Trevor Ward within reach of upset victory in Virginia Triple Crown

(Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/NASCAR)

Lurking just behind Brenden Queen and Bobby McCarty in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown standings is Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s Trevor Ward.

Despite not having the resources of his competition, Ward has amassed an average finish of fifth between the first two races of the Virginia Triple Crown, which currently has him third in the standings ahead of Saturday’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

Defeating two of the disciplines best competitors is not going to be an easy task for Ward, yet the Late Model Stock veteran is not feeling any pressure as he looks to join an elite list of Virginia Triple Crown champions.

“It’s just like every other weekly show on a Friday or Saturday night,” Ward said. “I’m looking forward to [Martinsville]. We’ve devoted a lot of energy into that race, and I certainly couldn’t do it without everyone that’s helped me out. This is the first time I’ve ever raced for the Triple Crown, and we’ve put ourselves in the playground to do it.”

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Ward and his No. 77 AAR Roofing Chevrolet have been a staple on both the weekly and touring sides of Late Model Stock competition since the mid-2010s.

Speed has never been an issue for Ward regardless of location, as he normally qualifies up front and maintains solid track position everywhere he goes. Despite having triumphed at the weekly level, Ward still finds himself working rigorously to put together complete races in events longer than 100 laps.

Opening the Virginia Triple Crown with two strong performances highlighted the progress Ward had made with his small program. He felt confident about his prospects in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway, having turned plenty of laps at the facility in its weekly division and with the CARS Tour, and he capitalized with a third-place finish.

Placing seventh in the Hampton Heat came as a pleasant surprise for Ward, as he only ran one national touring event at Langley Speedway prior to that weekend.

Finishes of third and seventh in the first two legs of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown currently have Trevor Ward third in the standings. (Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/NASCAR)

Ward knows the effort displayed by his team at the shop is translating into success at the track, but he also credits the tough Late Model Stock competition around the Southeast for motivating him to develop more efficient setups.

“We haven’t been able to pull off a win [at South Boston], but we’ve raced up there with guys like Peyton [Sellers] and Carter [Langley],” Ward said. “Each time we’ve stacked up really good, so a lot of the progress stems from racing with good cars and knowing what you need to have to be there at the end.”

RELATED: Watch the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on FloRacing

Strong results in the first two rounds of the Virginia Triple Crown have given Ward confidence heading into the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, a race that he believed could have ended in a top-five last year.

Ward earned a sixth-place starting position at Martinsville in 2022 and mixed it up with frontrunners like McCarty, Sellers and Mike Looney. He stayed within striking distance of the lead, but ran out of fuel with only 25 laps remaining, relegating Ward to a disappointing 28th-place finish.

Even though he was disappointed by the outcome, Ward found himself motivated to perform better once he departed Martinsville. By being one of the quickest among 90 cars in the most prestigious event for Late Model Stocks, Ward knows he is inching closer to his breakout victory in the discipline.

Accomplishing that goal starts with a strong qualifying effort on Friday night against a field that includes more than 80 cars. Placing himself near the front of his heat race would be a solid first step towards capitalizing on the strength of his equipment.

“This is our seventh year racing at [Martinsville] and every year we’ve gotten better,” Ward said. “That’s all we can ask for. If we’re making small gains, that will put us in contention to win that deal. I know we’re going to have a fast car, but picking the right strategy is the biggest thing along with letting everything come together.”

With steadily improving speed at Martinsville Speedway, Trevor Ward believes he can earn his first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 victory on Saturday. (Photo: Joe Chandler/South Boston Speedway)

Ward understands a victory in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 could be a profound moment towards long-term sustainability in Late Model Stock competition.

The $32,000 up for grabs on Saturday night would be beneficial to help Ward keep his program up to par against powerhouses like Lee Pulliam Performance, JR Motorsports and R&S Race Cars, along with potential sponsorship opportunities stemming from the publicity surrounding the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

Even though Ward wants to keep competing with the elite teams and drivers of Late Model Stock racing, he takes pride in what his small group has been able to accomplish with limited funding at their disposal. He said everyone on the team is fulfilling their own dream as they set their sights on obtaining both a grandfather clock and the Virginia Triple Crown title.

With so much money now flowing into Late Model Stock racing, Ward believes a victory on Saturday would be a perfect callback to the era of small teams attaining big goals.

“A win [at Martinsville] would open people’s eyes and realize that small people can still do it,” Ward said. “I thrive off the energy of picking ourselves up. I’ve done a lot with a little against those who do a lot with a lot.”

Ward has never been this close to either of Virginia’s most notable short track achievements in his career. A massive challenge awaits Ward, but he doesn’t plan to waste the chance to immortalize himself amongst Late Model Stock racing’s elites.