Things Start to Heat Up in Hampton
Hampton, VA – Who ever created the term “Christmas in July” must have known when Langley Speedway officials were going to run this race each year! Since its inspection back in 2008 Langley Speedway’s Hampton Heat 200 – a 200 lap Late Model Stock Car race held in the middle of the summer – has been attracting some of the biggest teams in Late Model racing since then! Well folks, if you have not already caught on it is that time of year again! Time to get the get things rolling one more time for the 7th annual Hampton Heat 200!
The track hosted an open Practice this morning from 11am to 4pm where just about 30 cars posted lap times on the speed charts! None other than Langley Speedway native Matt Waltz sat P1 for the day clocking in a time of 16.109 (88.274 mph). Waltz and team had packed up by 1:30 stating they were pretty happy with the way the car was running! Waltz has plenty of experience leading the pack of these large races, remember his performance during the Denny Hamlin Showdown? Not to mention the pressure he started to put on the field just a few weeks ago in South Boston’s version of this race! Waltz has yet to post a victory in the Hampton Heat but has 8 wins at Langley this season, can he and his crew add number 9?
Young gun Tyler Ankrum wrapped up practice 0.068 seconds behind Waltz. In just his second time at Langley (the first to my knowledge was two weeks ago for the twins) Ankrum turned 80 laps around Langley Speedway making sure he got plenty of time learning how the track changed and what adjustments to make to the car. This young guy had one hell of a run in South Boston’s 200 lap event until he ran into some trouble on the track. Keep your eyes on the #58 tomorrow evening folks, two weeks ago he walked away with a top five his first time out so this kid means business!
Connor Hall, Rookie of the Year contender at Langley Speedway, ran his fastest lap (16.211) on lap 13 of his total 28 laps on the day. Woody Howard has returned to Langley in Randy Sears #34 machine finishing practice in the fourth spot running a 16.214. Howard a previous winner of the Hampton Heat knows how to get around the track, however new pavement and new drivers will create a new issue this year. Finally Michael Hardin broke into the top five late in the session running a time of 16.255 pushing inaugural Hampton Heat winner Nick Smith back to sixth. The top eleven cars were only separated by just two tenths of a second! Nick Smith, Kaz Grala, C.E Faulk III, Brian Pembleton, and Devon Amos are your group rounding out the top ten cars!
Top 50 National Points
Of course a race of this magnitude is going to draw some of the big names in the national points hunt! Peyton Sellers, who currently sits 4th in National points (621 pts.) will be pulling double duty this weekend as he is also the points leader at Motor Mile! Right behind him is Dillion Bassett (608 pts.), who did not have a transponder today, was running middle of the pack. “We are running a completely different line than everyone else,” Bassett told me. “We were running good here and bad there. Almost got the car where we want, will do some work tomorrow for sure!”
Matt Bowling who currently sits 9th in the national standings (574 pts) clocked in at 18th fastest with a time of 16.367! Again a car you cannot count out as he has won this event in the past. Bowling was another driver who ran good two weeks ago during twin 75 lap races. He certainly does have the potential to be the second repeat winner in Hampton Heat history. Austin Thaxton another driver within the Top 50 has made it out to Langley Speedway! Thaxton was only able to post a time of 16.561 which placed him 25 on the charts, which by the way is not a slow time at all, just so many cars posting fast times! Thaxton will have another session tomorrow to fine tune his machine and look to contend for the win.
Honorable mention has to go to Deac McCaskill who currently sits at a very deceiving 53rd in National Points. I must remind you however, McCaskill pretty much took about a month off from racing anywhere which is more than likely the reason for the drop. Having won seven races this year you can never count McCaskill out of it. Posting the 13th fastest time on the day at 16.326 you have to cut McCaskill some slack as this was his first time turning laps around this tricky speedway! Plus McCaskill won opening night at East Carolina after never turning any laps so look for the blue 08 machine to fine tune things in tomorrows final practice!
K&N Drivers Make Appearance
Of course local driver Brandon Gdovic, who just this year started running a part-time schedule in the K&N Pro Series East schedule was present for todays test session. Ran inside the top ten for most of the day before finishing P11 with a time of 16.308. Again let me remind you a time that is not slow for Langley at all! Teams were battling hot track conditions with practically no cloud cover. The team feels confident with the car, and the experience the driver has on this track going into tomorrows race.
Gray Gaulding, a regular member of the K&N series as well as Camping World Truck series, will team up with Gdovic as Precision Performance Motorsports fields two cars this year. Gaulding would finish P17 (16.364) on the day! Kaz Grala, another young K&N star has brought his machine to Langley Speedway after an exciting finish just a few weeks ago at South Boston where he came home second! Had a bit of a scary moment there towards the end of practice has the car broke loose on him and he pancaked the wall. “Yea the car just got away from me there and we hit the wall,” Grala said. “Cars not that bad off, I really like where we are. We will fine tune the car tomorrow for sure.”
Mackena Bell, driver of the #21 K&N machine for Rev Racing was present and accounted for as well as the rest of her Rev Racing teammates (Paige Decker – P16 & Devon Amos – P10). Bell was able to finish P23 on the speed chart, running a time of 16.509.
Teams will have more time tomorrow afternoon to fine tune their machines in one last practice! Track officials do speculate more cars will show up! With Motor Mile running their event tonight maybe we will see some of those guys make the trip. One question I have, with all four of Pulliams cars running at Motor Mile tonight will they make the trip and take advantage of a great National Points race? Make sure you tune in and follow Mark Rogers and I tomorrow at Race22.com for LIVE coverage!