SOUTH BOSTON, Va — When Brian Pembelton retired from racing a few years back, his wife April probably sighed a sigh of relief with visions of Saturday nights away from the racetrack.
It was a short-lived vacation from left turns though.
The entire Pembelton family, Brian and April along with daughter Mallory are back in the pits again at South Boston Speedway helping their 14-year-old son Landon motor through his rookie year in the Limited Sportsman Division.
“I think she probably knew that once we had Landon at some point, he would be taking the wheel,” Brian said of wife April.
And has he ever taken the wheel. In his first season out of go karts and in a full-bodied stock car, the younger Pembelton has been impressive. In six starts he has three top-5 finishes and has been in the top 10 every race.
“I’m very shocked and surprised that I’ve finished in the top five as much as I have,” said Landon, a freshman at Amelia High School. “I’m very tickled with that. I’ve made quite a few mistakes and have learned from them and hoping to get better.”
No one has been more impressed by the youngster’s progress than his father.
“Man, I’m tickled to death with what he’s done. He’s well-exceeded my expectations,” said Brian, who won 11 Limited races and a championship at South Boston and had 17 wins and a championship at Southside Speedway near Richmond.
“He’s worked hard. He’s studying his craft hard. To be honest, I would like to think he’s going to continue on these last few races and do well.”
The success of the season doesn’t mean it’s been a totally easy transition for Landon, who campaigned go karts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region the past few years.
“It’s been a very big learning curve coming over from the karts,” said Landon, who is sponsored by Pembelton Forest Products, F&P Enterprises, Williams Logging, R&J Investments, Anderson Lawn Care, Sellers Racing and Tanner Race Engines.
“The toughest part has been being around the cars in traffic. I had never shifted gears so that was very new. But I think I’m doing a pretty good job of getting up to speed.”
There’s been a lot of help along the way this season, Brian said, pointing out the hard work of crewmen Joel Covington, Stanley Pope, Chris Carol and Keith Montgomery.
“Big kudos to my wife and our daughter Mallory. They are there week in and week out. They hear about the heartaches and the joys,” said Brian. “And we want to thank three people whole-heartedly for his success … Bruce Anderson, H.C. Sellers and Peyton Sellers. Those three have been very instrumental. We are planning on being with those three guys for years to come.”
Racing returns to South Boston Speedway Saturday with the NASCAR Late Model 100. There will a 100-lap race for the Late Models, twin 25-lap races for Limited Sportsman Division, a 30-lap race for the Budweiser Pure Stock Division, a 15-lap event for the Budweiser Hornets Division and a special 25-lap race featuring the Southern Ground Pounders.
Grandstands open at 5:30 p.m., qualifying starts at 6 p.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 with children 12-and-under admitted free with a paying adult.