SBS

A huge crowd of fans makes it way along the frontstretch visiting with drivers and looking over cars during the Fan Appreciation event held prior to the start of last year’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway.

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 also will 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 until 5 p.m. Friday at the South Boston Speedway office or by calling 877-440-1540. On race day tickets will be $20 for adults. Children 12-and-under will be admitted free with a paying adult.