Strong straight-line winds accompanying a fast-moving thunderstorm took down some signage, damaged some billboards, ripped a limb off of a tree, blew down some fencing and caused other minor damage at South Boston Speedway Friday afternoon, but spared the facility of structural damage.
Track officials said early Friday evening no structural damage was done by the storm, and clean-up will be completed and everything will be in place for Saturday night's Thunder Road Harley-Davidson Presented By Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200, the track's premier event of the season.
Law enforcement officers responding to the speedway in the wake of the storm said no injuries were reported.
Approximately 30 cars were at South Boston Speedway Friday for practice and testing ahead of Saturday's racing program when the storm roared through the area. Persons in the pit area said there was no warning of an impending severe storm.
The straight-line winds picked up tents and canopies race teams were using on pit road as a shelter from the sweltering afternoon sun, tossing several over the track's inside pit wall onto the frontstretch of the speedway, leaving twisted metal to be picked up and disposed of.
"It was wild there for a little while," said former NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion Lee Pulliam of Alton.
"I guess it was like being in the middle of a tornado. I don't really know what it was, but we couldn't see five feet in front of us at the time."
Pulliam's experience in the storm mirrored that of others in the speedway's pit area when the storm hit.
"We (Lee Pulliam Performance) had three cars here, so we had three tents set up," Pulliam explained.
"I saw the first one trying to come off of the ground, so I took off running out of the trailer. Chris (a team crew member) was holding onto one, and about that time I saw the hood of Brandon's car (Brandon Pierce) come up, and I was trying to hold it. Chris was getting picked up off the ground. I was getting picked up. Dave (another team member) helped me get the hood back down."
Pulliam said the tents they were using were destroyed.
"Our tents ended up on the frontstretch up against the fence," he pointed out.
"I would say over $100,000 worth of stuff got damaged down here in the pits. All of these canopies are high-dollar. Hoods got snapped off. It's a mess. It was kind of rough Friday here at the racetrack. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. The main thing is everybody in our area seemed to be okay."
The storm contained a second component - hail.
"The hail started hitting us pretty hard," Pulliam pointed out.
"(Austin) Thaxton had half of a canopy left, and he and I got under that. It (the hail) was still beating us from the side, but we got mostly covered up."
Veteran racer Terry Dease of Oxford, North Carolina said he was in his truck talking to his father, Pete Dease, on the telephone when the winds hit.
"It (the wind) blew the door to the trailer shut," Dease said.
"The next thing I knew, tents were flying. Then, I heard stuff start popping. It had started hailing. It was kind of scary."