Takeaways from insane Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200

Not a single driver departed the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway on Saturday without some type of damage to their car.

A calm and orderly race that feature the largest starting grid in event history with 42 cars devolved into chaos during the final ten laps, which started when contact between Mike Looney and Jonathan Shafer triggered a 20-car pileup.

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By the time the white flag displayed, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Corey Heim and South Boston regular Jacob Borst were left to determine which of them would survive the carnage and open the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown with a victory at South Boston.

Heim ended up taking home the victory but not without one last accident to end a turbulent evening, as he and Borst crashed after the checkered flag with both drivers sustaining significant damage to their cars.

Below are the takeaways from a wild Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway.

Corey Heim continues Lee Pulliam’s dominance at South Boston

Lee Pulliam is a name synonymous with success at South Boston Speedway.

A former track champion and six-time winner of the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200, Pulliam’s efficiency at South Boston continued Saturday with Corey Heim behind the wheel, who proved to have the strongest car in the stout 42-car field.

Heim was unable to avoid the carnage that enveloped Saturday’s race after he and Jacob Borst tangled coming to the start-finish line, but he was still more than thrilled to bring home another win for Pulliam at South Boston.

“We parked it in Victory Lane, so you can’t go wrong with that,” Heim said. “We had a lot of pressure from [Borst] throughout the race and I think he might have had the better car on the long runs. The contact was unnecessary and I felt like he turned right to junk me and win, but we got the car in Victory Lane, so that’s all that matters.”

Holding on to the lead through all 200 laps proved to be an arduous task for Heim, who believed that Borst was much stronger on the long run.

Despite this, Heim felt confident in his ability to roll the top and make Borst fight for every inch on the bottom until the penultimate restart, when contact between him and Peyton Sellers damaged his left-rear quarter-panel, affecting the aerodynamics on his car.

Borst took advantage of the opportunity and raced aggressively with Heim during the final nine laps. Every attempt to overtake Heim proved to be futile for Borst, which culminated in the last lap crash.

Borst did not regret being aggressive at the end of the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200, adding that he wanted to come away from South Boston without leaving any option on the table.

“We were riding Corey’s bumper for about 150 laps, so I knew we only had one chance at it,” Borst said. “I wanted to give him a shot, but he drove it in too deep and I got underneath him. We’re racing for $10,000 in one of the biggest races of the year. I talked to him and we’re both happy because we both gave it our all.”

With Saturday’s outcome, Borst closed the gap on Layne Riggs in the South Boston track standings while Heim continued an impressive 2022 season that includes two victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

For Heim, he was simply happy to park a Late Model Stock in Victory Lane despite the circumstances and is thrilled that he can continue to display the efficiency that Pulliam’s cars have always been known for.

“My Late Model career in the past couple of years has been up and down,” Heim said. “There have been good days and bad days, so to park this car in Victory Lane gives me a lot of confidence that I can still win some Late Model races. It’s been about a year since I won the last one, so this feels great.”

Mike Looney, Jonathan Shafer reflect on big accident

The key turning point in Saturday’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 occurred with 12 laps remaining while Jonathan Shafer and Mike Looney battled for a spot inside the Top 5.

Contact between the two on the frontstretch caused Shafer to lose control of his car in front of the entire pack. The ensuing melee eliminated a plethora of contenders that included defending race-winner Bobby McCarty and current NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series points leader Layne Riggs.

“That was a bad deal,” Looney said of the accident. “[Jonathan and I] were both racing really hard. I got a run under Jonathan on the apron and we were both loose coming off the corner. He banged my right front, so I had to check up and catch it, but then the car snapped back and caught Jonathan.”

Both Looney and Shafer had successfully worked their way through the pack prior to the crash. While Looney started 13th, a poor qualifying run relegated Shafer to 27th on the 42-car grid before he finally broke into the Top 10 during the closing stages.

Shafer was frustrated over the sequence of events that led to the massive pileup, but he intends to quickly move on from South Boston and put together a full race during the next Virginia Late Model Triple Crown event in the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway.

“I had a really good car,” Shafer said. “We were running on the outside of Looney, he hit my left rear and proceeded to drive through me on the frontstretch. It just sucks that things had to end like that but we’re more determined than ever going into the next race.”

Looney’s night ended not long after Shafer’s, as he would get swept up in an accident between Peyton Sellers and Carter Langley that damaged the radiator on his car.

A disappointed Looney expressed regret over Saturday’s big crash, but the 2016 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner remains optimistic that the speed his car showed at South Boston will translate into a victory before 2022 concludes.

“I tore up every race car here so that sucks,” Looney said. “I don’t really know what I could have done different other than stay home. We came down here and worked really hard, so I can’t say enough about my team. This was a really good hot road and we just needed some long runs. At the end, we were torn up like everyone else.”

Peyton Sellers closes gap on Layne Riggs in national standings

Layne Riggs’ misfortune late in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 proved to be Peyton Sellers’ gain.

After Riggs was eliminated in the massive 20-car pileup with 12 laps remaining, Sellers overcame a late spin to salvage a third-place finish, which tightened the gap between the two in the Weekly Series point standings.

“It was a very encouraging night for me,” Sellers said. “I was able to save some tires early on and be patient with the car. We worked our butt off to find speed in this car and we had the speed to win this race. The circumstances just weren’t right for us.”

Sellers felt that his car could create speed at any part of the track just like Heim and was patiently waiting for the right opportunity to make a run at him for the win.

The penultimate restart saw Sellers lined up to Heim’s inside on the front row, but contact between him and Carter Langley knocked Sellers out of line and into Heim. Sellers managed to save the car before he got swept up with Langley and Mike Looney in the final accident of the evening.

While Sellers wanted to add a third victory in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 to his prestigious short track resume, he was satisfied to settle for third after observing everything that happened to his competition during the evening.

Sellers feels confident that his performance at South Boston will put him in a great position to win his fourth Virginia Triple Crown and his second NASCAR Weekly Series title, but he stressed that the summer needs to be flawless for him to accomplish those goals.

“We’ve got a great car to go to Langley with,” Sellers said. “We’re taking a new car there for that one, but first we have to go to Dominion Raceway and then back to South Boston. A busy month is ahead of us, but it feels pretty good to start off the Triple Crown with a third-place finish.

NOTES:

  • Bobby McCarty, who won both the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 and Virginia Triple Crown last year, was never a factor after starting in the 32nd position. He was swept up in the big crash on the frontstretch but managed to make repairs to his car and finish in the ninth position, one lap behind Corey Heim.
  • In his Late Model Stock debut, two-time West Series champion Derek Thorn started 19th but found himself stuck in the middle of the pack as he tried to work his way through the field. Thorn’s night ended after the first stage break due to a mechanical failure on his car.
  • Quin Houff, who competed in two, full-time NASCAR Cup Series seasons with StarCom Racing, returned to Late Model Stock competition on Saturday evening driving for his father-in-law and former competitor Ronald Hill. Houff was unable to do much in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 and finished 37th after an accident on Lap 31.