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Sellers puts local face on touring series / August 22, 2013
There’s a considerable array of young talent coming to the first-ever sanctioned NASCAR race at Virginia International Raceway, but no names that your average Southside fan would recognize right off the bat.

That is, until Peyton Sellers joined the show.

Sellers is the 2005 NASCAR Whelen all-American series national champion, using South Boston Speedway as his base of operations that magical season.

Sellers is also part of the talented Sellers racing operation, which has its headquarters basically right at the city limits of Danville. Sellers also has run well this season lately, after a brief lull, and gearheads from Ridgeway to Emporia will recognize this driver.

The K&N Pro Series East cranks up Saturday at VIR and is one of two road course races on the 2013 K&N slate, with Road Atlanta also on the circuit.

Sellers is excited about his return to the K&N circuit.

He got the call last Tuesday, from the Hattori Racing Enterprises team.

“They had mentioned to me last week that they might be looking for a driver,” said Sellers. The opportunity fell into his laps, and Sellers was only too pleased to oblige.

Sellers had been working for the last month to put his own deal together, because VIR is in their backyard. Didn’t happen, but then Sellers gets another call.

VIR is “a track I’m comfortable on, it’s a track I’m passionate about because it is here in the Southside,” said Sellers.

Sellers noted the call that came is a blessing out of the sky.

“They’ve got a really good team,” said Sellers of Hattori. Their regular driver, Brett Moffitt, is second in a fairly close points race with leader Dylan Kwasniewski. “They’re building a second car for owner points because they have a sponsor with the Toyota Institute. We’re looking forward to going down there and having a lot of fun.”

And he’s no stranger to K&N racing.

HIS RETURN: It’s been since 2008 when Sellers had run in the K&N series.

“We won the rookie of the year out West. And came back here and ran third in the 2007 points with our own team there (in the East series),” he said.

“The series itself, the cars are relatively the same. The tires are the same. The drivers are just different. There’s a lot of newer drivers and younger drivers. There’s a lot of well-funded teams in that series.

“Turner Motorsports has five teams in that series. So, it’s a lot of well-funded teams. Fortunately, I’m with a good team myself,” said Sellers. “I don’t have anything to complain about. I’m going to be driving a circle track car that they converted to a road course car, but I don’t think that’s a huge disadvantage. We’ll find out Friday.”

Since this is a new venue for the series, VIR gets a one-day practice test session for all the competitors Friday. The teams then take to the track again Saturday afternoon for the race.

Sellers has been out to VIR testing cars, and he’s been out there for a lot of club days. “Raced a few races out there, I’m pretty comfortable on the track,” said Sellers. “I haven’t run the North Course (the venue for Saturday’s road course challenge), but 95 percent of it is the full course anyway. The cut-through is the only thing I’ve got to get better at.”

SPECIAL MOMENT: This has to be one of Sellers’ high points in his career, with a local driver leading the parade as NASCAR comes to VIR - when it counts - for the first time. Yes, Tony Stewart and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup contigent - which will be at Bristol for that Saturday night smashmouth show - have tested here, both in the official open test available for fan viewing and for private tests. (Stewart reportedly is quite fond of VIR and has been here in the paddock for other non-NASCAR events.)

The NASCAR Camping World Series trucks recently tested at VIR.

And from Marco Andretti, to the iconic announcer and track figure Chris Economaki, to road racing experts like Boris Said, and Grand-Am veterans like Scott Pruett, there’s no shortage of history.

And this doesn’t even include the old ‘VIR’ memories, where the track gained so much of its racing personality.

The historians tagged ‘NASCAR Bend’ - sandwiched in between the horseshoe and the left hook - because Richard Petty careening off course into the VIR mud. Petty got mired down in the muck, stuck and unable to advance. It happened during a 1966 Trans Am race, when David Pearson and the late Wendell Scott had trouble, too, during the race.

VIR has moved on during time, with its own personality, although there was sadness this summer when the iconic Oak Tree fell in the landmark turn that bore that name.

Now, the track moves on with the chance to establish new legends.

Saturday’s race is the first time NASCAR has been here with its own support team to run a competitive race that counts in a touring series.

Sellers’ presence certainly adds to the field.

“A local boy running a local race. It’s just a big deal that NASCAR’s bringing a touring event to the Southside. VIR (and track operations director) Kerrigan Smith worked really hard to get the series here. I’m just thankful to be a part of it,” said Sellers.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun with it, and hopefully get a lot of people out there to support the series and support the track, and have us a good day.”

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