The excruciating heat that has become synonymous with the Hampton Heat 200 began to take its toll on the drivers in the race’s closing stages on Saturday, as several drivers fell victim to fatigue, while others took out their frustrations on the track.
Through the chaos emerged Connor Hall, who survived a late-race duel with Nick Smith to become the first Langley track regular to win the prestigious Late Model event since CE Falk accomplished that goal in 2014.
Hall believed that he had a small advantage over Smith during the late-race restarts, as he had been battling clutch issues all night, but he knew that he would have to beat one of the best at Langley to win the Hampton Heat and was thrilled by how he was able to hold him off.
“I really wanted him to miss another shift, because that really would have made everything nice on Monday morning when we clocked into work,” Hall said. “Nick works with our family, and I hope everything will be understood by then. There are a couple of guys I really wanted to win this race over, and Nick Smith was one of them.”
Hall would have to climb his way through the field after qualifying in the 10th position, but he was one of a handful of drivers who found success on the high side of the track, which enabled him to race up to second by Lap 150.
Hall inherited the lead for the first time moments later after he passed Greg Edwards on a restart, but he was left with the task of holding off Lee Pulliam for the lead, who had fresher tires than Hall after he made a pit stop during a caution on Lap 132.
It would not take long for Pulliam to work his way around Hall and pull away with the lead, which forced Hall to deal with several strong competitors behind him, along with the effects of dehydration.
“Around Lap 38, I lost feeling in my feet,” Hall said. “I got a little of it back under a red flag because I undid my belts really fast and tried standing up in my car. Mentally it was very weird. I’ve never had a race do that to me, as I just found myself dizzy numerous times under caution. It never happened under green.”
Hall persevered through the fatigue and once again found himself on the front row after Pulliam and Peyton Sellers got together with less than five laps remaining. Hall had to wait patiently for the right opportunity, as a couple of great jumps were negated by cautions that put him back to second.
Hall found is opening on the final restart of the night, as he was able to pull a crossover move on Smith after he passed him for the lead, which led to an intense side-by-side duel between the two drivers that culminated with Hall moving Smith out of the groove in Turn 2 to pick up a win in the Hampton Heat 200.
When he reached victory lane, a mentally and physically exhausted Hall could not help but thank his mother and everyone else that helped get to where he is in his career today, and is optimistic that his victory in the Hampton Heat 200 will be the piece his career needs to move to the next level.
Hall hopes he can tally a couple more Late Model victories before the season ends, but as far as his immediate plans go, he has his mind set on what he intends to do next weekend.
“We’re taking a week off,” Hall said. “I’m building a boat right now, so hopefully I can finish that by Friday, so that I can go try and catch me some fish.”
Greg Edwards, who led a majority of the Hampton Heat’s first half, brought his Late Model home in the third position. Sellers rebounded from his incident with Pulliam to finish fourth while Brenden Queen, who was also dealing with the effects of dehydration, came home in fifth.
Hampton Heat 200 Results:
1. 77 Connor Hall
2. 12s Nick Smith
3. 21 Greg Edwards
4. 26s Peyton Sellers
5. 03 Brenden Queen
6. 5 Lee Pulliam
7. 41 Woody Howard
8. 12p Timothy Peters
9. 90 Terry Carroll
10. 91 Justin S. Carroll
11. 26 Danny Edwards OUT
12. 87 Mike Looney -7
13. 89 Craig Eastep -19
14. 8 Tyler Hughes OUT
15. 8s Thomas Scott OUT
16. 99 Layne Riggs OUT
17. 40 CE Falk III OUT
18. 9 Trey Crews OUT
19. 55 Mark Wertz OUT
20. 2 Brandon Pierce OUT
21. 29 Casey Wyatt OUT
22. 7 Michael Hardin OUT
23. 10 Maddy Ryan Mulligan OUT