Exciting times are approaching at South Boston Speedway (VA) as a new season is on the horizon. The 2017 season marks the 60th anniversary of the legendary 4/10-mile Southern Virginia short track. 2017 also ushers in a new era as the track has undergone a repave over the winter, the first at the track since 1993.
The repave is exciting for fans, drivers and everyone involved. It could make the first few races of the year and in fact, the entire 2017 season very intriguing with the unknown of fresh asphalt providing an array of new challenges for drivers.
Two-time Langley Speedway (VA) Late Model Stock champion Mark Wertz, raced at the track a handful of times last season and the driver of the No. 55 Dunkin Donuts/Keen Parts Chevrolet believes the repave will create more excitement for fans.
“The racing will be really fast and the new pavement should create a more exciting race for the fans with cars running in multiple grooves,” Wertz said. “Drivers will need to be a little more patient and think out each move as things happen fast at South Boston and with new asphalt it will happen even faster.”
Colin Garrett, driver of the No. 24 Limited Late Model for Sellers Racing, is excited but cautious over the new asphalt being laid down.
“It will be amazing but confusing in the beginning because no one has raced on a new surface there in over 20 years,” said Garrett, a recipient of the UNOH Youth Achievement Award in 2016. “The first couple weeks will be challenging with no rubber laid down but once they open up in February and let people test, maybe give it a few weeks and you could see a new track record or two.
“I think the new asphalt will be extremely fast especially when the season starts after the first few test days towards the end of February.”
Austin Thaxton, a winner in the 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at South Boston and former runner up in LMSC points at the track believes a lot of what goes on with the re-pave will be determined by the tire compound South Boston officials decide to run.
“I expect it will have a lot of grip to start with but mid-way through the year you will have guys sliding around, but the new asphalt is a good deal,” Thaxton stated. “Everyone has been saying we may be on a harder tire this year and if that is the case, I don’t expect that drastic of a difference. They didn’t add any banking or anything to it, so I’m told but you never know. When you get out there it may have more grip up to but I just hope it’s racier when we get out there.”
Thaxton recently made a visit to the track to get a first-hand look at what he may be up against next season.
“I rode over to the track and looked at it, it looks smooth and we are supposed to go do a tire test over there in the next couple of weeks.”
Perennial South Boston front-runner Bobby McCarty, expects the racing at the Southern Virginia short track to heat up at the quarter-season to mid-season point.
“I think it will be interesting to say the least,” he said. “Extremely fast and a ton of grip I just hope it doesn't take too long for the track to widen out so we can put on some good racing for the fans.”
The area around South Boston was hit with approximately six inches of snow this past weekend. South Boston Senior Vice President Nick Igdalsky is not worried about the snow, rather he is worried about the repeated freezing and thawing of the snow on the track, as temps in the area did not move above the freezing mark until Monday.
Igdalsky had to say, "Snow will not hurt it. The longer the snow stays on the surface the better. It acts as a protective blanket so the temperature of the racing surface stays constant and not always freezing and thawing. That (freezing and thawing) would also cause minor cracking."
Regardless of how the new track surface comes in, it is sure to be exciting for fans and drivers. The season at South Boston kicks off on March 25 with twin 100-lap races for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 2 p.m. ET that day. Be sure to be there for the first race at the new South Boston Speedway.
NWAAS National Champion Matt Bowling is the defending track champion and will be joined by Phillip Morris, Austin Thaxton, Bobby McCarty and a slew of others gunning for the track championship and potentially more.
-By Reese Nobles, Speed51.com Mid-Atlantic Correspondent - Twitter: @RNoblesSpeed51
-Photo credit: South Boston Speedway