Following an audit of key races over the summer, Layne Riggs has been declared NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion by four points over Peyton Sellers.
When the figurative dust settled on a pair of twin features at Motor Mile Speedway and Dominion Raceway on Friday and Saturday nights, it appeared as if Sellers had won via a tiebreaker but under somewhat controversial fashion.
Sellers swept both races at Motor Mile but only after swapping over from his familiar No. 26 to the No. 0 typically driven by Sellers Racing client Landon Pembelton. Riggs with draw from the second twin feature. As a result, the race was no longer a full field counting towards national championship points.
As a refresher, NASCAR takes the top 18 finishes from a driver through the second weekend of September but only in Division I races with a full field designated by 16 or more drivers with a valid NASCAR competition license. That allows drivers from all across the country driving a variety of cars to race against each other for the same championship.
The complicated nature of national points racing has produced no shortage of controversial finishes over the years with contending drivers and affiliated tracks working sometimes hand-in-hand to stack the deck with cars to reach a full field.
Even over the course of the summer, Sellers and Riggs had numerous hard battles across Virginia, with the occasional scuttlebutt of Sellers Racing cars driving especially hard against the son of Cup Series veteran Scott Riggs.
But again, nothing out of the usual when it comes to the gamesmanship associated with the Weekly Series National Championship.
With that in mind, both championship finalists this year showed up to Dominion with Sellers trailing Riggs by two points but with one additional win. Sellers won the first feature at Dominion and withdrew his car from the second feature but did drive a backup car wanting to preserve his primary for the Martinsville 300, analogous to taking a knee in the final moments of a football game since he owned the tiebreaker.
However, NASCAR implemented an audit of key races throughout the summer and found instances of unlicensed drivers and what the sanctioning body determined as an affront to the Weekly Series Rule Book.
NASCAR did not throw out any race results but did disqualify the unlicensed drivers from the results of those races, preventing them from counting as full fields. Specifically, Sellers was told that NASCAR found that Limited Late Model competitor JD Eversole had entered twin races at Dominion Raceway on August 27 without a valid license and stripped him of his 10th and 16th place finishes that night.
Sellers said he doesn’t know Eversole, but has seen him race occasionally, and believes that should not have decided the national championship a month after the fact.
“My whole thing, once you’re heading into that last race, you have to have it right,” Sellers told Racing America about NASCAR’s audit. “I built my entire weekend around that four-point deficit.”
The race at Motor Mile on Friday was a rain out makeup date from last month, and the track called both championship contenders in the hopes of promoting a decisive national championship event before the final points day at Dominion on Saturday.
NASCAR also disqualified from the results of the second race at Motor Mile cars owned by Kyle Dudley and Billy Martin on the basis of artificially inflating car counts without the intent to compete — denying Sellers a full field win.
To be eligible for the second race according to the Motor Mile rule book, a car must complete at least half of the first race, which every car entered into the event accomplished on Saturday.
All told, Sellers gained two points over the weekend at Motor Mile and Dominion but ultimately lost by four points — coincidently the same amount he trailed by entering the weekend — after the NASCAR audit was completed earlier in the week.
Sellers said he was made aware of the decision on Thursday morning by NASCAR Weekly Series director Kevin Nevalainen. The two-time national champion isn’t sure if there are any appeal options available to him and will evaluate his options in due course.
“For NASCAR to roll in and take two cars out of the results, and another one a month after the fact, I’m caught off guard by it,” Sellers said. “It caught me flat footed. The two cars at Motor Mile ran over half the first race per the rules.”
As for swapping over to the No. 0, Sellers equated it to 23XI Racing moving Bubba Wallace from the No. 23 to the No. 45 and winning a race.
“Did we have cars and teammates willing to help us? Absolutely,” Sellers said. “We’ve worked really hard to have this kind of race team and teammates willing to help us. Landon got in my car and was half a tenth faster than I was in it. He still finished fifth in it and that’s about where we were going to be. We had a teammate with a faster car that was willing to help us out.
“At the end of the day, NASCAR has to get the points right going into that final weekend. You have to know the score to know how to plan your weekend. We won 18 races and you can’t take that away from us. We won 12 of our last 15 races. All we can do right now is go to Martinsville this weekend and try to get a grandfather clock.”