The skinny on Langley Speedway is always the same. Because the 4/10ths of a mile asphalt surface is flat and has only one lengthy straightway, Langley is a difficult place for regulars to get their cars to turn in the corners, let alone visitors.
But numerous out-of-towners challenge the regulars annually, particularly in the Hampton Heat Late Model 200. The lure of a $10,000 first prize and the desire to bag a big-race regional victory is expected to draw close to 10 out-of-towners for the 4th Annual Hampton Heat, set for Saturday night.
Two of the heaviest hitters in town for the Heat are Brandon Butler and Rodney Cook. Butler is a long-time Late Model standout at South Boston Speedway, while Cook has starred at Ace Speedway in Elon, N.C., for about 25 years.
Butler has won five Late Model titles at regional tracks, in addition to a prestigious regional crown, and finished in the top 15 of two of the handful of Nationwide Series races he competed in. Cook won consecutive Late Model championships at Ace, in 2006 and '07, and won the track's signature 150-lap, $5,000-to-win race in the fall.
But both know past history will mean little at Langley, where Butler's third-place finish in the 1998 USAR (formerly Hooters) Pro Cup race is the only appearance between them. So both trekked to Hampton for practice on Friday to get a head start on what they see as a huge challenge.
"I know it's tough to fall in at a track and run with the locals," Cook said. " But if a track has got a big race going, I want to be there."
Said Butler, "I know the odds are stacked against us. Langley has the Edwards brothers (Danny Jr. and Greg), C.E. Falk and five or six other guys who are just as capable of winning.
"But I feel we've got a shot. We've got a Hedgecock (chassis) car, a Danny Cox motor and the Virginia National Guard sponsoring us. Who knows? We've got a really good race car and could get a victory."
Butler and Cook agree on both of the elements needed to win a long race on an unfamiliar track. One part is having a car that is fast and handles well, while the other is just plain luck.
"The scariest part of big races is the first 10 or 15 laps," Butler said. "That's especially true when you're from out of town, because you're at a disadvantage qualifying against the hometown guys.
"If you can miss the early mishaps, it's not that bad."
Said Cook, "Luck has a lot to do with it. I always say I'd rather be lucky than good."
Avoiding pileups is expected to be tougher than usual, because the Late Model field, normally about 20 cars at Langley, is expected to swell to about 30 for the Heat. Other out-of-town or area non-regulars expected to join the fray are
, Eddie Johnson, Natalie Sather, 2008 Heat champ Nick Smith, 2009 Heat champ Woody Howard, K&N Series regulars Brandon Gdovic and Rick Gdovic, and Dude Gibbs.
Hampton Heat 200
200-lap Late Model race ($10,000 grand prize)
Langley Speedway in Hampton
7 p.m. Saturday (green flag for Heat drops about 9).