The last month has been non-stop winning for Peyton Sellers.
On September 4, the driver of the No. 26 Clarence’s Steakhouse late model won his sixth track championship at South Boston Speedway, one away from the most in track history.
Last Saturday, he clinched another track title, this one at Dominion Raceway, his second straight championship at the northern Virginia track.
In all, Sellers has 21 wins and 29 top-5 finishes in 37 races this season, good enough to earn him the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national championship, the second of his career.
All that racing means Sellers hadn’t much time at all to catch his breath, much less prepare for this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway. But that’s all right with him. He’s embracing the busy summer and using it to his advantage as he head into this weekend’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 looking for his first Grandfather Clock trophy.
Sellers spoke with the Bulletin this week about his national title and his preparation for this weekend’s race at Martinsville.
Martinsville Bulletin: Congratulations on your national championship. How does it feel to add another national title to your trophy case?
Sellers: Thank you. It’s been a very good year for us, no doubt about it.
It’s been good… it’s been something that we’re very proud of. We won our first national title at 21 years old in 2005. It’s been a long time. But to settle back in to the short track series weekly, the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, and to be able to compete at this level is something we’re very proud of. It’s been a long year but very rewarding year at the same time. The kind of numbers we’ve been able to put up this year is something I’d never done at this point. We’ve had years where we own a lot of races and that sort of thing, but to win 21 races has been phenomenal.
How does this national championship compare to the other you won 16 years ago?
Sellers: When I was 21, I didn’t take it for granted, I knew what I was doing. I knew I was doing something special at the time. But at the time I was working on trying to move up the ladder and make something happen. Now I’m at the point where this is pretty much a hobby for me. I’ve settled in competing right here and I love doing what I’m doing. I cherish it a little bit more I think.
Before I was using it as a stepping stone trying to move up the ladder and keep moving. Now I realize how hard the first one was. At the time I didn’t take it for granted but I kind of took it in stride. Where now it’s pretty much it’s something that me and my family and the community around us have jumped in behind us, given us a lot of support. To be able to soak this one in and enjoy it for what it is is very, very special.
Does winning that title give you a little more confidence heading into this weekend?
Sellers: I would like to think it did. Our cars are running good, we have some momentum behind us, without a doubt. But the things we’re doing right now, I enjoy talking about it but I don’t want to get too far away from focusing on that car and focusing on getting it the best I can get it Saturday night. I want to be able to keep my head in it, keep focused on it, but also take the momentum that we’re having right now.
We’re on a wave right now. I want to ride it as long as we can. And hopefully going into Martinsville… we have some speed in the cars when we unload and just focus on on our race craft and go from there.
You’ve said that racing at both South Boston and Dominion week after week helped you stay sharp and win those championships. Do you think that much racing this summer will also help you coming into Martinsville?
Sellers: I do. I know a lot of people have been off the last few weeks, like those on the CARS Tour. Some of the tracks finished up early and they’ve kind of had time to go through their cars and get new bodies put on them and new things put on them and freshen everything up. Where we’ve been racing every week, we’re staying on top of our cars week after week and we know, ‘Hey our car had this characteristic last week, so let’s hone it in and do this different for this week.’
Honestly, I feel like racing is going to be the key for us this weekend. Yea, it’s nice to have a little time off to catch your breath, put new decals on the car, make them shine and that sort of thing, but right now I feel like racing every week is what kept us sharp to this point.
For us, it’s another race. We’re not looking at it as the biggest race of the year. We haven’t had three weeks to dream about Martinsville. We’ve been racing every week focusing on a national title. It’s just another race for us. I feel like we’re going to come up with our nose down focused on the race, where a lot of those guys have been sitting out and ramping up the intensity getting ready for it. For us it’s just another day.
So have you done anything different or extra to prepare for this weekend? You’ve been so busy, have you even had time to do anything extra to prepare?
Sellers: This car that we’re racing this week is not the car that we raced at Dominion last weekend. Last week we put new brakes rotors on it, new pads, went through the whole brake system, freshened that up. Our motor has some race laps on it but I feel like it’s in good shape right now. We basically just updated the brakes a little bit, put some brake fans on, and it’s business as usual for us.
Given everything you’ve accomplished in your career so far, especially everything you’ve accomplished just in the last three month, to finally get a victory at Martinsville, what would that mean to you to finally win this race?
Sellers: To be able to load that clock up Saturday night and take it over the Clarence’s (Steak House) for breakfast Sunday morning would be very special to me. They’ve been with me a long time and they’ve been very good to me.
To be able to win that clock and be able to kind of seal the deal, we’ve had good runs at Martinsville. We’ve been able to do a lot of different thing. To be able to do that and to have the success we have had, to be able to put that period at the end of the sentence and bring that trophy home would be very, very special to me.
So what’s the key to making sure you’re able to do that this weekend?
Sellers: Putting ourselves in the right spot. I feel like we’ll have the speed. I feel like we’ll be able to maybe not qualify up front but I feel like we’ll race fine. We’ve just got to be able to save some tires, save breaks, be there at the end of this race with fenders still on it and avoid trouble.
Things happen. You’ve got a lot of young drivers coming in this year and a lot of veteran drivers, so it’s going to be a good mix. It’s going to be tougher competition than we’ve ever seen there. There’s going to be a lot of good cars there. For me, it’s just going to be being smarter than the rest of the guys at the end of the race. Saving a little bit throughout the early part of the race and being able to put yourself in contention at the end of the race.
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at email@example.com