In the immediate aftermath of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, there was no doubt an uptick in Google searches for ‘Landon Pembleton.’
Or is it ‘Landon Pembelton?’
No one seems to have a firm idea as the track release listed his name one way and official channels another. His name is actually spelled ‘Pembelton,’ but all of this illustrates one point.
The driver who won on the biggest stage in Late Model Stock competition didn’t have much of a resume until Saturday night. In fact, this was only the 16-year-old’s second victory in a Late Model Stock Car. His first came at South Boston Speedway on August 8.
Pembelton forced a lot of people to search his name and figure out who this young driver from Virginia is after becoming the youngest winner in the history of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
So who exactly is Landon Pembelton?
His auto racing background is much more extensive than the casual race fan would be lead to believe.
Landon”s father Brian Pembelton carved out a successful short track career of his own in the state of Virginia, with his most notable accomplishment being a championship in South Boston Speedway’s Limited Sportsman division back in 2009.
Brian took immense pride in his son’s momentous accomplishment and was one of the first to greet Landon in victory lane on Saturday.
“I’m still kind of speechless,” Brian said. “[Landon] did such a great job on Saturday but he’s been stepping up all year long. He came to Martinsville for the very first time and won himself a grandfather clock. It was a flawless night.”
Since Landon began his own career, Brian wanted to make sure he was surrounded by accomplished individuals within Late Model Stock racing to ensure that his potential could be maximized.
H.C. Sellers and Forrest Reynolds have been a key part of an intricate development process for Landon that has involved countless hours of testing and becoming familiar with how a Late Model Stock operates.
Brian wanted to temper his expectations entering Landon’s first Late Model Stock season knowing that he was more than likely not going to defeat drivers like Peyton Sellers and Mike Looney as a rookie.
Landon outran both of them at a track he never raced at once prior to Saturday.
Looney provided the toughest challenge for Landon during the closing stages of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and managed to briefly take the lead away from him during the final restart of the evening.
Looney said that racing against a rookie like Pembelton always comes with caution and said that some of his inexperience was prevalent in the moves he pulled to try and hold off the former ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner.
[Landon] was jumping me on a couple prior restarts,” Looney said. “He may have jumped me twice but he wasn’t going to jump me three times. I jumped him pretty good on that last restart and he drove it hard into Turn 1 to make up for it. He got loose and took me up the hill but that’s what he had to do. He was going for the win and I don’t hold any ill feelings.”
Even though Looney was disappointed in being unable to claim his second Martinsville victory, he praised Landon for the performance he put together on Saturday to defeat former national champions and track champions.
The idea of sharing such a prestigious accomplishment with drivers like Looney, Philip Morris, Lee Pulliam and many others is something that Landon was still trying to process after taking the checkered flag.
“This win was amazing and unbelievable,” Pembelton said. “The fact that we were able to run inside the Top 5 and Top 10 was absolutely crazy. I knew we had a car capable of running inside the Top 3 but the win is a pretty big deal.”
Now that he has already checked off the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on his resume before turning 18 years old, a pressing question remains for Landon as he closes out his rookie season; how does he follow it up?
Brian does not have a firm plan in place for Landon following the 2021 season. Landon has expressed interest in testing out the Super Late Models but nothing has materialized in regards to landing a seat.
Regardless of what ends up happening with Landon’s career, Brian said that every chance he has to learn and improve will only make him a better driver going forward.
“We’re just a small little family that just likes to race,” Brian said. “We don’t wake up every morning and say our kid is going to race on Sundays. It would be a blessing if that happened but right now, we just want to keep winning Late Model Stock races.”
Brian said that having Landon race against drivers like Looney and Sellers on a regular basis has done so much for his development and helped prepare him to shine on the brightest stage at Martinsville.
Even though Looney has only raced Landon in Late Model Stocks for a short amount of time, he knows exactly who the rookie is as a driver and believes many more will soon know as well.
“Landon and Brian are real racers and the family has been that way for a long time,” Looney said. “It’s going to be big for that young man’s career to come down here and win this race. You’re going to hear a lot about Landon Pembelton over the next 20 years.”