Peyton Sellers has found himself in familiar territory at the top of the Virginia Triple Crown standings.
After winning at South Boston Speedway in June and placing fourth at Langley Speedway in July, Sellers, a three-time winner of the series and the defending champion, boasts an average finish of 2.5 heading into Saturday’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.
The Virginia Triple Crown awards $7,000 to the driver with the best average finish at the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston, the Hampton Heat at Langley, and the VSCU300 at Martinsville Speedway.
The top 20 racers from Friday’s qualifying at Martinsville Speedway will make Saturday’s 7 p.m. feature race. The top 10 from the two heat races Saturday afternoon will create a pool of 40 cars.
Obviously, the hope is to avoid the heat races, but Sellers cautioned, “This place can throw you a lot of curveballs, so if we end up in a heat race, we’ll just race as hard as we can and try to be there at the end of the feature.”
Sellers posting his first career win at Martinsville would go a long way toward securing a fourth Virginia Triple Crown title to go with his previous wins in 2013, 2014 and 2018.
“That Triple Crown pays good money, and there’s a lot of prestige that comes with it,” Sellers said. “To be from Virginia and competing for the Triple Crown, it’s pretty special for us.”
Arguably more special for Sellers would be to win at the track he’s been coming to since his childhood.
Born in Danville, Sellers and his brother, H.C., grew up attending Martinsville races with their grandfather, Dudley Murphy, who helped supply the famous Jesse Jones hot dogs in the concession stands.
As a racer, Sellers has had plenty of success, but a win at Martinsville has always eluded him. In 2018, he got caught up in two different wrecks on the final laps and finished fifth.
“So much goes into winning this race in particular, and part of it’s luck, part of it’s just being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “We could taste it [last year], it was there, but it just didn’t play out.”
Still, Sellers doesn’t get too caught up in the fact he’s never taken the checkered flag here.
“We’ve been very decorated here. We’ve won the pole, we’ve won halfway, we’ve led laps, we’ve had a lot of good things happen here,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate, this track’s been good to me, but I don’t lose sleep at night knowing I haven’t won this race.”
Sellers’ biggest competition for the Virginia Triple Crown are Lee Pulliam (average finish: 4), Timothy Peters (7.5), Mike Looney (8), and Brenden Queen (9).
Martinsville Speedway presents challenges not found at other tracks, making Saturday’s event truly anybody’s race.
The track is longer than both South Boston and Langley, and the tight concrete corners and long straightaways offer a different racing experience that can be tough to master.
“You see a lot of the same faces up front every year here because once it clicks with you, you’ve got it,” Sellers said. “But until then, it’s a very tricky track to get around.”
Sellers is hoping for a breakthrough at Martinsville, but he’s also careful to not approach the race any differently.
“As a racer, you had better put your best foot forward for every race you go to, and that’s what I do here,” he said.
However, when pressed on where he might put the prized grandfather clock that comes with a first-place finish, Sellers didn’t hesitate.
“Front and center, right in my shop,” he said. “And probably have it in the living room right after that. It’ll probably go down the street and be in Clarence’s Steakhouse too. We’ll share it.”
Make no mistake: Sellers is not losing sleep, but he’s always dreaming of what’s coming next.