This Saturday, June 25, is one of the biggest races of Peyton Sellers‘ trophy-filled racing career.
The two-time (2005, 2021) NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion will be the local ringer for the SRX race at South Boston Speedway, one of two places he won a track championship at last year (Dominion Raceway is the other). He follows in the footsteps of other local ringers Doug Coby and Bubba Pollard, who won and finished second, respectively, while stealing the show in the SRX races at their home tracks.
While Sellers has been a mainstay in the Virginia late model scene the past several years, he tried his hand at climbing the NASCAR ladder after his first national title. He had a developmental deal with Richard Childress Racing that fell apart before making a series of NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series starts. Along the way, he won races in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East and West when those fields had much higher car counts.
Now, he runs the family business during the week and races locally on weekend. But Sellers finally has a chance to shine on network TV this Saturday at a track where he likely has more laps than the rest of the field combined.
Frontstretch caught up with Sellers to discuss his thoughts going into the race, how South Boston surprised him, his previous RCR deal and how he’ll stack up against the superstars.
Michael Massie, Frontstretch: Racing’s the side job, right? What do you do full-time?
Peyton Sellers: It is. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been able to race for many years. About four years ago, my dad had some heart surgery, and it was kind of time for me to say, ‘Alright, do I want the family business to keep going, or do I want to keep chasing the dream of trying to drive racecars.’
I’ve been able to do both. HC, my brother, is my crew chief. He maintains the cars and allows me to jump in there. And I’m basically hand-in-hand with my dad in our construction business. We do site grading, land clearing, heavy equipment. Dozers, pans, dump trucks and that sort of thing. So we move a lot of dirt, we do underground utilities, things like that. And that’s what I do all week from 6:30 in the morning to whenever I get home at night usually. Then I go racing on the weekend. So I get to chase my dream of driving racecars on the weekends, but we also have to be able to work during the week to help support the habit.
Massie: What’s that schedule like? You always hear about the guys as they’re coming up through the ranks or just the local racers, where they work 9-5 and then come home, spend 5-1 in the morning working on the car. Is that how it is for you?
Sellers: You know, it always was. Fortunately, I’ve been very, very fortunate the last few years. HC’s able to keep the cars going, and the guys in the shop take care of that. Because the second part of our business is building and maintaining competitive late model stock cars for other people. We do it more for cars at VIR [Virginia International Raceway], some road course stuff. Really kind of anything that comes through the door. We’ve got a couple of ground pounders in the shop right now that we’re doing some work to, some seat work and different things.
And that kind of keeps everybody working. … We do setup work and shock work and things like that. … There were plenty of years there where I was working till midnight or after working on cars, getting up, doing it all again the next day. But fortunately for me right now, 100% of my focus during the week is usually the construction business and keeping that going and keeping all the wheels on the tracks for that and then going racing on weekends.
It’s funny how as you get as you get older, your priorities change, but I still have that passion for racing, like always have. I want to drive, I want to race, I want to be a part of it. But now I have to look at the future too: starting a family and having bills on me that I’m not used to see and having to pay racing bills and things like that. And just taking care of the family business and hoping that hoping one day I can pass it down to another generation.
Massie: You got a big thing coming up: SRX at South Boston. First off, what does it mean to you to see a national touring series like that was with superstars like Tony Stewart coming into South Boston? And what does it mean for you to race against these guys?
Sellers: Michael, I’ll be quite honest with you. When I heard about SRX coming to South Boston, I never thought about being a viable source for that, to be the driver that got the chance to do it. … You got Helio Castroneves, you got Tony Stewart. You got all these big name drivers that are world-class racecar drivers: Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Greg Biffle, everybody in between, Matt Kenseth, all the drivers that are doing it. To come to Southside Virginia, put on a race like this and be on national TV as well, because they got a full CBS TV deal, it’s just a really neat situation.
And then I got the phone call that said, ‘Hey, you’re the guy.’ And I said, ‘No, that’s not right. I might be a local racer here, but I don’t know that I fit in that category of drivers.’ Once it soaked in, once we had an opportunity to go do a TV production day getting ready for the event, and kind of very surreal the whole time. But I’m really looking forward to it.
Myself and Bubba Pollard, I know Bubba, I have been around him a lot over the last few years here and there. We were looking at one of their cars. We were doing the media day and kind of looking at it, and me and him were talking about, ‘Well, what about this or that? How you going to set it up to do this?’ Tony Stewart walked over and he said, ‘Guys, the key to this thing right here, the key to running good is not be thinking about it.’ He says, ‘Quit talking about it. Don’t focus on it. Show up with your helmet and go drive the thing.’ He says, ‘Don’t overthink this thing.’
So me and Bubba, we’re looking at each other, we’re like, ‘We’re racers. That’s all we know how to do.’ And he’s [Stewart] like, ‘Look, these cars don’t drive that good. They’ve got a lot of horsepower. They’ve got a decent tire under them. Just go race them, just have fun with them.’ He says, ‘They’re not supposed to handle well. They’re supposed to be bears to drive. That’s what makes you a better driver.’
So that’s where I’m at right now. Haven’t overthought it, looking forward to the opportunity. Just gonna roll in there Saturday morning, get my 15 minutes of practice and go racing.
Massie: Tell me about that timetable. When did they call you, and who called you?
Sellers: Pretty much what happened, they announced it a couple months ago now, and they [South Boston management] come over to me on a Friday at South Boston and said, ‘Look, we need you to come up for pre-race tomorrow after qualifying, before the feature, we’ve got a package for you.’ And I’m thinking like, ‘What’s that all about?’ Well I kind of started putting the pieces together little by little, and they asked me what I was doing June 25. And I was like, ‘Well, we’ll probably be at Dominion [Raceway] or somewhere racing if we don’t have a race here.’ And I kind of got the pieces put together, and I was like, ‘This is what this is, isn’t it?’
They presented me with a package that had the driving suit in it in their pre-race at South Boston.
Massie: So South Boston Speedway tried to surprise you?
Sellers: For sure. Putting together the year that we had last year between Dominion and South Boston and having a national championship under our belt kind of set the stage up for me to be the pick for the track. … I kind of learned the backstory on it. A lot of other drivers were lobbying for it, and they said, ‘Look, we want our national champion, a guy that’s the current national champion to have the opportunity to do it.’
I don’t know if this thing is going to be rotating. I don’t know if they’re going to go back to the same tracks every year, if they’re going to rotate around. It might be a while before they come back to South Boston.
Massie: You’ve got the advantage of thousands of laps around South Boston. Some of these other guys might have some laps, but you got way more. Do you think that’ll give you an advantage having all that track time?
Sellers: I go back to this every time: These are world class racecar drivers. Helio Castroneves won the Rolex 24 this year. He won the Indianapolis 500 last year. Tony Stewart has won [IndyCar] races. He’s won stock car races. He’s won midget races. Matt Kenseth is a late model guy from the Midwest. Ryan Newman raced Cup all last year. Bobby Labonte raced South Boston this year in the modified in the S.M.A.R.T. tour. … I might have the advantage for the first 20 or 30 laps, but they’re racecar drivers. They’re gonna adapt to South Boston and learn it. And that’s what makes them all this caliber of drivers they are.
Massie: You tried your hand about 15 years ago or so at trying to work up the the national touring ladder for NASCAR. You had a deal with Richard Childress Racing as a development driver. How come that didn’t work out? You never actually made any Xfinity starts for them or anything.
Sellers: We didn’t. I was a development driver. I won the national title ’05. In ’06, Childress signed me to a development contract, and I went out to Bill McAnally Racing on the West Coast and drove for those guys. And we won the rookie of the year, we won a race, we won a couple poles, basically won the pole award for the year. We were a couple of clicks away from winning three or four races. One race, we were leading and blew up. One race, we were leading and blew a right front tire in California, at Fontana [Auto Club Speedway]. Things went great. We had a really good year, but we had some bad luck that kept us from winning more races, but still a very solid year.
They had made a verbal commitment for me to go drive the BB&T car, splitting it with Clint Bowyer the following year. And that was kind of in the works. It was a matter of getting the paperwork done. Long story short, Chevrolet, that’s when they filed bankruptcy. They shut their development driver program down. Richard [Childress] wasn’t going to take money out of his own pocket to do it. Austin and Ty [Dillon] were coming along at the same time. Timing just wasn’t right. It just didn’t work out. Chevrolet kind of pulled their funding back, because they were in bankruptcy, and things just didn’t work out.
I had several opportunities after that that took off, and we run well and run good for teams. I just never got that opportunity in the Xfinity Series to be able to shine. I never got that right team or that right connection to be able to run up front in good equipment. The Childress thing was going to be a perfect opportunity for me to jump in good cars that could run in the top five and be really good. It didn’t work out. That’s all. That’s just the way it is.
Sellers: It was a good time. We ran well, we were very competitive. Those cars suited my driving style very good because they were on a bias-ply tire. It’s what I grew up racing is truck-arm heavy cars, like late model stocks. I fully enjoyed every minute that I raced that series. I enjoyed every start that I got in the Truck Series or Xfinity. We just never got the right opportunity.
I don’t look back and wish I would have done anything different, because I was experiencing those things and taking each challenge as it came. I learned a lot. I had an opportunity to go to Talladega and race, I had an opportunity to race at Daytona. Racing has taken me, basically, to all four corners of the country racing and everywhere in between. It’s something I look back on and just carry those memories from here on.
I don’t look back and say shoulda, coulda, woulda things at all, I just say, you know what? Enjoy every opportunity, it makes you a better racecar driver. It has set me up to be able to come back home and race here and be comfortable doing what I’m doing with the sponsorship that I’ve got with Clarence’s Steakhouse, they’ve been with me on and off since 2001. And Danville Toyota has been with me on and off since 1999. … Everything that I have done has molded me into the driver I am today. So I don’t look back at that stuff and say, ‘You know what? I should have done that different,’ or anything else. Take it for what it is and enjoy and move on.
Massie: Do you view this SRX opportunity at all as a chance to prove that you’re just as good as these guys?
Sellers: Not at all. Everybody’s got different paths. I am a track champion at South Boston and Dominion. I’m a national champion. I’ve done a lot of things and gotten to race a lot that, I wouldn’t change anything, man. I’m just happy to be a part of it, happy that I got the opportunity to go out there and race with this SRX group on live television.
I’m kind of passing up the opportunity to race my late model at Dominion to do this, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something else you put on your resume and say, ‘You know what? This is neat I was a part of this.’ I got a chance to race a couple of those All-Star Showdowns they used to have at Irwindale, and those things were cool. It’s neat being a special event like that, and this is going to be no different. So I’ll just take it for what it is. I’m going to enjoy every second of it.
Massie: Doug Coby stole the show last year as the local guy winning in SRX, and he actually got a Truck start for GMS Racing out of it. Say the same thing happens, you impress and a Truck team or somebody wants to give you a one-off or something? Would you be down for it?
Sellers: Absolutely. I would entertain it without a doubt. I’d love to have the opportunity to run at the upper series again. Just, the door’s got to open. We didn’t have enough resources to go race that series full-time, and if the door opened right now, I’d go through it in a minute.
Massie: Missing that race at Dominion, how is that going to affect your bid to repeat as the national champion?
Sellers: I’ll be honest with you, SRX is very special. I’m looking forward to that. I might miss a chance at a few national points or a track championship at Dominion. But I think any driver out there would love to go do this SRX thing, and I’m going to try to go represent short track racing and, hopefully, be the Doug Coby of South Boston this weekend.
… It’s so hard to win national titles, but when this opportunity come up for SRX, I hadn’t really looked back and said, ‘Man, I wish I could still go do that.’ Because I think anybody would trade positions with me today and take a chance on doing it.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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