Conversation led Nelson to create LMS team
Barry Nelson spent much of his youth tinkering with race cars and visiting race tracks but as an adult, he became so wrapped up in work, family and community endeavors racing became an afterthought.
Until he had a chance meeting with NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Timothy Peters in 2013 the thought of starting a race team hadn’t crossed his mind. But after a conversation with Peters, his wheels immediately began turning, and the result is what he likes to refer to as the “Hometown Team,” a Late Model Stock program that has quickly blossomed into one of the most respected in racing.
While anchored by regional talent like Peters and Bobby McCarty of Summerfield, N.C., Nelson Motorsports has attracted national NASCAR talent like Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin for one-off events.
The Martinsville-based operation made national headlines again earlier this year when it was announced that 16-year-old Ty Gibbs had signed with the team for at least six races this summer. Does the last name sound familiar? It should. Ty is the grandson of Joe Gibbs, NASCAR Cup Series owner and Super Bowl champion coach of the Washington Redskins.
The youngster, a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, had been competitive at weekly racing tracks in North Carolina, but the Nelson partnership has taken him to another level. In his initial outing with the team three weeks ago, he won one of the most prestigious Late Model Stock races in the country, The Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
“It’s an honor that Coach Gibbs and his family would think enough of us to allow Ty to race with us,” said Nelson. “He is such a great young talent. He’s going to compete at the highest levels in NASCAR and it’s a privilege for us to help him along with the journey.
“When I started Nelson Motorsports, a big part of the goal was to create something that would show people everywhere that Martinsville and Henry County can produce good and positive things. It feels good to attract the attention of one of the top teams in NASCAR and for him to let his grandson race with us, run our equipment and trust our guidance.”
Nelson’s racing accomplishments should not come as a surprise; he’s no stranger to success. He built a small family car dealership into AutosbyNelson, a group of seven auto dealerships representing 13 manufacturers in Southern Virginia and North Carolina.
“Racing is like the car business. It’s is all about people and I’ve got the best people,” said Nelson, who has five fulltime employees in his race shop, located in Bassett Forks.
Peters, who planted the seed for Nelson’s race team and has been a constant since its inception, heads up Nelson’s group of “best people” as the team’s general manager. He also drives in bigger events for Nelson Motorsports and still competes in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series on a part-time basis. He won one truck series race in 2018 while making just five starts. He has a total of 11 career wins in the series.
Peters was Nelson Motorsports’ lone driver in the beginning and scored some big Late Model for the team. He captured the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown in 2015 and the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway in 2017.
Those two wins propelled Nelson Motorsports into the national spotlight. It wasn’t just the victories, but the quality of the equipment, workmanship and management that drew interest and respect. That was the reason two of NASCAR’s top stars, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin came calling a year ago. They both wanted top-notch entries for the Denny Hamlin Short-Track Showdown, the annual invitation-only race that pits top short-track talent from across the country. The race is a fundraiser for the Denny Hamlin Foundation.
“It was all about networking,” Peters said about attracting the Cup stars. “I knew Denny from back in the day when we were racing Late Models against each other. I know both of them from racing against them. And they know that we put a good product on the track.”
Peters and his crew immediately went to work building out two new Late Models for the NASCAR Cup stars and their workmanship didn’t disappoint. Hamlin won his namesake race, Busch finished second, and Peters finished third in another Nelson entry.
“When we started in 2013, if I had told him (Nelson) Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin would be driving his cars, he wouldn’t have believed it,” said Peters. “He has given us all the tools and the infrastructure to do this.”
While Nelson Motorsports has built a national profile, it has remained a steady performer at weekly race tracks throughout the region.
In 2017 McCarty won four races at South Boston Speedway and captured the prestigious Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway. Last year McCarty won four of 16 CARS Response Energy Tour races and claimed the series championship.
He’s returning to that series this season, and along with Gibbs and Peters will run other select events throughout the region, like the annual Fourth of July 200-lap race at South Boston Speedway and the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville.
And of course, no one will be surprised if some more big names come calling to partner with Nelson again in 2019.