It had been at least four years since Nathan Crews drive a pure stock car at South Boston Speedway.
Crews has been racing at South Boston, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned 0.4-mile asphalt banked oval track in South Boston, Virginia, for 12 years, and moved up to the track’s top late model division a few years ago.
Funding and sponsors moved him back to the pure stock division for 2019, and he wasted no time regaining his comfort in the car. Crews won nine races on the way to a commanding Pure Stock Championship, his first at South Boston.
Crews’s 571 points was 88 better than second place.
"It was probably the most fun I’ve had in any racing season," Crews said. "And also probably the most work because we put in anywhere from 90-100 hours every week to get both cars ready. And I was helping other people with their cars too so it was a full time job."
Peyton Sellers won a track-record third straight Late Model Stock Car division title and his fifth overall. He finished sixth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national standings. Kevin Currin won his second straight Budweiser Hornets Division title with three wins and a top five in all 12 of the division’s races. Danny Willis Jr. took home the Limited Sportsman Division championship.
Crews ran both pure stocks and late models for a couple race, and while he found success, switching between the two cars wasn’t easy.
"You do drive them totally different," he said. "It’s really hard when you get out of the late model and get back in it because it feels like you’re kind of not going as fast as you really are and you could make mistakes very easily. Those (pure stock) cars you pretty much just drift them around there. If you just push it a little bit too hard you can just slide way too much and that just kills all your momentum and speed. They’re more of a finesse versus driving the late models."
The success on the track came from what Crews called "a little bit of luck" and a good car that had fewer mechanical failures than in the past. In other years, he would run good but his equipment would sometimes let him down and cost him wins.
On championship night, Crews nearly had the title locked up, but it wasn’t a given. He knew he needed to at least finish the race, and hopefully finish near the front, to make sure he had the championship in hand.
But while he needed to just finish, car trouble made even that a difficult task. When he got the car to the track, they found it had power steering issues, and they couldn’t find the parts to fix it.
"I actually didn’t know if we should even qualify the car and everybody talked me into it," Crews said.
Crews was able to win the pole without power steering, "which was pretty cool," he said.
He still had to start the feature midway through the pack because of his wins during the season. While he ran the late model race, Crews’s team got the power steering hose and fixed the pure stock car well enough for the feature.
"I just hopped in it and went out there," he said. "It took a couple laps to get all the air and everything out of the steering, but after that it was pretty good and we went on and won the race."
Going into this season, Crews knew he would be focusing on trying to win the pure stock championship, but he always wanted to make sure he took a step back to soak up the joy of just racing and being at the race track. He didn’t want to get so caught up in chasing points he didn’t take the time to have fun.
"I think that played a big role in me being more relaxed and I was able to see and understand things a lot differently and it just really helped me as a driver," he said. "Being able to relax and actually enjoy it was probably the best part out of all of it this year."
"You actually do a lot better and you feel the car better and everything when you’re not so tensed up. Don’t get me wrong you’ve still got a lot of adrenaline going and everything, but instead of me being so focused on little things you’re able to relax and see more of the picture and it just helps you get things done a lot better."
Working on the car was a full-time job for Crews, who helps his father on a farm a few days a week and spends the rest of the time in the garage.
Crews has his dad, Bruce Crews, helping him most days and all races, and friends Daniel Pierce, Daniel Shelton, and Sam Walker who help around the shop and on race day from time-to-time.
For the most part, though, Crews is a one-man band when it comes to getting his car ready through the week.
"I try to just put everything and the focus on racing and trying to make it somewhere in racing," he said. "I’m the only guy that pretty much gets everything ready, builds the cars and does all the work to them when they get tore up. It’s a full time job just trying to do all that and keep up with these other teams that have hired help and everything."
Crews knows, though, that being hands-on with the car and understanding it inside and out makes him a better driver.
"It definitely wasn’t just given to us. It took a lot of hard work and there was a lot of times we just thought about kind of giving up. If we would have slacked on any bit of it we definitely wouldn’t have been in it in the end."
Just last week Crews was in the garage tinkering with cars and thinking about next season. He thanked everybody at CNC Racing and Troy Cook for helping him stay on the track. He’s currently working on getting sponsors for 2020, and hopes to move back to a late model and tour around, while continuing to run his pure stock as well.
He’s also stepping back and taking time, again, to enjoy his first championships.
"When everything was actually going on I really didn’t have time to think about it," he said. "We were just trying to look at weekend-to-weekend what we had to do and all, but actually now that I’ve got a little time to look back at it it’s pretty incredible everything we went through and what all we achieved out of it.
"We were planning on running for the championship, but I actually wasn’t planning on winning this much."