Saturday night’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway is one of the biggest Late Model Stock races of the season.
It’s so big that a couple of South Boston championship contenders say it’s actually two races in one.
The race is 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 the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway later in the summer and the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway in the fall.
The $10,000 bonus and the prestige that comes with the Triple Crown championship always attracts a large crowd of outsiders to the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200, and that, in turn, creates an interesting situation for South Boston regulars.
“Saturday’s race absolutely sets the tempo for the Triple Crown,” said Peyton Sellers, who is 30 points behind six-time 2018 race winner Philip Morris in the South Boston points chase. “Each race track in the Triple Crown has its own characteristics: the banked, fast track here at South Boston; the flat track at Langley and then Martinsville. But if you can get around South Boston pretty good, it gets you off to a great start.
“But it’s a points race for me and that’s what I’ve got to look at. You have to keep an eye on those guys (not running for points). A lot of them are just looking at the Triple Crown. In the end you hope everybody treats you with respect. But if it comes down to the last lap, everybody has to go for the win.”
Thomas Scott, who is third in the South Boston points headed into Saturday night, agrees with Sellers.
“You can look at this race a couple of different ways, especially when you are racing for points like we are,” said Scott. “It’s a big part of the Triple Crown and I’m trying to run that for the first time this year. It can be a little nerve-racking because you’ll have a lot of guys you don’t race every week and the respect factor may not be what it should.
“But there are going to be a lot of cars and I love the challenge of that.”
Twenty-six cars started last year’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 and a similar field is expected for Saturday night.
It’s not just the allure of the Triple Crown that attracts outside teams to South Boston’s annual Fourth of July celebration race. There is quite a bit of money on the line. The race pays $6,500 to win. In addition, Sparks Oil has posted a $1,000 pole award and a $500 award for the driver leading the most laps and Stallings Collision Center will award a $1,000 bonus to the driver leading at the halfway point.
Grandstand gates will open at 4 p.m. Saturday, with live music beginning at 4 p.m. There will be an autograph session on the front stretch at 5:30 and the green flag will fly at 7.
Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the South Boston Speedway office or by calling the ticket office at 877.440.1540 until 5 p.m. on June 29. On race day tickets will be $20 for adults and children 12 and under will be admitted free with a paying adult.