Looney needs Thunder Road win to get Triple Crown

Published 1:49 am Saturday, July 1, 2023

Mike Looney knows that to be a contender for the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown you need to get off to a good start. In other words, you need a win or a solid finish in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 on Saturday, July 1 at South Boston Speedway, the opening triple crown race.

The Virginia Late Model Triple Crown consists of the July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort at South Boston Speedway, the Hampton Heat 200 on July 22 at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway, and the September 23 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

“Normally somebody that wins the Triple Crown wins at least one of the three legs,” Looney pointed out. “Martinsville is such a crapshoot to get a top-five finish. It’s tough to even make that show. You’ve got to start out well on the first leg to get to the last leg. That is what we’re focusing on.”

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Looney has a good record at South Boston Speedway this season, scoring a pair of second-place finishes and a pair of third-place finishes in his six starts. Overall, Looney’s season record includes five wins and three second-place finishes.

“I can’t thank Billy Martin and the folks that help on this car enough,” Looney said. “They put me in equipment that with luck on our side we can get some wins and have some good runs. I hope we can keep that string going through July 1.”

A need to win Thunder Road

Looney has two career wins at South Boston Speedway and says winning the July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort and earning the $10,000 winner’s prize would be one of his biggest wins.

“It would be really special to win this race,” Looney remarked. “There are some other big races, but this Fourth of July race at South Boston Speedway has always been the crown jewel of the summer. I came down here and watched the race for many years before I was able to be in a position to be in good equipment to be able to compete in it. It’s an honor to drive for (car owner) Billy Martin, have a fast racecar, and have a shot at winning a crown jewel like this.”

Looney has been close to winning South Boston Speedway’s showcase event but has yet to win it. He finished 11th in last year’s 200-lap race and finished sixth in 2021.

“We were close a couple of years ago,” Looney noted. “We had the best car and the main rear seal or something blew out. Oil leaked on our clutch, and the clutch started slipping while we were leading the race. I know how it is to lose it. Now, we’ve just got to figure out how to win it.”

The key to winning the 200-lap race, Looney says, is a combination of multiple factors, the most important being having a good car.

“You’ve got to have luck on your side, have good strategy calls, and have good tire conservation,” explained Looney. “These Hoosier F50 tires are hardy tires. You can run them pretty hard, but 200 laps here in July is pretty hard on anything. I think you need to stay as close to the front as you can without burning the right rear tire or right front tire off. You have to manage your equipment, but ultimately, it’s going to come down to the best-handling racecar.”

More about the race

South Boston Speedway’s July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 is one of the region’s premier NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division events and is annually a favorite among race fans.

Fans will be treated to a dazzling and colorful Fourth of July fireworks show immediately following the last race of the night. Special patriotic festivities will be featured during pre-race ceremonies. In addition, fans can meet the drivers competing in the speedway’s four NASCAR racing divisions during the Autograph Session powered by Hitachi.

It will be an exciting night as fans will see four action-packed races. Along with the 200-lap race for the Sentara Health Late Model Stock Car Division fans will see 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.

Fans can purchase advance adult general admission tickets for $20 each online on South Boston Speedway’s website, www.southbostonspeedway.com 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 for the July 1 Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 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. The Autograph Session powered by Hitachi is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on the frontstretch of the speedway. Pre-race Ceremonies powered by Hitachi will begin at 6:35 p.m. and the first race will get the green flag at 7 p.m.