It won’t take much to get drivers fired up for Saturday night’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200 at South Boston Speedway. They completely understand the Fourth of July weekend race is huge.
“The 200 is South Boston’s biggest race of the year with a great after show that fans and drivers love to see,” said Bobby McCarty, who has two wins this season and is sixth in Late Model points. “The increased purse really adds to the excitement with all the bonuses that are available doing the race. I just hope we can park our Autos By Nelson 22 in victory lane Saturday night.”
“It’s the biggest race of the year at South Boston, so of course you want to win it,” said Brandon Pierce, who sits third in the points entering Saturday’s race. “It has always been a big race and a big deal to drivers to win this particular race. Another reason is because it’s the midpoint of the season and it lets you know where you stack up against the competition.”
The race pays $ 6,500 to win and $ 700 to start. Sparks Oil has posted a $ 1,000 pole award and a $ 500 award for the driver leading the most laps in the Late Model event. Stallings Collison Center will award a $ 1,000 bonus to the driver leading at the halfway point of the Late Model race.
The race is also the first leg in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, a three-race series that rewards the top overall finisher a $ 10,000 bonus. The other two races are at Langley Speedway and Martinsville Speedway later this year.
“With the Virginia Triple Crown, it adds extra excitement since there is more to gain than just this race,” said Pierce. “If you run well here, and then go to Langley and run well, then you’ve got a shot to win the triple crown if you make Martinsville.”
The race, its prestige and large purse is drawing a great deal of interest outside of South Boston’s regular runners. A large influx of Late Model drivers is expected in the field including defending champion Lee Pulliam, South Boston’s all-time Late Model win leader Philip Morris, defending track champion Matt Bowling, Timothy Peters, Brenden Queen, Mark Wertz, Justin Carroll, Terry Carroll, Trevor Ward and Dean Ward.
There will be a prerace concert behind the main grandstand featuring Mike Brooks and the Konnection Band from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and an on-track autograph session prior to the race. Once the engines quiet down at the end of the evening, the sky will come alive with the area’s largest fireworks display.
In addition to the 200-lap Late Model race there will also be a 100-lap Limited Sportsman race, a 50-lap race for the Budweiser Pure Stock division and a 20-lap race for the Budweiser Hornets Division.
Grandstand gates will open at 4 p.m. on July 1, with live music beginning at 4:30 p.m. The autograph session will begin on the front stretch at 5:30 and the green flag will fly at 7.