Changes Helped Fuel South Boston Speedway’s Successful 2016 Season

When the 2016 season opened at South Boston Speedway back in March, track officials were hoping offseason changes would bring the excitement level back to a fever pitch at the venerable southern Virginia track.

Mission accomplished.

When the curtain fell on the 2016 season last month, it closed out one of the most thrilling seasons in recent memory. From nights filled with two and three-wide racing, to huge fields of cars to packed grandstands and everything in between, it was an amazing 59th season of racing for South Boston.

“We made a lot of changes in the offseason to help improve racing for competitors and the fans,” said South Boston Speedway General Manager Cathy Rice. “There were a few bumps along the way, but all-in-all everything turned out better than we expected. Thanks to everyone who helped make it such a success.”

Changes for 2016 included a two-tire rule for the Late Model Stock division along with an increased purse guaranteeing $500 to start. These two changes had the largest impact on the season. The tire rule, which limited teams to the purchase of just two tires a week, made the lower-budget teams more competitive. The guaranteed payout combined with the tire rule made it financially possible for teams to move up to the Late Model division.

The Late Model division averaged just over 25 cars per race and a total of 67 different drivers started at least one Late Model race.

Even though Matt Bowling had an exceptional season with eight South Boston wins on his way to the Late Model track championship and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship, he did not dominate. There were seven different winners during the season and many races weren’t determined until the final turn on the final lap.

Austin Thaxton wound up with five wins on the year and Lee Pulliam had two, while Bobby McCarty, Danny Willis Jr., C.E. Falk and Josh Oakley had one win each.

Another change for 2016 … the addition of passing points … helped keep the Late Model points chase close despite Bowling’s eight wins. The passing points system allows drivers to receive bonus points for each position gained during a race. Drivers have the option to put themselves in position to pick up maximum points by dropping back in the field from their qualifying positions before the race takes the green flag.

Former South Boston and national champion Peyton Sellers did not have a win this season, but by working the passing point system to perfection he was able to keep the pressure on Bowling down the stretch. He finished the year 38 points behind Bowling in second place.

South Boston’s Late Model stars continued their solid year last weekend by sweeping half of the top-10 positions in the prestigious Valley Star 300 at Martinsville Speedway. Pulliam finished second behind winner Mike Looney while Falk was fourth and Thaxton fifth. Bowling was seventh and Justin Carroll eighth.

Joey Throckmorton claimed the Limited Sportsman championship with a record-tying 10-win season. Johnny Layne captured the Budweiser Pure Stock championship in dominating fashion, winning by almost 100 points. In the closest points battle of the season, Kenny Mills squeezed out a 424-408 championship win over Todd Garnett in the Budweiser Hornets Division.