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Virginia Triple Crown Tied Before Martinsville

Mark Wertz, Mason Diaz and Jared Fryar are the most likely champions.


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While the pursuit of a Ridgeway Grandfather Clock and the $32,000 check that comes with it is the most important prize of the weekend at Martinsville Speedway, roughly a half dozen Late Model Stock drivers also remain in contention for the Virginia Triple Crown.

This championship includes three of the biggest Late Model Stock races of the summer within the Commonwealth of Virginia -- the South Boston 200, Hampton Heat at Langley and ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville.

The driver with the best average finish between the three majors earns an additional $7,000 with second earning $2,000 and third collecting $1,000.

Mark Wertz and Mason Diaz lead entering the final race with identical 4.0 average finishes with Jared Fryar clocking in at 5.5. Carter Langley is at 6.0 with Peyton Sellers and Bobby McCarty also in the running at 8.5.

It’s a big deal for the three most likely champions, especially since all three of them could have been eliminated before the end of the South Boston 200. That’s because all three were in some way involved in the massive 17-car crash with 17 laps remaining.

Diaz and Fryar were wadded up in the melee with Wertz barely driving through in what looked like an Act of God blessing. Somehow, during the resulting one-hour red flag, Fryar and Diaz were able to repair their cars -- both scoring top-10s.

Fryar went on to win a clean and green Hampton Heat with Diaz and Wertz earning top-5s to set-up the nail-biter finish on Saturday.


Suddenly 53 years old, Wertz says he has never invested more into a race than he has this weekend at NASCAR’s oldest track. That is partly due to his age, but also the level of support he has right now between Dunkin Donuts and Keen Parts.

This isn’t the beginning of the end for the two-time Langley Speedway track champion, but he also knows every shot at a grandfather clock is sacred.

"We're a competitive team," Wertz said. "We're blessed to have a lot of support the ability to do this the right way -- the way you have to do this if you want to win."

Wertz has only made eight attempts in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and has just a best finish of 27th in 2003. As part of his supersized effort to compete for the win on Saturday, he says he is super excited for the brake package Pro System has for this weekend and has placed the entirety of his focus on qualifying and short run speed.

He has taken the approach that winning the race also squares up the Triple Crown so its one goal at a time.

"The goal is to win," Wertz said. "That takes care of everything but we have three goals unloading. 1. Preparation and making sure that we've done everything leading up to the race. 2. Make the race because there are 90 cars here and you can't take anything for granted. 3. Do what we can to put ourselves in position to win."

And after a pause, "execute."


Finishing second last month in the CARS Tour race at North Wilkesboro should have been one of the biggest accomplishments of his career, but Mason Diaz was overshadowed by the circumstances.

JR Motorsports driver Carson Kvapil won the race and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the podium.

"I was in the middle of a Dale Jr. sandwhich," Diaz said.

Diaz said he was kind of disappointed that he didn’t even get a television broadcast interview but also conceded that he does some of his best work under the radar. And there has been a lot of work to get the No. 24 ready for the paperclip.

"Brand new body, new motor, new transmission," Diaz said. "New everything. You go the whole season racing with what you've got and then you get here and make sure you bring the best and newest of everything they've got. I feel good about it. We're putting a lot of effort into Martinsville."

At the same time, Diaz is also trying to keep a level headed perspective about the opportunity to win the race or the Triple Crown.

"Everyone's goal is to win," Diaz said. "There are goals and there are realistic goals. We went to South Boston and the Hampton Heat with realistic goals. There are 93 cars trying to make the race. Realistic goal, make the race. There is a lot of luck and situational circumstances that go into this race."

And doesn't Diaz know it, having yet to make it to the final lap out of his three starts and four attempts.

"Realistic goal, unload fast and do the best we can. Work hard. Goal win the race. It would be a really big deal and so would the Triple Crown, but we have to put in the work and have some things go our way too."


The second time is the charm for this car at Martinsville or so hopes Jared Fryar.

"Last year, we unloaded terrible," Fryar said of a car that made the race and ultimate finished fifth. "This year we expect to unload a lot closer and be more comfortable as we just kind of fine tune in practice."

That sounds already like a high standard of confidence, even if he isn't buying it.

"Honestly, not really," Fryar said when asked if he felt good about this weekend. "You never really know. We only race there once a year and no other place is like it. The grip and handling. There is so much uncertainty. A lot of pressure and anything could happen."

The 2018 CARS Super Late Model and 2020 CARS Late Model Stock Tour champion hasn’t started to think about where to put the grandfather clock. He’s superstitious that way.

"Perfect world, we win the race and then I'll figure out what to do with it," Fryar said.

But even if he doesn't come away with the clock, the Triple Crown championship would be a mega accomplishment too.

"It's become a really prestigious thing," Fryar said. "There are always a ton of fans for these three races and the teams that win this championship are all some of the best to do it. It would be a really big deal for all of us."

Headline Photos: Adam Fenwick/ Jacob Kupferman | NASCAR