Track Officials Quietly Keep Things Running Smoothly Behind The Scenes At South Boston Speedway

Track Officials Quietly Keep Things Running Smoothly Behind The Scenes At South Boston Speedway

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (December 16, 2019) – It looks simple on race night: line the cars up, wave the green flag and let ‘em race.

Nothing could be further from the truth. From seven hours before the green flag until at least two hours after the checkered flag, there is a core group of indispensable, under-appreciated individuals who make the evening go as smoothly and equally as possible. From inspectors to scorers to flagmen and more, this group toils away more for the love of the sport than money.

“I think the average fan, even the average competitor doesn’t have a clue how important xxxx is, how hard they work and how much flack they take at times,” said Cathy Rice, general manager at South Boston Speedway. “There is absolutely no way we could ever put on a race without them. They keep things moving in the pits and on the track.

“They work so hard to make sure we have a level playing field and everyone is treated fairly in every division. It’s hot. There’s a lot of pressure. The hours are long. But every week, they show up and quietly go about their business. I’m always amazed at how hard the group we have works and how well they work together.”

That core crew of indispensable officials at South Boston Speedway is headed up by Jeff Bomar, the track’s head technical inspector. He works in the infield every event alongside Bruce Barksdale, Bear Clark, Speedy Austin, Michael Crews, Jimmy Davis, Matthew Halloren and Ken Utt. Tracey Sage and Connie Glass handle scoring while Hunter Rose is the flagman.

Generally, the group begins work around noon on race day and finish up around midnight … if they are lucky.

They begin the day in a group meeting with Rice and Bomar.

“We like to make sure everyone is on the same page and to go over anything new we may have going on for the week,” said Bomar.

Then they scatter to their respective areas.

Clark and Crews oversee tires, making sure the barcodes of all tires have been scanned and recorded to the appropriate car in a data base. They also help roll the tires out of the tire shed.

Barksdale and Austin work with the Late Model teams, Utt and Davis with the Limited teams and Halloren works with the Pure Stocks and the Hornets. The officials are there to make sure things go smoothly, rules are followed, that the schedule runs on time and to answer any questions teams may have.

“We like for the same guys to stay with the same division from week to week. We like for the teams to become familiar with them, so they know who to go to if they have a question,” said Bomar.

When their respective division is on track, inspectors keep a close eye on the action on the track and cars coming into the pits. At other times, when other divisions are on track, they are busy wherever they may be needed.

Everyone is cross trained also. For instance, when Clark is finished working with tires, he serves as the stop-and-go official at the end of pit road during the races. Similarly, Crews moves to the spotters stand to help answer questions and maintain order there.

Post-race all are busy making sure cars get through the scales and on to technical inspection.

“The top five go through the scales and we check first, second and third close. Each week we check something different. It may be engines one week; rear ends the next. We try to change it up every week to keep everyone honest,” said Bomar.

 The 2020 South Boston Speedway season kicks off on March 21 when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visits for a 150-lap race. There will also be twin 75-lap NASCAR Late Model Stock races.

With Christmas approaching rapidly, remember, South Boston Speedway gift certificates make great Christmas presents. They may be purchased by calling 877.440.1540, toll free, Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 


Mike Smith

Relevant Public Relations

Amelia High School Freshman Pembelton Having Surprising Rookie Season In Limited Sportsman Division At South Boston Speedway

Amelia High School Freshman Pembelton Having Surprising Rookie Season In Limited Sportsman Division At South Boston Speedway

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (August 19, 2019) – When Brian Pembelton retired from racing a few years back, his wife April probably sighed a sigh of relief with visions of Saturday nights away from the racetrack.

It was a short-lived vacation from left turns though.

The entire Pembelton family, Brian and April along with daughter Mallory are back in the pits again at South Boston Speedway helping their 14-year-old son Landon motor through his rookie year in the Limited Sportsman Division.

“I think she probably knew that once we had Landon at some point, he would be taking the wheel,” Brian said of wife April.

And has he ever taken the wheel. In his first season out of go karts and in a full-bodied stock car, the younger Pembelton has been impressive. In six starts he has three top-5 finishes and has been in the top 10 every race.

“I’m very shocked and surprised that I’ve finished in the top five as much as I have,” said Landon, a freshman at Amelia High School. “I’m very tickled with that. I’ve made quite a few mistakes and have learned from them and hoping to get better.”

No one has been more impressed by the youngster’s progress than his father.

“Man, I’m tickled to death with what he’s done. He’s well-exceeded my expectations,” said Brian, who won 11 Limited races and a championship at South Boston and had 17 wins and a championship at Southside Speedway near Richmond.

“He’s worked hard. He’s studying his craft hard. To be honest, I would like to think he’s going to continue on these last few races and do well.”

The success of the season doesn’t mean it’s been a totally easy transition for Landon, who campaigned go karts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region the past few years.

“It’s been a very big learning curve coming over from the karts,” said Landon, who is sponsored by Pembelton Forest Products, F&P Enterprises, Williams Logging, R&J Investments, Anderson Lawn Care, Sellers Racing and Tanner Race Engines.

“The toughest part has been being around the cars in traffic. I had never shifted gears so that was very new. But I think I’m doing a pretty good job of getting up to speed.”

There’s been a lot of help along the way this season, Brian said, pointing out the hard work of crewmen Joel Covington, Stanley Pope, Chris Carol and Keith Montgomery.

“Big kudos to my wife and our daughter Mallory. They are there week in and week out. They hear about the heartaches and the joys,” said Brian. “And we want to thank three people whole-heartedly for his success … Bruce Anderson, H.C. Sellers and Peyton Sellers. Those three have been very instrumental. We are planning on being with those three guys for years to come.”

Racing returns to South Boston Speedway Saturday, August 24 with the NASCAR Late Model 100. There will a 100-lap race for the Late Models, twin 25-lap races for Limited Sportsman Division, a 30-lap race for the Budweiser Pure Stock Division, a 15-lap event for the Budweiser Hornets Division and a special 25-lap race featuring the Southern Ground Pounders.

Grandstands open at 5:30 p.m., qualifying starts at 6 p.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 with children 12-and-under admitted free with a paying adult.

 PHOTO INFO: Young Landon Pembelton has made a big splash in the Limited Sportsman Division at South Boston Speedway this season.
Mike Smith
Relevant Public Relations

Warm Temperatures, Strong Field, Big Payout Should Make For Exciting Saturday Night At South Boston Speedway

Warm Temperatures, Strong Field, Big Payout Should Make For Exciting Saturday Night At South Boston Speedway

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (June 26, 2019) – A hot summer night should make for a night of hot, exciting racing at South Boston Speedway Saturday.

Drivers will face the warmest temperatures of the year Saturday night when the green flag falls on the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson Presented By Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200. They will also be facing the largest, most challenging field of the year; will be running for the biggest payout of the South Boston season; and trying to put themselves in good position in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown.

All those factors combined should make for an incredible night of racing.

“It’s going to be 200 laps of really close racing. There’s going to be some beating and banging and hopefully not a lot of cars will be torn up,” said Brandon Pierce, who finished fourth in this event last year. “But at the end of the night, this is South Boston. It’s going to be one of the toughest races I’ve ever been in.”

Weather forecasts indicate Saturday night will be the warmest race date of the season. Drivers say that has thrown an additional challenge into the mix.

“I think the heat and the length of the race will definitely play a big part,” said Thomas Scott, who sits third in South Boston’s point standings. “It’ll be important to pace yourself and not use up too much car in the beginning of the race to make sure you have something at the end.

“You’ll need to stay hydrated because when you’re dealing with the heat and humidity the summer brings, you will sweat a lot.”

Pierce said the heat will also have an impact on the cars.

“It’s going to be hot this weekend. Car balance is going to be big for everybody. Everybody is fighting for the same things. Emotions are going to be high, temperatures are going to be high and fan reactions going to be high,” said Pierce.

Timothy Peters, who has 11 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wins to his credit, will be making a rare late model start this weekend.

“This race is a big deal. It sets the tone for the triple crown,” said Peters, general manager of Nelson Motorsports, which will also be fielding cars for Bobby McCarty and Ty Gibbs. “The heat will play a role in the physical and mental fitness of drivers as well as the balance of the race car. It’s going to be a fun night.”

The Virginia Late Model Triple Crown is a series of three late model races. It begins with Saturday’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson Presented By Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200, moves to Langley Speedway in a few weeks for the Hampton Heat and winds down at Martinsville Speedway in October. The winner of the three-race series will earn $7,000, second place will take home $2,000 and third $1,000.

A good finish Saturday night could help propel a driver to not only a big season-ending payout but to an expanded schedule.

“This race is the biggest race of my career and probably always will be,” said Mike Jones, a South Boston native who runs South Boston Speedway regularly. “Unfortunately, we don’t travel (to races) like a lot of these guys do. Hopefully we can come away with a strong run and at least have to make us think about running the Hampton Heat. I think the biggest key to that is being hydrated, well-rested and making sure you have something left at the end.”

Saturday’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson Presented By Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200 is going to be a celebration of racing and family fun. There will be racing in four divisions, a huge fan appreciation event on the track prior to the race and a spectacular fireworks display after the final race.

There will be a break in the 200-lapper at the half-way point with a blind draw to invert the field for the second half.

In addition to the 200-lap Late Model race, there will be a 75-lap Limited Sportsman race, a 40-lap Budweiser Pure Stock race and a 20-lap Budweiser Hornets race.

Advance tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the South Boston Speedway office or by calling 877.440.1540, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On race day tickets will be $20 for adults. Children 12-and-under will be admitted free with a paying adult.

Mike Smith
Relevant Public Relations

South Boston Speedway Covers Pit Wall Opening To Help Eliminate Excess Crash Damage

South Boston Speedway Covers Pit Wall Opening To Help Eliminate Excess Crash Damage

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (June 10, 2019) – South Boston Speedway officials announced today that an opening in the pit wall at the start-finish line would be covered with a solid steel gate to help prevent destructive crashes in that area.

The pedestrian gate will be in place for Saturday night’s Halifax Insurance Presents Whelen NASCAR Late Model 100.

“Driver safety is always our top priority,” said South Boston Speedway General Manager Cathy Rice. “We’ve had several crashes in that area where the car caught in the opening and made the situation worse. We believe we’ve come up with a solution that will prevent that from happening going forward.

The most recent incident involving that area occurred two weeks ago during a Limited Sportsman race when Jessica Dana hit the inside wall and the rear of her car hooked in the opening damaging the fuel cell and causing a fire. Dana suffered a leg injury in the wreck and will be sidelined for a few weeks.

The 1/2-inch thick steel gate, which is braced by a four-inch I-beam, will be inset so it is flush with the wall, according to Jeff Bomar, the track’s maintenance superintendent. The gate, which will be opened between races for pedestrian access, weighs over 250 pounds.

Racing resumes at South Boston Speedway Saturday night with the Halifax Insurance Presents Whelen NASCAR Late Model 100. In addition to the 100-lap Late Model race, there will be twin 25-lappers for the Limited Sportsman Division, twin 15-lappers for the Budweiser Pure Stock Division and a 15-lap race for the Budweiser Hornets Divisions.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. with the first race scheduled for 7 p.m. Admission is just $10 for adults, with children 12-and-under admitted free with a paying adult. To celebrate Father’s Day fathers will be admitted for $5.

PHOTO INFO: South Boston Speedway’s Maintenance Superintendent Jeff Bomar works to install a gate on the pit wall.
Mike Smith
Relevant Public Relations

Thaxton Quietly Making A Statement At South Boston Speedway

Thaxton Quietly Making A Statement At South Boston Speedway

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (April 12, 2019) – Austin Thaxton has enjoyed all the publicity surrounding the three national champions in the Late Model Stock field at South Boston Speedway this season.

It’s helped him stay out of sight as he’s quietly raced to second in the points standings while putting together an average finish of just a tad over fourth.

“I hope so,” Thaxton said with a laugh when asked if he was going unnoticed. “That’s the plan. I really didn’t realize it (until this week). I hadn’t even looked at the points.”

Image result for Austin Thaxton

Those three NASCAR Whelen All-American Series titleholders, five-time champ Philip Morris, four-time champion Lee Pulliam, and Peyton Sellers, winner of one national title, have combined to win all four races this season. Morris has two wins, Pulliam one and Sellers one. Sellers leads the points by 25 over Thaxton.

Thaxton came out of the gate strong this season, posting a fifth and a fourth in the season-opening twin 100-lap races and followed up with a sixth and a second two weeks ago in twin 75-lap events.

It’s a much-needed resurgence for the South Boston driver. After winning five times in 2016, he’s won just one race in each of the past two seasons.

“I’m happy with everything so far,” said Thaxton. “We’re running better than we have in a while. We had been struggling pretty bad the last couple of years. We worked hard over the winter and in the first couple of races it seems to be showing.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve worked any harder than the last two or three years, but we have been making changes that count.  We’re not making changes just to make changes. We’re making them count.”

Thaxton has raced against the trio of champions much of his career. He has great respect for them but isn’t overly awed.

“Absolutely,” he said when asked if they were beatable. “They put their driving suits on just like I do. Now don’t get me wrong; all three are really good. You don’t have national championships and not be good. But I think we can out-run them and we are going to out-run them. It’s just a matter of time.”

The biggest obstacle for Thaxton so far this season has been finding speed on restarts.

“We’ve got really good long-run speed, but just not the good short-run speed,” said Thaxton, who gets sponsorship help from Italian Delight Family Restaurant, Fallen Trucking, Mincey’s Graphics and Morgan Lumber Company. “After about 10 or 15 laps we equalize but by then they are a half-a-straight ahead and that’s hard to make up.

“We just haven’t been able to put our finger on what to do to make it better. But we’ve been taking advantage of this break to work on it.”

That break ends April 20 with the NASCAR Easter Bunny Late Model 100, which features a 100-lap Late Model race, twin 25-lap Limited Sportsman races, a 30-lap Budweiser Pure Stock race and a 15-lap Budweiser Hornets race.

There will also be an Easter Egg hunt on April 20 at 6:30 p.m. for children 12-and-under.

It will be the first night race of the 2019 season at South Boston Speedway with gates opening at 5:30 p.m. and the first race taking the green at 7 p.m.

Tickets are just $10 for adults with children 12 and under admitted free with a paying adult.

Mike Smith
Relevant Public Relations

NASCAR Hands Down Penalties From Saturday’s Altercations At South Boston Speedway

NASCAR Hands Down Penalties From Saturday’s Altercations At South Boston Speedway
Track Officials Not Happy With Sanctioning Body’s Decision 

Image result for south boston speedway NASCAR Hands Down Penalties From Saturday’s Altercations At South Boston Speedway

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (April 4, 2019) – NASCAR has penalized two drivers, Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam, and a crew chief for their involvement in an altercation during last Saturday’s racing event at South Boston Speedway.

Morris received a $1,000 fine and is on probation until December 31. Also, any attempt by crew chief Forrest Reynolds to participate in a NASCAR event as a crew member of Morris’ team will result in further penalties levied to Morris.

NASCAR also levied a $1,500 fine against Pulliam and suspended him until April 17. If the fine is not paid, the NASCAR suspension will continue. Pulliam will be on probation until December 31.

South Boston Speedway officials emphasize this is a NASCAR penalty, not a track penalty and they are disappointed with the ruling.

“We disagree with the penalty handed down to Lee Pulliam,” said Cathy Rice, general manager of South Boston Speedway. “We are disappointed with the penalty and there will not be a track penalty for Pulliam or Morris.”

Image result for south boston speedway NASCAR Hands Down Penalties From Saturday’s Altercations At South Boston Speedway

NASCAR has notified Morris’ crew chief Forrest Reynolds that he is prohibited from participating in a NASCAR-sanctioned event without a current NASCAR license. Because of his conduct during last Saturday’s race and for participating in a NASCAR-sanctioned event without a NASCAR license, he is ineligible to apply for a NASCAR license until 2020.

During a red-flag period in the second of two 75-lap Late Model races, Reynolds ran onto the racing surface between the first and second turns, threw a two-way radio that hit the windshield of Pulliam’s race car and then crawled head-first into the passenger side of Pulliam’s car.

Pulliam started his car and took off, ejecting Reynolds onto the surface of the race track. No one was injured in the incident.

The incident came after Morris and Pulliam had an on-track altercation that resulted in Morris’ car wrecked forcing the red-flag period.

Morris won the first of the twin 75-lap races with Peyton Sellers victorious in the second.

Mike Smith
Relevant Public Relations

Five-Time NASCAR Whelen Modified Champion Doug Coby Expects Speed, Excitement For South Boston Race

Five-Time NASCAR Whelen Modified Champion Doug Coby Expects Speed, Excitement For South Boston Race

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (March 19, 2019) – Doug Coby rolled into South Boston Speedway for the first time a week ago unsure what to expect.

After a day-long test session, Coby had a grin on his face and a good feeling about the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150 at South Boston Speedway on March 30.

“We’re excited. We tested there last week. It’s going to be awesome,” Coby said of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s return to South Boston after 18 years’ absence. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour ran 11 races at South Boston from 2009 to 2016.

“My first reaction was how nice the place is kept. From the way that place is kept up, I’m ranking it in the top three of any track I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to a lot.

“My reaction to how it drives … it’s made for Modifieds as far as I’m concerned. I think the locals are going to be very surprised at how quickly these guys learn and how quick we’ll get around that place.”

And Coby knows a bit about the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which runs the bulk of its races in New England states.

He is a five-time Whelen Modified Tour champion, winning four straight titles from 2014-2017. He’s amassed 25 tour victories in his 17-year career and in 2016 won an amazing nine pole awards.

His most recent pole and race win came last Saturday at Myrtle Beach Speedway, the first of only two southern stops on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this year. The victory wasn’t as easy as it sounds, though. Despite winning the pole, he had to start at the rear of the field after his team found a screw in a tire just before the race and made an unapproved tire change. He fought his way back through the field and took the lead for good on lap 122.

“It all worked out in the end, I’ll put it that way,” Colby said of the Myrtle Beach win. “We had a really good car and we made the right changes. That’s what led to the win.”

Coby said he knew the South Boston racing surface had been repaved a couple of years ago, but he was surprised at its smoothness and consistency during his recent test.

“There’s not a track we race on up north that can compare to South Boston. There are lots of little pieces of tracks that compare, but nothing just like it,” said Coby. “I think the pavement makes a big difference. With the smoothness of the new pavement and the grip to match … and the corners are wide and smooth. Most of our tracks have lots of bumps and character.”

Coby said fans need to expect more speed than they see in weekly shows. Peyton Sellers set a Late Model track record last Saturday afternoon, winning the pole with a time of 14.676 seconds around the .4-mile oval. Coby said during last week’s test session at South Boston cars were consistently in the low 14-second range and the 14-second mark was eclipsed several times.

“It’s all about the corner speed,” said Coby. “We are lighter with lighter tires. The south is so focused on Late Models, having a different type of racing, a different type of car ripping around there is going to be fun.”

Coby said South Boston is a perfect fit for his driving style.

“I love short tracks with grip. I tend to struggle on tracks that don’t have grip,” said Coby. “It suits my driving style as good as any could. But at the same time, I think it’s going to suit anybody’s driving style.

“I’m excited. I think it’s a great fit for me personally and a great fit for the tour.”

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150 on Saturday afternoon, March 30, will feature the 150-lap Modified race and a pair of 75-lap Late Model Stock races.

Advance adult general admission tickets are $10 each and will be available until 5 p.m. on Friday March 29 by stopping in South Boston Speedway’s office or calling 877.440.1540. Adult general admission tickets on race day will be $15. Children 12-and-under will be admitted free with a paying adult.

Grandstands open at 11:30 a.m. on March 30 with an autograph session at 1 p.m. and the first race of the day starting at 2 p.m.


Mike Smith

Relevant Public Relations

South Boston Speedway Annual Open Practice Session Saturday Open To Public At No Charge

South Boston Speedway Annual Open Practice Session Saturday Open To Public At No Charge

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (March 5, 2019) – Opening Day is still a couple weeks away at South Boston Speedway, but the track will rumble to life this Saturday with the track’s annual open practice, traditionally held one week before the season-opener.

For most of the drivers the season-opener on March 16 is the biggest day of the year, but this Saturday’s practice session isn’t far behind.

“It’s like a first date for all of us,” reigning South Boston Speedway Late Model Stock champion Peyton Sellers said of the upcoming open practice. “We’ll be adjusting to a few new rules, some new team members. And the track has been vacant for six months. There are a lot of changes that we have made in the off season that we feel will affect everyone, so it’s important to get ahead of the curve quicker than our competitors.”

Registration begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, with cars on track from 10 a.m. until noon when there will be an hour break for lunch. Cars will be back on track from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the garage closing at 5 p.m. The practice is open to the public at no charge. All divisions, Late Model Stock, Limited Sportsman, Pure Stock and Hornets, will be practicing.

South Boston Speedway’s season-opener, the Danville Toyota NASCAR Late Model Twin 100s, is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 with gates opening at 12:30 p.m. and the green flag falling at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and children 12 and under admitted free.

Thomas Scott, who finished third in the 2018 Late Model points chase behind Sellers and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Philip Morris, said he hopes to break Saturday’s open practice into two separate parts.

“First we’ll just be shaking the car down to make sure there are no issues where it was completely disassembled over the winter,” said Scott. “We’ll be breaking in the refreshed engine, seating in the new brakes, stuff like that.

“Once all is good there, then we will work on the set up of the car, starting off with last year’s set up to see how much the track has changed over the past six months since we were on it last. I have some new stuff I want to try to see if it makes the car better or not.”

Not everyone can make it to Saturday’s day-long practice. Trey Crews, who is moving up to Late Models this season after winning a second Limited Division title in 2018, will be tied up with work and unable to make it to the track.

“We’ve worked hard in the off season getting ready to make a run at the Late Model division,” said Crews, praising the support of Stallings Collision Centers, Mincey Graphics, Elite Recycling and his dad, H.E. Crews. “I hope to test the Friday before the opening race. We already shook it down once and were pleased with the car.

“Our goal is to come out and have fun like last year and hopefully everything falls into place. We’re excited about the 16th (the opener) and hope our performance from last year rolls over into this season.”

Defending Pure Stock champion Jordan Pickrel isn’t sure he will make it Saturday either. He will, though, practice at least once before opening day on March 16.

“We will be looking to get back in the swing of things, getting myself back in rhythm,” said Pickrel. “We’ll try some things that we worked on over the winter and experiment. We’re not sure where the track is going to be due to aging over the winter. I expect we are probably going to have a little less grip this year so I’m sure that will be a learning curve.”

Tickets for the Danville Toyota NASCAR Late Model Twin 100s on the afternoon of March 16 may be purchased in advance by calling 877.440.1540 or by stopping by the office between the hours of 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.
PHOTO INFO: The pits will be full again this Saturday for the annual open practice day as teams prepare for the March 16 opener.

Mike Smith
Relevant Public Relations