The past decade of Late Model racing along the eastern United States has seen the Basset, Virginia-based Nelson Motorsports emerge as one of the strongest and most successful teams in the region. The team’s accomplishments during the past year alone include a victory in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway with Timothy Peters behind the wheel, as well as a recent string of success in the CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Car Tour with Bobby McCarty, who currently holds the points lead after scoring two early-season wins.
The third member of Nelson Motorsports’ stable of drivers is Oak Ridge, North Carolina native Brandon Pierce, who is in the middle of his third season behind the wheel of the #2 Fremont Properties Toyota. Pierce is coming off his first career victory in the second of two Late Model features at South Boston Speedway on Saturday evening, where he held off four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Philip Morris in the closing laps.
“It meant a lot to me,” Pierce said. “After the first race, I told all of the guys that we would have a good shot for the second one because we had a really good chance to win both, but I made a mistake and Peyton got away. That first win in itself was big, but it was that much more satisfying to get it at South Boston and to beat the King. Somebody asked me if I could write the script, how would I write it, and I just said it wrote itself.”
Prior to his victory last weekend, Pierce had established himself as one of the front-runners every week at South Boston Speedway, which is where he made his Late Model debut in 2016. After recording five Top 5 finishes during his first season at the track, Pierce improved slightly during the 2017 season when he recorded six Top 5 finishes, which placed him 20th in the Whelen All-American Virginia State Championship, and 207th overall.
Pierce also began to compete in several of the big Late Model events along the east coast during the 2017 season, as he brought home an impressive 9th place finish in his first ValleyStar Credit Union 300 start at Martinsville Speedway but finished 34th in the 2017 Myrtle Beach 400 after encountering problems late in the race. Pierce also made his debut in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour season finale at his home track of South Boston, where he managed to keep his car out of trouble, and finished in 12th place.
Pierce, along with his teammate Bobby McCarty, elected to join the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour for the full 2018 season, with Pierce signing on to become a part of the series’ inaugural Touring 12 program. In the first race of the season at Tri-County Motor Speedway, Pierce struggled to find his way to the front and came home in 20th, but managed to turn his luck around at Myrtle Beach Speedway a couple of weeks later when he recorded his first CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour Top 10.
Pierce’s strongest run of the season came during the Mid-Atlantic Classic at Orange County Speedway, where he started on the pole after posting a record-breaking qualifying lap and remained inside the Top 5 all evening. On the final lap of the race, Pierce was able to get to the back bumper of race leader Deac McCaskill, but could not move him out of the way, which allowed McCaskill to pick up his first victory of the season, while Pierce settled for a career-best finish of second.
After a disappointing finish at Hickory Motor Speedway earlier in the month, Pierce is eager to pick up his first career CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour victory, but he will not get that opportunity at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. Nelson Motorsports has elected to bring only one older chassis for Bobby McCarty to compete in, and although Pierce wishes that he had an opportunity to race at Bristol, he understands the logic behind the decision to bring one car to the track.
“I’m bummed that I won’t be able to race at Bristol, but then again, I’m not,” Pierce said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bummed, but I think the racer in me from a financial standpoint and from a theoretical standpoint says that I want to run as many races as I can, and the unfortunate circumstances about Bristol is that if you wreck, you are trashing a racecar. It’s going to be very hard for that racecar to be salvageable.”
Pierce currently sits 7th in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour point standings, where he is 43 points behind McCarty, but his withdrawal from the U.S. Short Track Nationals will more than likely eliminate him from championship contention. However, Pierce is looking forward to the remainder of the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour schedule, including a return to Orange County, and the season finale at South Boston.
“I had a bad taste in my mouth after Orange County,” Pierce said. “I didn’t want to wreck Deac, as I didn’t want to get my first win that way. That was the first race where we really turned our program around. We’re not really points racing anywhere, but we’re just going for wins and going for the best runs we can have. We have competitive, fast cars, and we’re going to go for as many wins as we can.”
The next event for the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour after the U.S. Short Track Nationals is the Race at Ace 125 at Ace Speedway, which is a track that Pierce has visited several times during the course of his career. Along with the usual front-runners of McCarty, Lee Pulliam, and Josh Berry, Pierce will have to contest with the regulars at Ace in order for him to obtain his first victory, with 2017 Rodney Cook Classic winner Blake Stallings among the drivers expected to file an entry for the race.