Peyton Sellers is the type of man who keeps his word.
Before he won last year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, he promised his sponsor Clarence Pickurel, the owner of Clarence’s Steakhouse in nearby Ridgeway, Virginia, that the Grandfather Clock awarded to the race winner would go in Pickurel’s restaurant.
The two-time Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion made sure to keep that promise.
“For me, being right in Clarence’s backyard and to keep that clock right in Ridgeway, that’s what it’s all about for me,” Sellers said. “They stuck with me through a lot of good times and bad times. Just being able to go haul that clock into the restaurant there and acknowledge those guys. Just to kind of put that final exclamation point on why they stuck with Peyton Sellers through the years.”
Few understand how meaningful a win at Martinsville is better than Sellers.
A native of nearby Danville, Virginia, Sellers spent 20 years chasing a victory at the 0.526-mile asphalt oval in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, arguably the biggest Late Model Stock Car race in the Southeast.
After two decades of trying and 14 attempts without success, Sellers finally won the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in 2022 in his 15th attempt. It’s a moment that a year later still echoes in his mind, and one he hopes to replicate Saturday night under the lights at Martinsville.
“We had a really good year [in 2022]. We missed the national championship by just a few points,” Sellers recalled. “Going into Martinsville, we had a solid car, but we didn’t know how good.
“We qualified 37th, raced our way up in the heat race, started up front and stayed in the top three or four most of the night. When it came time to put our final set of tires on, we were good. It means a lot to just win at Martinsville, get the clock and be part of that history there.”
Sellers, who operates a contracting business in his hometown when he’s not at a race track or in the race shop, hasn’t rested on his laurels since winning at Martinsville one season ago.
Sellers scored 17 victories at South Boston Speedway and Dominion Raceway this season while claiming the track championship at the latter. Simply put: He knows how to win. He’s been doing it long enough that it’s like second nature.
However, winning at Martinsville is no easy task. There’s a reason it took him 15 attempts and two decades to do it.
“Everybody performs a little better at Martinsville,” Sellers said. “All the teams, they put their best foot forward. It’s kind of like competing for a national title in a college football game. You see the best performing there that day. That’s why Martinsville is so hard.”
Sellers returns to Martinsville this weekend with the same car and engine that carried him to victory one season ago. In an age when everyone must have the latest and greatest of everything, there is something to be said for a piece of reliable equipment.
That’s what Sellers believes he has in the car and engine combination that won at Martinsville in 2022.
“I feel like we’re very comfortable going back there,” Sellers said. “We’re taking the same car, we’re taking the same engine. It’s hard to switch up anything. We’ve had a big year with that car, won some races. It’s in good shape to turn around and go back.
“We’re putting some new vinyl on the car to make it look a little bit better, but it’s the car that we’ve been racing every week.”
With more than 80 drivers expected to attempt to qualify for only 40 starting spots in Saturday’s 200-lap main event, Sellers will face plenty of competitors looking to deny him the honor of winning his second ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
They include Brenden Queen and Bobby McCarty, the leaders in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown standings, as well as familiar foes like 2023 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division I national champion Connor Hall, 2021 Martinsville winner and Sellers’ teammate Landon Pembelton, South Boston Speedway track champion Carter Langley, JR Motorsports driver Carson Kvapil and 2023 ARCA Menards Series East champion William Sawalich.
But out of all his competitors at Martinsville, Sellers believes 2016 Martinsville winner Mike Looney is the man everyone will be chasing Saturday night.
“My thought process is right now that if you go to Martinsville and run well, you’ve got to beat Mike Looney,” Sellers said. “He’s just good there. He’s always been good there.”
There’s no reason to think Sellers, arguably one of the best Late Model Stock Car drivers of his generation, can’t beat Looney and the rest of the aforementioned drivers to win his second ValleyStar Credit Union 300.
He’s got all the motivation in the world to do it. After all, Sellers still doesn’t have a Grandfather Clock of his own. If he wins another this year, it won’t be going in Clarence’s Steakhouse.
This time, he’s keeping it.
“We’ve got plenty of spots left for clocks.”