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Morris expects tough competition in opener

It is anticipated that an all-star caliber field of NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division competitors will be on hand when South Boston Speedway opens its season Saturday with the 2 p.m. running of Danville Toyota NASCAR Whelen Late Model Twin 100’s racing program.

One driver that is excited about the season opener is former South Boston Speedway and NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Philip Morris.

Morris, the leading all-time career race winner in the Late Model Stock Car Division at South Boston Speedway, was at South Boston Speedway yesterday testing his Chevrolet in preparation for Saturday’s event that will feature the NASCAR Late Model Stock Car division competitors in twin 100-lap races.

The twin-race format gives drivers an opportunity to compete in two points races on the same day and earn some good dollars in the process. Each of the two races will pay $2,500 to the winner. If a driver sweeps both races, he will have a $5,000 payday.

“It’s going to be just as tough as Martinsville,” Morris said.

“Everybody is going to be here. Everybody has had all winter (to prepare) and everybody is going to be as good as they’re going to be.

“We’re looking to see what we can do in Late Model at South Boston Speedway,” added the former track and national champion.

“Obviously, there will be more competition here at South Boston Speedway this season. We don’t know how we will stack up. We’re excited to see how we will stack up to the competition with everybody here.” 

Morris has traditionally stacked up well against the competition at South Boston Speedway. Even in an abbreviated 2012 season in which he made only four starts at the .4-mile oval, he posted one win and three second-place finishes.

Two drivers that are also looking forward to Saturday’s season opener are veteran Jeff Oakley of Prince George and last year’s South Boston Speedway Limited Sportsman Division Champion, Bobby McCarty of Summerfield, N.C.

Oakley and McCarty, who is moving up to the Late Model Stock Car Division ranks this season, had two of the fastest cars when South Boston Speedway hosted its annual Open Practice & Media Day last Saturday.

Austin Thaxton of Cluster Springs and Bruce Anderson of South Boston were also in the top five on the speed chart in last weekend’s open test.

“Our fans and competitors circled Saturday, March 9 on their calendars several months ago and have been eagerly awaiting the start of the 2013 season,” South Boston Speedway General Manager Cathy Rice said. 

“We are excited about having another great year of NASCAR short track racing action and can’t wait to drop the green flag on the new season Saturday afternoon.”

In addition to the twin 100-lap Late Model Stock Car Division races, fans will see the Limited Sportsman Division and Pure Stock Division drivers in action on opening day as well.

Pit gates will open Saturday at 8 a.m. and practice for all divisions will be held from 10:30 a.m. until noon.

Grandstand gates will open Saturday at noon and a mandatory drivers’ meeting is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m.

Qualifying time trials to set the starting grids for the three divisions will roll off at 12:45 p.m. with the first of the day’s four races set to start at 2 p.m.