Copper Hill, VA(February 14, 2012) — With the announcement of the Virginia Triple Crown Series, it got me to thinking: How that will play out and who stands to benefit from it the most and who stands to lose the most from the announcement?
I immediately thought of CE Falk and Greg Edwards, as well as Langley Speedway, as those that would benefit the most from the Virginia Triple Crown Series. The consortium of events, which was announced earlier today by Martinsville Speedway, will pool the three biggest, open invitation races, staged in the Commonwealth: the NASCAR Whelen Late Model 300 presented by Danville Toyota at South Boston Speedway on March 10th, the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway on July 28th and the crown jewel, the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway on October 21st to provide some additional prize money to the drivers who finish the best in those three events.
The three race series offers a $5,000 prize to the driver with the best finishes, accumulating the most points through the three races with an additional $5,000 going to the second and third place points finishers ($3,000 to second and $2,000 to third). It’s an additional $10,000 that Late Model Stock Car drivers have the opportunity to take home, which is a huge boost to teams in this economy, who can use every dollar possible. However, there will be winners and losers in this program and Langley Speedway, with its Hampton Heat 200, standing the most to gain.
Langley Speedway’s annual big race, scheduled in the month of July is a “big race”, that never gets that much attention from the racers, the fans or the media covering this type of racing. With that being said, it’s not because it’s a bad race track. Langley is one of the best venues in short track racing, in this region. It’s not because the race doesn’t pay well, because $10k to the winner is among the top pay for a Late Model Stock Car “big race”. It simply comes down to the long drive for most all of the competitors, even those in Virginia, to hike out to the coast in order to compete in this race.
With today’s announcement, however, it seems the tide may have just turned for the track and it’s annual event, as well as the racers that call the track home. The Hampton Heat should certainly draw a bigger crowd of drivers, at least those interested in trying to win a $5,000 bonus. It most certainly should bring the big dawgs from South Boston, Motor Mile and even North Carolina venues to the track for this race. This deal is a huge win for the track, the race and, as I said, the racers. Given that Langley Speedway is known as one of the toughest tracks in the region, the regulars, who run well other places, may well have the upper hand in winning the Triple Crown.
CE Falk has proven that he can win just about everywhere. With victories at South Boston and Motor Mile to his credit, along with his recent three year run of domination at Langley, needs only to have a little luck in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 to have the best shot at the bonus. Greg Edwards is another driver who immediately comes to mind when looking at these three races and the bonus money. Edwards has proven for years that he can run with anyone on any track. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Falk or Edwards is this year’s Virginia Triple Crown Champion. However, there are a couple of drivers you always have to watch out for that might slip into Langley for the Hampton Heat and steal their thunder.
Philip Morris is obvious … maybe too obvious. The four-time NASCAR National Champion, simply dominated the 2011 season at South Boston Speedway and looks to return to do that once again this season. He’s certainly proven that he can wheel it at South Boston, but he is also, already, a two-time winner at Martinsville in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300. While he may not have a trophy on his mantle for Langley Speedway, he certainly proved last season that he can run up front. Making a one-off start, he was running second to Falk before being involved in a crash with a lapped car.
So, you might be wondering who the losers are in this situation. While I think most everyone wins in this situation, whenever there’s more cash being put up by tracks and more emphasis being put on the regions big races, someone has to lose.
The loser clearly is ……. Motor Mile Speedway and it’s drivers. Motor Mile has boasted the biggest and best regular season races over the last few seasons but, a cut in purse and the lack of “big race”, coupled with nearly every track in the region that races Late Model Stock Cars trying to step up and do more, has the once prominent track falling from glory. When July 28th rolls around, the track may well find out how much it has already fallen with a race scheduled to go head to head with the Hampton Heat at Langley. And, while I’m not sure it will be a huge blow to the track, any blow to any track is one that it can’t take in this economy. Motor Mile not being a part of this triple crown, which could just as easily have been a four crown series, is certainly a loss for the Radford speedplant. The fact that the July 28th date goes head to head with the Hampton Heat is a loss for the Motor Mile competitors as well.
A few, if not many, of the regulars at Motor Mile might well have been inclined to travel to Langley Speedway for the big race, with Triple Crown implications on the line. Unfortunately, if they’re wrapped up in points at Motor Mile, they likely won’t have that option.
With all of that said, Motor Mile is still one of the premier venues in Late Model Stock Car racing and may continue to boast some of the best car counts in the division. However, with the landscape changing around them; purses are being raised at Concord, Southern National Motorsports Park is reopening, and the Triple Crown does not include a race on the 4/10 mile track. It seems as though the track that has been on top of the world for nearly ten years just might not be there when the green flag drops on 2012, and almost certainly won’t when the checkered flag falls on the upcoming season.
I for one, certainly hope that Motor Mile will have a shift in philosophy. They need to make some changes to continue to adapt to the evolving landscape in order to revive what has easily been the best era in the tracks history under the current ownership and direction of Al Shelor, Randy Merriman and a staff that is top notch. The track has become my “home track” in recent years, being that it is less than 45 minutes from my house. It is a place that I try to support every week that I can, throughout the season, and I certainly hope it will continue to be the track to be at.