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When Peyton Sellers won the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship, at 21 years old he was the youngest to ever earn that title.
That championship came 16 years ago, and while Sellers is no longer the young guy at the track, his mindset hasn‘t changed much.
“At 37, I‘m one of the older ones, but I still have that burning desire to go out and win races,” Sellers said by phone this week. “And to be able to do that at this level, it‘s harder than ever. To be able to compete for national titles is just something I‘ve always wanted to do.”
It‘s been a busy summer for Sellers and his No. 26 Clarence‘s Steakhouse and Danville Toyota late model team. Last week he celebrated his sixth track championship at South Boston Speedway, a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.4-mile asphalt track in South Boston, Virginia.
With two weeks left in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series season, he‘ll finish the year traveling to Northern Virginia for the final races at Dominion Speedway in Woodford, Virginia, where he leads by 102 points.
On the year, Sellers has 20 wins in 34 starts and leads the NAAPWS Division I standings by 42 points.
It‘s been a good and busy summer for Sellers, but going for two track titles and a possible national championship has also helped the team stay at the top of their game.
“When our competitors at South Boston were at home working on their cars getting better we were out racing, and vice versa. When we were at South Boston racing our Dominion competitors were at home working on their cars trying to make them faster,” he said. “I think to stay sharp, it‘s no different than golf or basketball or anything. You‘ve got to stay active and you‘ve got to stay on the field all the time. For us, it‘s been staying on the track all summer.”
Sellers has won the last four late model track titles at South Boston. His sixth puts him one away from tying the track record, held by Dave Blankenship.
South Boston didn‘t host a single race in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, so getting to return to his home track after a year away made this championship just a bit more special for Sellers.
“We grew up racing at South Boston. I grew up going there as a young kid watching races,” he said. “Last year was difficult for everybody. We just wanted life to be back to normal… We ended up having to go to Dominion and different tracks around the country to race and it always hurt driving past South Boston every week knowing that that was your home track.
“To be able to come back there this year with some new competition, some young guns that have moved up, just kind of a new look on things after missing last year was definitely nice to come back and answer the call with some wins and a championship.”
One thing Sellers said helped his team in 2021 was being able to still race last year. They came into this season with cars they hadn‘t raced at South Boston before, so a lot of the summer was spent building a notebook and figuring out how to prepare the cars and learning how they would respond to a track that had sat empty for more than a year.
“The track had some different characteristics to it, so we were just trying to relearn everything again,” he said.
While Sellers was relearning his home track, he was also teaching and training South Boston‘s next generation of drivers, including his new teammate, 16-year-old Landon Pembelton. Pembelton considers the Sellers mentors for him as he learns how to drive a late model, and it‘s a role Sellers embraces. The veteran driver tries to teach young racers patience and how to maintain their cars for the end of long races.
“That‘s one of the single best things that I enjoy about what we get to do right now. I grew up just being the young guy at the race track… so I‘ve been in their shoes before,” Sellers said. “Like Landon… he‘s learning a lot, he‘s won a late model race. He‘s doing an excellent job. To be able to bring those guys to the racetrack week-in and week-out, teach them things and see them take what you‘ve taught them and beat you with it, I‘ve had Landon beat me several times this year, it‘s a sense of accomplishment away from the track as well as on the track.”
With just two races standing in the way of a second national championship, Sellers said the rest of the season is just about being steady, finishing races, and bringing home good results.
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Sixteen years after his national championship, Sellers knows what it takes to win, and he‘s just as ready to go for it as he was all those years ago.
“I‘ve been able to do racing for a long time now and I‘ve been able to kind of grow up at the racetrack,” he said. “It‘s something I‘m definitely fond of. I enjoy racing. I don‘t necessarily sit down every winter and look at setting records or breaking records, but at the end of the day it is nice to be able to put your name in the same category as some of those drivers that have won a lot of titles at South Boston.
“We‘ve had a good year. We‘re just very fortunate for it. To compete for NASCAR titles is something that everybody wants to do and we‘ve been able to do that.”