(April 23, 2017) So in my continued efforts to figure out what I’m going to do with this space, I’ve decided that I’m going to write about some of the racing at South Boston Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and wherever else I end up over the course of the year. At least that’ll be some of this, so here it goes.
South Boston Speedway is about as new as the place can be without actually being brand new. Over the course of the last few years they’ve put in a new sound system, new pavement, new grandstands, and generally the track has a feel of a new facility of it. I’m fortunate to have this be my second full season working for the track (having covered the track for a website for a while for about 8 years prior).
As you’ll have with any repave, the track is faster than anyone can remember. A few years back Southern National Motorsports Park got repaved and the speeds were insane. On top of that, the Hoosier F45 tires gripped so well that they pulled up some of the asphalt, and the tires lasted only about 50 laps at a run. South Boston might have even more grip than that.
The track is using the F50 tire, which is a harder compound that tends to last longer. That’s the theory, at least. The tire has not only had a lot of grip to it, it’s put rubber down much faster than anyone expected. Back at SNMP, it took forever for any semblance of a second groove to come in (and to this day you can argue it may not have actually come in), but over the course of two events you can visibly see a darker second groove working in.
So how has the racing been? For starters, fast. On opening day, every track record was broken, save for the overall track record. Philip Morris’ 14.731 was .6 faster than the previous Late Model Stock record, and only .3 off the overall record set by a modified.
And the racing has been good in my opinion. In the first Late Model Stock race of the season, Philip Morris stomped the field, winning both ends of a Twin 100 lap doubleheader. That said, the racing behind him was really good, with the second groove starting to come in over the course of the afternoon. Two weeks later, the racing was even better, with Bobby McCarty and Peyton Sellers winning each end of the Twin 75s.
It’s also worth noting that South Boston this season has had three former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champions in the field for both of their events this season (Morris, Sellers, and Lee Pulliam). A fourth, Matt Bowling, won his title while racing at South Boston full time.
The tires have actually fallen off a lot faster than anyone expected, too. The F50s are a hard tire compound, and everyone expected them to last throughout a race. What we’ve seen instead is a lot of drop off throughout the race, which is exactly what you want as a race fan.
One of my favorite stories of the year, by far, has been Limited Sportsman driver David Latour Jr. getting into victory lane to open the season. In 2016, I chatted with Latour on the podium after a 2nd or 3rd place finish almost every week, but he wasn’t able to ever find his way into victory lane. Come to find out he hadn’t won in over 10 years, which is mind-boggling to me. Having seen Latour race a bunch over that time, I think most of us had just assumed he’d won a race here or there. Either way, it’s great to have him leading the points going into their next race.
As always, the four cylinder cars have been putting on a show. In Pure Stock, 2016 champion Johnny Layne sits in sixth after something was leaking out of his motor in the second race of the season. Scott Phillips, Harrison Walker, and Tyler Connor are all within three points of each other.
The newest class at South Boston is the Hornet division, with front wheel drive cars that are as stock as can be. If we’re all being honest here, these guys (and gals) put on some of the best shows you could ask for in 15 laps. The cars draw for position, and it’s not unusual to have them going three (sometimes four) wide through the 12 degree corners. Cars tend to be Chevy Cavaliers or something close to that, and are basically just gutted out, safety’d up, and sent on out.
Tyler Crute leads the Hornet points having won each of the first two races, while Jared and Justin Dawson sit 2nd and 3rd, just ahead of Kevin Currin. Despite Crute winning the last couple races, it’s literally anyone’s race every time these folks head on out.
The 2016 track champion, Kenny Mills Jr., has had just awful luck between a wreck in the first race and losing all the oil out of his car in the second race. If you know anything about Mills, though, you know he’ll rally and be back out front soon.
Our next race at South Boston Speedway is the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s, the first ever twin-race event for the K&N Pro Series East. It’s been a while since we’ve had the K&N Pro Series at South Boston, and the cars should put on a great show on the new asphalt.