Late Model Racers Test Cars, Lights at Martinsville Speedway

A driver pulls out of pit road at Martinsville Speedway on Thursday evening, during testing for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 late model race. (Photo: Dave Walls/WSET)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WSET) - For young drivers like 17 year old rookie Colin Garrett, racing at Martinsville Speedway is intimidating enough. "But yeah, it's wicked fast!"

But Garrett wasn't the only one with something to learn at the "Paper Clip" on Thursday night. Drivers in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, set for Saturday, September 23rd, got their first taste of racing under the Speedway's new LED lighting system, which was officially turned on in March.

Tommy Lemmons Jr. , a 2 time winner of the ValleyStar 300, says there is notable excitement amongst drivers for the prospect of nighttime racing at Martinsville, saying "Everybody wanted to win (this race) anyway, but definitely with it being the first one under the lights, it adds a little more to it." Chesapeake's Brenden "Butterbean" Queen agrees, saying "It's the biggest late model race of the year. It's our Daytona 500. It's got so much prestige, it's the hardest race to make."

And as the sun went down, and the lights came on, drivers are learning how to take the curves at the Clip in a way they've never done before. Speedway president Clay Campbell noted "I think it's going to change the complexion of the race. Number one, it'll make the track quicker, because it will be cooler. So the track conditions will be much better than what they've had in the sun."

The lights are one thing, but there's big money on the line. Twenty-five thousand, in fact, to the race winner. But drivers say all of that is secondary to having the prestige of winning here at Martinsville.

With a win next Saturday, Tommy Lemmons Jr. could become just the second driver to win his third ValleyStar 300 in Martinsville. When asked if a win under the lights would make a win more special, Lemmons laughed and noted "Winning at Martinsville ranks amongst itself anyways, so to be up there with three wins at Martinsville would be amazing."

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