Landon Pembelton says 2021 is “a pretty good year, and a pretty big year.” Few people will argue with that assessment.
The 16-year-old Amelia, Virginia resident, a student at Amelia County High School, has a pair of Top-Three finishes, four Top-Five finishes and six Top-10 finishes in seven starts at South Boston Speedway heading into the twin 50-lap NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model Stock Car Division races that headline Saturday night’s Davenport Energy Night event at “America’s Hometown Track.”
Those results have him occupying ninth-place in the South Boston Speedway point standings, but he stands only 19 points away from sixth place.
There’s more to the story.
Pembelton, who has also raced at Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Virginia and Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway this season, sits in eighth-place in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national point standings and is the top rookie in the national standings as of NASCAR’s August 3 points update.
He is in third place in the overall NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Southeast Region point standings and is the leading rookie in the region. In the overall NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Virginia state point standings Pembelton occupies third place and is the top-ranking rookie.
Pembelton’s stats through August 3 show a total of 10 Top-Five finishes and 14 Top-10 finishes in a total of 20 starts.
“I’m very surprised with our season,” Pembelton remarked following a practice session during a recent event at South Boston Speedway.
“It’s a pretty big deal for me. I didn’t think I would be running in the top five much this year, maybe a couple or three times. I never thought I would be this close in the national standings in our rookie year.”
Pembelton is pleased with his success at South Boston Speedway this season.
“This place is always good to come to,” Pembelton said of South Boston Speedway.
“This is probably the toughest racetrack on the east coast. It is one of the tracks on the east coast that’s got the main competition. If you run well with all of the good cars that are here at South Boston Speedway you have a good shot at running well at other places.”
The young racer says one of the toughest challenges at South Boston Speedway is learning how the track changes from day-to-day and how it changes during an event.
“The track changes a lot,” Pembelton explained, “and I’m trying to learn how the track changes. South Boston Speedway is probably the worst about changing all day every day. It’s one of the tougher tracks. It’s very technical. It’s freshly paved and has a lot of character to it. It (the track changing) definitely makes it tougher for me to learn, but it helps me a lot when I go to other places to race."
Pembelton has said he plans to compete in the remainder of South Boston Speedway’s regular-season races, a total of five races over the course of the track’s three remaining event dates, and he is optimistic about doing well in those events.
“I’m pretty confident we can squeeze out a couple of top-three finishes,” Pembelton remarked.
“I’m not looking for that first win yet. Of course, if we could get a win, it would be perfect. It would be icing on the cake to get a win. Top-Three finishes and consistency are mainly what we are looking for.”
Pembelton, the son of 2009 South Boston Speedway Limited Sportsman Division champion Brian Pembelton, is one of many young people following their father’s footsteps in the racing world.
“My dad is the biggest influence on me,” Pembelton explained.
“I came here every week and watched him race in the Limited Sportsman Division. He won the championship in 2009. It was a big deal watching him when I was small and growing up. It impacted me watching him.”
The teenager’s interest in racing grew through the years.
“Racing is what I grew up around,” Pembelton pointed out.
“Nothing else really interested me. I didn’t do anything else but race.”
Pembelton says that while he is popular among his classmates at Amelia County High School his classmates do not show much of an interest in his racing.
“I don’t really see a lot of interest from the other kids,” he noted.
“There’s not many kids there, so I’m known fairly well. They call me the racecar driver.”
Racing, Pembelton says, is about much more than driving a fast car.
“Racing teaches you a lot,” he points out, “it’s about being mentally tough and creating friendships. It’s about making friends and getting to know people.”
Six races are slated for Saturday night’s Davenport Energy Night event at South Boston Speedway. The NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model Stock Car Division competitors will battle it out in twin 50-lap races. Fans will also see twin 25-lap races for the Limited Sportsman Division drivers, a 30-lap race for the Budweiser Pure Stock Division and a 15-lap race for the Budweiser Hornets Division.
Registration and pit gates will open Saturday at 2 p.m. Practice will begin at 3:45 p.m. and grandstand gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Qualifying begins at 6 p.m. and the first race of the night will get the green flag at 7 p.m.