K&N East Preview: South Boston

Harrison Burton

Harrison Burton is coming off his first career series win. (Photo: Getty Images)

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After several years away, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to South Boston Speedway Saturday for the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s. And race fans will have several familiar names and faces competing at the Virginia short track.

Most notably, NASCAR Next driver Harrison Burton is coming off his first career series win. The 16-year-old from Huntersville, North Carolina, won the rain-shortened race at Bristol Motor Speedway and assumed the series points lead.

While it will be the youngster’s first series race at the historic venue, his family has plenty of laps around the .400-mile oval. 

Jeff Burton and his brother, Ward, raced in the track’s Late Model Stock Car division en route to careers in NASCAR’s premier Cup series. Jeff Burton made his second career NASCAR XFINITY Series start at South Boston in 1988 and finished 17th. He made eight starts there under the old Busch Series banner, with a win in 1991. Two sections of the front stretch grandstands bear the name of Jeff and Ward, and Jeff, a current analyst as NBCSN, will be the grand marshal Saturday.

Saturday night’s field will include a pair of drivers innately familiar with the oval: Matt Bowling and Peyton Sellers. Both used title runs in the track’s Late Model division to power them to NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championships.

Sellers accomplished the feat in 2005, and won another track title in 2014. Bowling won his first track title in 2012, and won back-to-back titles in 2015 and ’16.

Sellers, who has two K&N Pro Series wins in 44 prior starts, will be in the No. 18 Danville Toyota Toyota fielded by Hunt-Sellers Racing. In two career K&N Pro Series East starts at South Boston, Sellers — who finished third in the final 2007 series standings — has never finished worse than third at his home track, where he also won the pole for the inaugural race in 2007.

Bowling, the 2016 national champion, will be making his series debut in Ted Marsh’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet. He scored one of the biggest wins of his career at South Boston, when he held off a stacked field that included Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin among others to win the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown in 2014.

Fast Facts

The Race: The WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s will be the fourth and fifth of 14 races on the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule. 

The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through the group qualifying process while the remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The races will be 100 laps, spanning 40 miles. The second 100 will start approximately 90 minutes after the completion of the first 100. The starting lineup for the second race will be set by the fastest laps for respective drivers in the first race.

The Track: Celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, South Boston Speedway opened in 1957 as a dirt track and joined the NASCAR family two years later. In 1962, the track was paved, and it has played host to nearly 50 NASCAR national series events, including 33 NASCAR XFINITY Series races over the years. Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Benny Parsons and Larry Pearson all have put their cars in Victory Lane over the years at the facility.

Race Winners: There have been five different winners in the five previous K&N Pro Series East races at South Boston, with no repeat winners.

Pole Winners: In the five previous events, there have been five different pole winners. 

Race Notes

New Winner: There have only been five previous NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races at South Boston, producing five different winners in five consecutive years dating from 2007-2011 on the .400-mile track. But that history won’t matter this weekend when, for the first time, South Boston hosts Twin 100s at the facility. Teams and drivers have not one, but two chances in the same night to get a handle on an unfamiliar race track and gain valuable championship points.

Qualifying pressure: In the five previous K&N Pro Series East events at South Boston, no race winner started outside the top four en route to Victory Lane.

Matt Kobyluck won the inaugural event in 2007 from the fourth starting spot, worst among any driver to win at the track. Brian Ickler (2008) and Brett Moffitt (2009) each started from the outside of the front row, while Max Gresham won from the pole in 2010.

Despite the advantage of starting up front, South Boston has not been a track where passing is particularly difficult. Each of the first two series visits produced 12 lead changes, and through five events, there have been an average of nearly seven lead changes per race.

Bristol bounce-back?: Ronnie Bassett Jr. headed to Bristol with the K&N Pro Series East point lead, but the driver finished 22nd there following a crash on lap 61. He dropped from first to fourth in the standings, 18 points behind Burton.

After finishing in the top five in each of the first two races of the season, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, driver will be looking to return to form at South Boston.

Hometown flavor: Travis Miller of Chesapeake, Virginia, will join Harrison Burton and Vinnie Miller as a teammate for his season debut in the K&N Pro Series for Ranier Racing with MDM Motorsports. The 29-year old driver has competed in a number of pavement-based series over the last few years.

Miller has made nine career starts in the series, and none since 2015, when he competed in nine races with a best finish of 14th, which he did at both Bristol and Dover that season.

He joins Matt Bowling and Peyton Sellers as the local Virginia drivers competing in the twin features. 

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