There are going to be some heavy hitters rolling into South Boston Speedway this weekend for the track’s huge mid-season Late Model classic. Familiar names like Morris, Pulliam, Sellers, Peters and McCarty.

Poised not far behind that group, flying a bit under the radar is Brandon Pierce. While he may not have the stats and championships of Philip Morris, Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers, Timothy Peters or Bobby McCarty, Pierce has to be considered a legitimate contender in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson Presented By Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200.

He finished fourth in last year’s event and was fifth in 2016. He picked up his first South Boston Speedway win last season and his first CARS Tour victory early this season. He is driving a car prepared by Pulliam this year and he says that partnership has accelerated the learning process.

“Everybody knows about all of Lee’s success overall and especially at South Boston. There is always something you can learn from someone of his caliber,” Pierce said of the four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion. “I’ve asked him so many questions; he has taught me so much, about driving and about the car.”

Although Pierce hasn’t raced at South Boston this year, he says he’s learned so much about the .4-mile oval by watching Pulliam’s performances at the track closely this season.

“I always thought I did pretty good at South Boston,” said Pierce, who ran at the track full time in 2016 and 2017, his first full seasons in Late Model. “But I’ve learned so much about it this year. I’ve been with Lee every week he’s raced there this year, watching his car and his driving style.

“I’ve taken a lot of notes. I’m really looking forward to practice on Friday so I can put all of that to use.”

Pierce said he believes there is more buzz than normal about Saturday’s race among both fans and drivers. There are several reasons, he said. The larger first-place payout, up from $6,500 in 2018 to $10,000 this year, has contributed, he says. So has the fact it is the first race in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, the coveted three-race series that includes stops at Langley Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

“If you win this one, you’ve definitely accomplished something. If it lives up to its billing, if everyone shows up that I hear is coming, the best of the best are going to be there.”

Pierce has been running the CARS Tour fulltime the past two seasons, but South Boston Speedway remains special to him.

“I definitely have this one circled because South Boston always feels like home to me. I ran there two years full time,” said Pierce, who is sponsored by Thunder Road Harley-Davidson, Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort, Fremont Properties, Discount Oil Company, Bondurant Brothers Distillery, Amanzi Marble & Granite and Mincey’s Graphics.

“I love the track. I love everybody there. I developed some fan base there and it’s always good going somewhere you’ve got experience.”

Pierce and Pulliam have only raced head-to-head once this season. He ran in the top five most of that day with his boss and teammate Corey Heim. It was good, clean, fun racing, Pierce said. But what would happen Saturday night if Pulliam is leading and he is running second on the final lap?

“I’d definitely give him a shot (in the bumper) and he would be mad if I didn’t. I’d give him big enough of a shot to get side-by-side. He’d be grinning ear-to-ear. I’d love that opportunity. And he’d do the same to me.”

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.

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 at the South Boston Speedway office or by calling 877.440.1540, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On race day tickets will be $20 for adults. Children 12-and-under will be admitted free with a paying adult.

Cover photo by Jaden Austin.