HAMPTON – The Hampton Heat 200 Late Model stock car race at Langley Speedway turns 5 on Saturday. And like a child that age, it continues to mature.
This year's race – sponsored by the City of Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau – features a $32,000 purse with $10,000 to the winner. Its importance increases this season because it is the second leg of a state Triple Crown, which includes big-money races at South Boston and Martinsville.
The hope at Langley is that the Triple Crown will add to the roster of out-of-town drivers and jam a few more fans into the 5,600-seat grandstand at Langley. That hasn't been a problem with the Heat, which has attracted large crowds each of its previous four seasons.
"This race has grown with the fans, which is one reason the City of Hampton enjoys promoting it," Langley promoter Chuck Hall said. "It brings people to town."
Below is an overview of the Hampton Heat, the highlight of a four-race card which begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday on Langley's 4/10-mile asphalt oval.
FALK GOES FOR THREE
James Long-owned cars dominated the first two Hampton Heats, with regional stars Nick Smith and Woody Howard driving to Dale Lemonds Victory Lane. Three-time defending Langley Speedway champ C.E. Falk has won the past two.
"The Heat is the crown jewel of the season at Langley," said Falk, who is unlikely to defend his Langley title due to two disqualifications for using an illegal part. "Even without winning the (Late Model) championship, a win in the Hampton Heat would make this season a success."
TRIPLE CROWN IMPLICATIONS
Falk won the Danville 300 and $10,000 in the first leg of the Triple Crown. With seven wins in 11 races at Langley this season, he is the odds-on favorite to add to his points lead in the competition.
Nick Smith, the 2008 Heat winner and 1993 Langley champ Eddie Johnson enter the Heat second and third in the Triple Crown standings. The best overall finisher in the Triple Crown after the October race in Martinsville earns a $5,000 bonus, with $3,000 to the runnerup and $2,000 for third.
"The Triple crown is pretty important, but the pride defending our turf at Langley is very important," Falk said.
EDWARDS BROTHERS SEEK BREAKTHROUGH
Danny Edwards Jr. has five Langley track titles, while brother Greg is poised to add a third this season. But neither has won a Heat, as Danny finished a close second to Smith in the inaugural event and Greg was second to Falk a year ago.
Both are, as always, considered prime contenders.
"I've done a lot of things, but I'd like to put my name on that trophy," Greg said. "It's the biggest race here every year, the City of Hampton is here and there's a big payout."
OUT OF TOWN CONTINGENT
The most significant commitment at the moment is 2005 weekly national champion Peyton Sellers. Sellers will be driving in place of Mark Wertz, a former two-time Langley champ sidelined by a broken ankle sustained in a non-racing accident.
Hall hopes that four-time (and defending) national champion Philip Morris, a regular at Motor Mile near Radford, is among the seven or so out-of-town drivers expected to swell the field to nearly 30 cars.
The UCAR Division race for first place is a tight one, with Bill Eaker leading Jonathan Largena by just five points. The Pro Six Division chase is even tighter, with Steven Williams three points ahead of Bobby Hall and five in front of Landon Florian. Robbie Davis, with five wins this season, is comfortably ahead in the Super Truck Division.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times