Young guns aim high at South Boston

Young guns aiming high at South Boston By Marty Smith SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (June 9, 2000) Judging by the numbers, this could be the week the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division's young bucks kick the competition square in the ...

Young guns aiming high at South Boston
By Marty Smith

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (June 9, 2000) Judging by the numbers, this could be the week the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division's young bucks kick the competition square in the taillights.

Series toddlers Hank Parker Jr. and Casey Atwood enjoyed much success last season at South Boston Speedway, site of Saturday evening's Textilease Medique 300 (5 p.m. ET, TNN TV and MRN Radio). Both hope to stave off the crafty veterans yet again this weekend, namely past SoBo winners Todd Bodine and Randy LaJoie.

"South Boston is a great little short track. For some reason, I always run well there," said LaJoie, who won here in 1996. "These one-day races are awesome -- going up, practicing, qualifying and racing all in one day is something we should look into more often."

Parker Jr. scored the best run of his career at SoBo in 1999, a third-place effort in the No. 53 Chevrolet, and had the race been 50 laps longer he may have won. This season, Parker has solidified himself as a contender on a weekly basis, having soared as high as eighth in the points after an eighth-place run at Bristol. His best effort of the season came at New Hampshire, where he surged to a fifth-place finish after qualifying 33rd.

Since then, however, he's had a tough go of it, finishing 42nd and 41st, respectively, at Charlotte and Dover after being collected in wrecks. Parker Jr. currently ranks 15th on the points chart, but trails 10th-place Atwood by just 127 points. Thus, a solid run at SoBo could place him among the top-10 yet again.

"I'm really excited to go back to South Boston," said Parker Jr., driver of the No. 53 Team Marines Chevrolet. "We've kinda run across a little bit of a glitch here, things haven't been going so good over the past couple of weeks.

"We're hoping this will be the week we go in and turn it around. We've got a couple of good race tracks coming up for me, South Boston being the best finish I've had so far, so we're really looking forward to getting back there."

Likewise for Atwood, the 19-year old phenom who notched two wins a year ago. He finished 10th at South Boston last season after qualifying sixth. Having not yet broken into Victory Lane in NASCAR 2000, he's certainly due. Plus, short tracks suit his abilities.

"I love racing on short tracks," said Atwood, driver of the No. 27 Castrol GTX Chevrolet. "It's where I learned to race and where I'm most comfortable. Anytime we race on one I get excited. There's nothing in the world that compares to it.

"South Boston Speedway is a lot like Highland Rim Speedway, a short track near Nashville that I raced Late Models at," Atwood said. "Even though I have only one Busch Series start there, I feel like I've been a hundred times."

SBS has undergone major improvements since last season, including a newly formed pit road that eliminates the dreaded backstretch pit stalls. The new configuration sports a 43-stall, single pit road that includes a new inside retaining wall. In the past, the race has included a 34-car field. This year, it expands to a full 43 cars.

"I don't know how much it will affect the race, but it will probably be harder to stay out of trouble," Parker Jr. said of the new pit road configuration. "It will possibly make for more cautions. I ran a lot lower line than anybody else did last year so I feel like that wall may hinder me a little bit. I don't think it'll be too bad though, everybody has to deal with it, so we"ll just have to wait and see how it plays out."

Series points leader Jeff Green is another one to look out for this weekend. Green has never won at South Boston, but finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. last season. Junior set the track qualifying record two years back at 94.457 mph in 15.245 seconds.

"I've done pretty well at South Boston," Green said. "I really like the place because it reminds me of the short track racing I did growing up. The race should be more exciting this year because they added a new pit road and with that, they are able to start 43 cars, instead of their usual 34-car field. It has always been an action-packed race and this year should be no different."

No driver in the field has ever won more than once at South Boston, with Bodine, LaJoie and Tim Fedewa all notching one career victory at the .400-mile oval. This weekend, the young bucks may just join them.

Bud Pole Qualifying for the Textilease/Medique 300 begins Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Green , Hank Parker Jr. , Casey Atwood