Every year, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway is circled on Barry Nelson’s calendar.
Widely considered the Daytona 500 of Late Model Stock competition, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 regularly attracts many of the best drivers and teams from around the East Coast, with Nelson having been a part of this crowd since starting his own operation in 2013.
But for Nelson, whose shop is only a few miles from Martinsville, his love and passion for the track dates back nearly four decades, having watched drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and many others add to its history with victories of their own.
Nelson hopes to create another positive memory once the checkered flag flies on the 2022 ValleyStar Credit Union 300, which is set to take place on Sept. 24 at about 7 p.m.
The prestige of Martinsville is one of many reasons why Nelson is determined to visit victory lane in this year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300, even though he admitted that fortunes have very rarely been on his side.
“We’ve had success [at Martinsville] even though it hasn’t shown up in wins,” Nelson said. “A couple of years, we’ve had the dominant car there, but luck plays a lot into how things pan out and you have to roll the dice during the last 15-20 laps. It’s always a challenge to win at Martinsville.”
After seeing so many people come away from his home track with a storied grandfather clock, Nelson was eager to claim one himself and began laying the foundation for an efficient Late Model Stock team.
That dream formally began when Toyota representatives brought Timothy Peters by Nelson’s shop, who was then driving for Red Horse Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. With Peters having won the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in 2004, Nelson immediately jumped at the opportunity to have him join his program.
It would only take four years for Nelson’s dream of winning at Martinsville to become a reality. Peters had to fend off challenges from Peyton Sellers, Lee Pulliam, Jake Crum and others during the closing stages of the 2017 ValleyStar Credit Union to deliver Nelson his one and only victory so far in the prestigious event.
Nelson considers Peters’ win at Martinsville in 2017 to be one of the most cherished moments of his career.
“It was a really special day,” Nelson said. “Timothy is like family, but that moment felt like winning a championship. With everything that it takes to get there, an accomplishment like that is very special.”
Nelson Motorsports has only continued to grow since the 2017 ValleyStar Credit Union 300. The organization has since claimed two Virginia Late Model Triple Crown championships along with three titles in the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour with Bobby McCarty behind the wheel.
McCarty will be piloting one of two cars for Nelson in this year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville. The other car is being driven by Willow Park, Texas native Kaden Honeycutt, who is making his second start in the race after finishing 10th last year.
Nelson feels confident in the ability of McCarty and Honeycutt to bring home a grandfather clock, but after enduring several eventful weekends at Martinsville, he knows that any race-winning plan can be derailed simply by getting collected in a wreck during a heat race.
“You can’t win a race on the first lap,” Nelson said. “Both Bobby and Kaden understand that but qualifying good is going to mean a lot. You’ll have to stay up front and take care of the equipment through the heat races and into [the main event], so we have to watch the competition and be prepared to take advantage of certain situations.”
Although a victory is the goal for Nelson and his team going into the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, he admitted that two solid finishes would be satisfying after dealing with an off year by the team’s standards.
Neither McCarty nor Honeycutt have scored any victories in Late Model Stock competition so far in 2022. Despite this, Nelson believes the cars have gradually gotten better over the past couple of months and believes the setups being put together for Martinsville will be strong enough to get both cars in contention for the win.
Nelson wants nothing more than to shake off a year of frustration with a stellar performance from each car at Martinsivlle, adding that another win for in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 would serve as major validation for him, his drivers and all of his crew members,
“You can win something once, but to be really good, you have to win it twice,” Nelson said. “In any form of athletics, the second championship actually proves more. I’ve got one clock, but that clock is waiting on a brother. Winning the second time might just be sweeter than winning the first time.”
There are too many fond memories for Nelson to recount at Martinsville during his life and he is thrilled that the facility still holds a special place in the hearts of many as stock car racing continues to evolve during the 2020s.