Thunder Road a special race for Brandon Pierce

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 30, 2023

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By Joe Chandler

South Boston Speedway

The July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort at South Boston Speedway is a top-tier showcase event the region’s Late Model Stock Car Division competitors have had circled on their schedule for many months.

It is the opening race of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown and the $10,000 winner’s prize is one of the biggest payouts competitors shoot for each season.

For Brandon Pierce, the event is one that receives special attention and extra focus.

His father, Vann Pierce, and Billy Wellons co-own Thunder Road Harley-Davidson which sponsors the race and sponsors the car Pierce drives out of the Lee Pulliam Performance stable.

“It’s a big race for me every year,” Pierce remarked.

“I kind of look at it like another Martinsville. There are a lot of emotions and some pressure. Some of it is getting the start of my racing career at South Boston Speedway, racing there full-time in 2016 and 2017. It’s South Boston Speedway’s biggest race of the year. It’s a Virginia Late Model Triple Crown race, and my longtime supporter and sponsor Thunder Road Harley-Davidson is sponsoring the event.

“I can’t thank Thunder Road Harley-Davidson enough,” added Pierce.

“They have been sponsoring this race long before I started driving. Their continued support and loyalty to the racetrack and this race has been incredible.

“There is a lot of pride and a little pressure as well because it’s a hometown race for Lee Pulliam and our organization,” Pierce continued.

“There are a lot of people that come out and support us because of Lee and because we’re the hometown team. I always want to perform well in front of his family and all of our fans.”

Pierce is no stranger to South Boston Speedway. He has one career win at South Boston Speedway and one career win on the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Late Model Stock Tour where he competes full-time. Winning the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort would be his biggest accomplishment to date.

“If I could pull off winning the Thunder Road 200 it would be the biggest win of my career,” Pierce noted.

“I have a CARS Tour win which was very big. I have a win at South Boston Speedway in 2018 against Phillip Morris. Beating Phillip Morris and Josh Berry are two huge accomplishments I am very proud of, but I know in my heart I can say the Thunder Road 200 would surpass both of those victories just for how much it would mean to me, my family, everybody involved with Thunder Road and Lee Pulliam.

“It was really special for Lee as a car owner to win last year’s race,” Pierce continued.

“He’s won it six times as a driver and once as a car owner. I would say he was probably just as excited, if not more excited, to win the race as he was as a driver.”

Last July Pierce qualified 11th among the 42-car field and finished 24th after being among the drivers that were caught up in a 17-car pileup on the frontstretch with less than 20 laps to go in the race. He has a pair of Top-5 finishes in the event.

“I felt we had a really good car last year,” Pierce noted.

“Unfortunately, I had an incident during the race that I got laps down. Later I got caught up in that big wreck on the frontstretch towards the end of the race.”

Pierce is optimistic about his chances for a win or good result in the July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort at South Boston Speedway.

“I have all hopes and ambitions we can be a threat to win the race,” Pierce said.

“We always have speed there. I think we will unload close enough to have Top-10 speed and hopefully quicker than that. As long as we can do that, have a little bit of luck go our way, and make the right strategy calls I think we will have as good a shot as anybody to win the race.”

Pierce points out that the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort is a difficult race to win because of the high level of the competition that will be present.

“I’ve always felt that if you could win the Thunder Road 200 you’ve basically won Martinsville,” Pierce said.

“Anybody and everybody (in Late Model Stock Car racing) is going to come to this race. You have your South Boston Speedway regulars, Peyton (Sellers), Carter (Langley), and Jacob (Borst), just to name a few. You know those three guys are going to be tough to beat.

“Every year the competition in this race gets that much tougher,” Pierce added.

“It’s extremely difficult now. That’s just how much the competition has grown and how everybody has done such a great job getting their cars better.”

The pre-race entry list for the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort is a star-studded one. Among the top drivers entered in the event are two-time Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 winner Peyton Sellers who has five wins at the .4-mile oval this season, Carter Langley who has six wins at the track this season, and Jacob Borst, the runner-up in last year’s race. The top two drivers in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour standings, defending series champion Carson Kvapil who drives for JR Motorsports and Brenden Queen are entered in the 200-lap race.

Bobby McCarty of Madison, North Carolina who won the race in 2021, Mike Looney of Catawba, Virginia, Landon Pembelton of Amelia, Virginia, Sam Yarbrough of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Stacy Puryear of South Boston, Virginia are also entered.

The July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort will feature a 200-lap race for the Sentara Health Late Model Stock Car Division. A 40-lap race for the Budweiser Limited Sportsman Division, a 20-lap race for the Southside Disposal Pure Stock Division and a 20-lap race for the Virginia State Police HEAT Hornets Division round out the four-race card.

Advance adult general admission tickets are priced at $20 each and may be purchased online on South Boston Speedway’s website, or by calling the speedway office at 434-572-4947 or toll free at 1-877-440-1540 during regular business hours.

Tickets at the gate on race day will be $25 each. Seniors ages 65 and older, military, healthcare workers, and students (with ID) can purchase tickets for $20 each at the gate on race day.

The tentative race day schedule has registration and pit gates opening at 10 a.m. Frontstretch spectator gates will open at 12:30 p.m. and practice will start at 1 p.m. Backstretch and Turn 4 trackside tailgating gates will open at 3:30 p.m.

Qualifying for the 200-lap Sentara Health Late Model Stock Car Division race is set for 4:15 p.m. An Autograph Session powered by Hitachi Energy is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on the frontstretch of the speedway. Pre-race Ceremonies powered by Hitachi Energy will begin at 6:35 p.m. and the first race will get the green flag at 7 p.m. A colorful Fourth of July fireworks show will light up the night sky immediately following the last race of the night.

Friday, June 30 is Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 Practice Day and Fan Appreciation Day. Practice will include all four of the track’s regular racing divisions and will run from 11 a.m. until 7:45 p.m. Fans can come out and watch practice from the track’s spectator areas free of charge.