NEWPORT NEWS (WAVY) — When NASCAR returns to Richmond this weekend, one local driver will be making his debut in Friday night’s Xfinity series race.
25 year-old Matt Waltz from Newport News, one of the top drivers at Langley Speedway in Hampton, will be among the drivers on the track Friday in NASCAR’s second most prestigious series.
“I’ve been racing about my whole life,” Waltz said.
Waltz won 12 of 22 late model races at Langley last season, and it was a chance encounter at Richmond in April with former Daytona 500 champion Derrick Cope that led to his opportunity to make his first Xfinity series start.
“We were walking around the pits, just meeting and greeting,” said Waltz. “If you don’t know them, you’ve got to go meet them, and that’s what I did, and that’s how I met these people to get this opportunity.”
With an engineering degree from Old Dominion on his resume, Waltz says his education has helped him in his NASCAR career.
“I feel like it does help me a lot being an engineer and being a driver at the same time because it allows me to talk to everybody. I can talk on their level, it helps me relay information back to them that somebody else might not be able to.”
Waltz has raced Richmond before, he was on the pole for the Denny Hamlin short track shootout, but the stakes are much higher Friday, when he will be racing against veteran drivers, many with Cup experience.
“A lot of excitement and then a little bit of nerves,” Waltz said. “Considering it is something new for me, I’ll be a rookie, first time I’ve really been a rookie in a while. I’ve got to make sure that I go out there and I race smart and I don’t do anything stupid.”
Derrick Cope’s race team is one of the smaller teams in the series, and Waltz has realistic expectations.
“We don’t quite have the money behind us that a lot of the big teams do. We would like to see a good solid in the 20-30 finish range and that’s realistically where Derrick’s been finishing, I would definitely like to match that or of course try to do better.”