For the ninth season, the best short track competitors on the East Coast will convene across a series of three events known as the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, starting with the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway.
Every year, the Virginia Triple Crown opens at South Boston before leading into the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway in July. The series concludes in the fall with the prestigious ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, the Late Model Stock equivalent of the Daytona 500.
Martinsville president Clay Campbell was one of the masterminds behind the Virginia Triple Crown alongside Langley’s owner in Bill Mullis and former South Boston general manager Cathy Rice.
All three shared the same goal of bolstering the sturdy Late Model Stock foundation in Virginia, which Campbell believes the Triple Crown has more than accomplished.
“At the time, all three tracks had their own big race,” Campbell said. “We put our heads together to try and figure out if there was some way we could tie the three together and get some of the local guys to run at different tracks. The premise was to make these three races bigger and putting emphasis on the great racing in Virginia.”
One factor that separates the Virginia Triple Crown from similar events is how the champion is determined.
Instead of relying on points, the driver who records the best average finish between the three venues is declared the winner of the Virginia Triple Crown and receives a paycheck of $7,000. Second place takes home $2,000 while third place obtains $1,000.
Five different drivers have had the privilege of claiming the Virginia Triple Crown during its brief history, with two-time NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series champion Peyton Sellers leading that group with three titles.
Sellers admitted the Virginia Triple Crown gets harder to win with every passing year, but he said the more interest the event receives only adds to its prestige and significance toward short track competition, particularly on the East Coast.
“This has really gained popularity from guys in other states,” Sellers said. “You have drivers from Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland trying to win it. For me, this is home, and there are a lot of people in Virginia who have carried the torch for short-track racing. That’s what you do by winning the Triple Crown.”
Sellers added the exposure drivers and tracks have gotten from the Virginia Triple Crown has been phenomenal. He considers all three legs of the event to be true crown jewels for Late Model Stock racing because of the car counts, high attendance and the individual efforts taken by tracks to emphasize the importance of their races.
For Campbell, the success and growth of Triple Crown has been another positive development for short track racing in the state of Virginia, which has recently seen Dominion Raceway emerge as a premier venue for competitors since its grand opening in 2016.
Even though there currently is not any room for another facility in Virginia to become part of the Triple Crown, Campbell wants to see every track in the state flourish. He is confident that trend will continue as the three-race series keeps growing.
“The [Triple Crown] started with [South Boston, Langley and Martinsville], but Virginia has numerous great weekly race tracks,” Campbell said. “This doesn’t take away from any track that isn’t a part of it, and there are other tracks that have come along that are certainly capable of being in the Triple Crown. We’re very healthy with great tracks in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but right now we’re sticking with what we got.”
The current 48-car entry list for Saturday’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200, which features notable names like two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner Corey Heim and two-time West Series champion Derek Thorn alongside the local favorites, are, in Campbell’s eyes, indicative of the Virginia Triple Crown’s growth.
Sellers’ mindset for the Virginia Triple Crown remains unchanged despite a larger field for the season-opener at South Boston, adding that he fully expects the title to come down to the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 due to the talented fields and the diversity of each facility.
“Nobody runs away with [the Virginia Triple Crown], because you’re looking at three different tracks,” Sellers said. “South Boston is a fast track with wide corners, Langley is as flat as a pancake with no grip at all, and Martinsville’s got all the grip in the world with nothing but straightaway.”
Winning the Virginia Triple Crown has always been a great source of pride for Sellers, and he wants nothing more than to add a fourth championship in the series and celebrate in front of the loyal Virginia short track fans at Martinsville.
The support drivers like Sellers and others have for the Virginia Triple Crown has been a welcomed development for Campbell, who has seen the series weather different obstacles that included Langley’s brief closure in 2016 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Now that the Virginia Triple Crown is more popular than ever, Campbell cannot help but reflect on its beginnings and how he, Rice and Mullis worked diligently to create a series that has now become synonymous with Late Model Stock competition in the state.
“I don’t think any of the three of us ever thought [the Virginia Triple Crown] would be this popular,” Campbell said. “All three of us are so entrenched in Late Model Stock racing, but Cathy and Bill wanted to do whatever they could to enhance weekly racing. For people to mention these three races and talk about who’s going to win the Triple Crown at the end of the year is pretty cool.”
Campbell anticipates three thrilling races in the 2022 running of the Virginia Triple Crown, which will formally get underway at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday with South Boston’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200.
Virginia Triple Crown 2022 schedule
|Saturday, July 2||Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway|
|Saturday, July 23||Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway|
|Saturday, Sept. 24||ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway|
Virginia Late Model Triple Crown winners
|2012||C.E. Falk III|