth last year in his first Martinsville feature start.
“I really feel good about our program going into this race,” said Pierce. “I’ve always felt good there, but I feel really good this time.
“What makes Martinsville so special is it’s equal across the board, so when you have all the knowledge across the board like we have, and with the success like Timothy has had, it’s big.”