Late Model Stock Car racing’s summer highlight, the Hampton Heat 200 at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway, will now be run in the heat of the day – and that has thrown a curveball to the competitors.
Typically, races are only run in the daytime in the early spring or late fall months, not in the middle of August. However, rain on Saturday forced the Hampton Heat 200 to be run on Sunday afternoon. Because of that, the track will be slicker, the temperatures will be warmer, and physical endurance will be even more of a factor.
“I think what people are going to encounter is the track’s going to be a little freer, they’re going to lose a little grip off, they’re going to pick up a little shove in the middle,” two-time Langley Speedway champion Mark Wertz told Race22.com. “A lot of guys snugged their cars up for a night race and they might find themselves, some may be alright and some may be too free because the track tends to snug up at night. If they freed up for qualifying, we can’t change any hard parts, should make for a real good race for the fans. They’re going to see a lot of choreographed sideways out of control racing.”
2005 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Peyton Sellers, the 2013 winner of the Hampton Heat 200, echoed Wertz’s sentiments, saying they had prepared to run a night race. Now, with the race being run in the daytime, Sellers is using notes from Friday afternoon to prepare.
“We practiced in the heat Friday so I feel like everybody’s got a good baseline of what it’s going to do in the heat,” Sellers stated. “We anticipated running a night race so we kind of changed a few things around, based it on our night race. Today, we’re just trying to go back and look at our notes from Friday and get back to that and anticipate the green track that’s going to wear tires out quicker and earlier in the race. Everybody’s got to be smart, put some rubber down early in the race and, later in the race, it’s going to be hot and greasy and everybody’s going to be slipping and sliding.”
The other aspect of the daytime running of the summer highlight will be physical endurance. Along with trying to keep their cool mentally, drivers will also have to keep their cool physically.
“It’s definitely the Hampton Heat for sure today,” Sellers commented. “I think a lot of these drivers are going to feel the fatigue throughout the race from the heat that they’re not used to. I just hope that, working in the hot sunshine helps me every day. We’ll see how it goes. I went to bed early last night. It’s just going to be a tough day on all of us.”
Maddy Ryan Mulligan is one of the younger drivers in the field and is known for her emphasis on being in shape physically. She feels like the heat will play to her strengths throughout the race despite starting deep in the field.
“I’m in and out of the gym almost every single day,” Mulligan said. “The heat, it was a lot different coming from East Carolina where we’ve only been running about 50 laps and then doing twin 75s a couple weeks ago here at Langley. I’ve been getting my cardio in all week long. The heat’s going to get to us obviously. I think today in the heat is going to be about tire conservation.”
Wertz agreed that physical endurance will play a huge role throughout the race as well, more than usual.
“The guys who stay hydrated and typically stay in shape, it will show today,” Wertz stated.
Connor Hall, who comes in fresh off a win at East Carolina Motor Speedway, feels like the heat should play to his strengths.
“I guess I’m a little better at getting cooked in the car than some of the older guys,” Hall explained. “They’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been alive. I think experience is definitely going to help in the heat. We’ve never run a race in the daytime this long. I think we have a really good racecar. I think we’ll bring our guys to the front. I hope to be in the top-seven at halfway and see what negotiation is left to do in the second half.”
The Hampton Heat 200 will roll off at 2pm on Sunday. Philip Morris will lead the field to the green flag.