HAMPTON, VA – Yet another Hampton Heat 200 has come and gone.
It was a full night of action packed racing, fury, and praise. There is a reason why the Heat is continuously growing to become one of the most prestigious Late Model Stock races of the year, and Saturday night proved it with a full field and record fan turnout. This race is a grand display of the best of the best battling it out for a hefty check – one worth $10,000.
C.E. Falk, three-time Hampton Heat winner and no stranger to Langley Speedway, claims that the LMSC scene doesn’t get a lot of credit, but loves seeing this race climb along the ranks as one of the biggest short track races of the year. He feels the LMSC’s are shadowed by the Super Late Model crowd with their prestigious races like the Redbud 300 or Winchester 400.
“Guys like Bill Mullis are making this race happen for us, and the reason why it’s so special is because it is so close to home for me,” Falk said. “I grew up watching races here in these grandstands when I was five or six years old. And to compete out here in one of the biggest events against all of the best drivers on the East Coast, I mean, they are all here. If they aren’t here, they don’t deserve to be the best, so you’ve got all of the best. It pays a lot of money, but at the same time it’s a huge check and a huge boost of confidence. You know, what i do, I work hard every day to be the best and perform well. This is the chance to shine, so when you win it’s like Martinsville. It is ultimate gratitude. This place could be dirt, it could be clay, it could be whatever, but you’re racing against the best and that’s what makes it so special.”
Heading into this race weekend, there were many concerns about the new repave in the turns. The track had to make quick fixes after the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East took to the track last month and made damages to the racing surface that was in need of repairs. Many drivers and fans were concerned how this change would affect the aura of the Heat.
“You’re going to wear out the rights really fast,” Falk said. “We’re going probably half a second faster than these guys have been going all year and it’s still the same tires so I think it’s going to be a lot of mind games, chess match, all those terms. I won’t get into the whole thesaurus on that, but it’s going to be a tough race. The guy that saves his stuff the most is going to win.”
The racing groove was more single-file than most are used to, making it difficult to pass on the outside. Once past the halfway mark, the outside line started opening up, but the difficulty level to pass on the outside was still high.
Falk, despite all the boos from the crowd, was a favorite to win but came up short as he got in the grass between turns one and two and spun late in the race, which cost him his chances at the win. It was a frustrating deal for the three-time Hampton Heat champion as he was really hoping for a chance to get back into victory lane.
It was a special night for some and a very enraging night for others. That’s what the Hampton Heat is all about, proving the best among the best and showing the true emotion of those whose fate wasn’t so kind.