SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (June 27, 2018) – After Jessica Dana took the checkered flag for her first Limited Sportsman victory at South Boston Speedway two weeks ago, the first thing she noticed was the crowd. Practically everyone in the front-stretch grandstands were on their feet cheering.
“It brought me to tears when everyone stood up and cheered and applauded when I won,” said Dana, the Washington State native who moved East to Charlotte two years ago to chase her racing dreams. “It was extremely humbling. I wish my dad could have been here. He has sacrificed so much for me, but he was 2,000 miles away.”
The striking part of that post-race scenario was there couldn’t have been many Jessica Dana fans in the stands. It was her first night of racing at South Boston. The fans were standing and cheering the spirited battle between her and Ross “Boo Boo” Dalton in the closing laps of the second Limited 25-lapper of the night. She took the lead leaving the fourth turn on the next to last lap and held on for the win.
She will be looking for a repeat victory this Saturday night in the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 when the Limited Sportsman cars line up for a 75-lapper, the division’s longest race of the season at South Boston.
“I’m absolutely excited about this Saturday night,” said the 22-year-old Dana, who finished second in the opening 25-lapper two weeks ago. “I knew we were going to be fast the last race, but I didn’t expect to win, especially against good drivers like we did. So that makes me feel good about this Saturday night.”
There is a familiar presence in Dana’s pits. Four-time NASCAR Whelen American Series national champion and multi-time South Boston winner Lee Pulliam fields her cars.
“Lee was the first one I called when I was going to make this move. I knew he had had success with female drivers, that they had run strong with him,” said Dana. “I didn’t have a lot of connections here (east coast) but everybody knows Lee and how successful he has been.”
Dana joined forces with Pulliam and his Lee Pulliam Performance driver development program late in the 2017 season and scored a couple of impressive top-five finishes in marquee year-ending Limited races which gave them momentum for 2018.
“I had run well this season and had seconds and top fives but I really needed that win,” said Dana, who is sponsored by Pro Pac International and J&J Machinery Transport.
Pulliam has been thoroughly impressed with his latest protégé.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great drivers over the years, but Jessica stands right up top with the best of them,” said Pulliam. “What I think has helped her as much as anything is having an unbiased attitude. She doesn’t care what anyone else is doing and doesn’t get spun out mentally if someone is faster in practice. She understands that people are on different pages each with tires and strategies.”
Saturday night’s 75-lapper and the stronger-than-usual field it will attract will be a test for Dana, but it’s one she appreciates.
“When I was racing on the west coast, there were only about five cars that could win a race,” she said. “But here, anybody in the field can. It’s so close here. You have to push yourself so hard.”
The 75-lap Limited Sportsman Division race is just part of a huge night of racing and other excitement. There will also be a 200-lap Late Model race, along with a 40-lap Budweiser Pure Stock race and a 20-lap Budweiser Hornets race.
Grandstand gates will open at 4 p.m. Saturday, with live music from Mike Brooks and the Konnection Band beginning at 4:00 p.m. There will be an autograph session on the front stretch at 5:30 and the green flag will fly at 7. The area’s largest fireworks display will fire off at the conclusion of the night’s racing action.
Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the South Boston Speedway office or by calling the ticket office at 877.440.1540 until 5 p.m. on June 29. On race day tickets will be $20 for adults and children 12 and under will be admitted free with a paying adult.