Story by: Mark Rogers, Jr. ~ mark@RACE22.com
Hampton, VA(December 20, 2011) — With much anticipation going into the 2011 season, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, Late Model Stock Cars were set for green flag racing on Langley Speedways 4/10’s mile oval.
With just 6 degrees of banking in all four corners, Langley Speedway arguable could be the most difficult oval to win at. Going into the 2011 season, clearly the man to beat was CE Falk, who was the winner of back to back track championships in the previous two seasons(2009 & 2010) and had raced his way into victory lane 23 times in those two years. However, during the 2010 off season it was announced that crew chief Phil Warren would be departing from the team. It was later learned that his veteran crew chief, Phil Warren would team up with area bad boy, Doug Godsey, who announced that his team would race at Langley Speedway in 2011.
Not long after that, Falk announced that Dwaine Skinnell would take over crew chief duties for the season as the local boy would make a third straight title run. Two time track champion, (1998, 2006) Greg Edwards came off a strong 2010 season of his own, but fell short to Falk point’s total. The veteran Greg Edwards is no stranger to victory lane by no means either. Judging by the late season charge in 2010 and if not for some unfortunate mechanical issues, Greg Edwards could have easily become the man to beat in 2011. Add his brother, Danny Edwards Jr., Falk’s brother, Wes, the brothers of Kyle and Matt Waltz, Mark Wertz, Paul Debolt, the brothers of Jeff and Dean Shifflett, Casey Wyatt, Godsey, Shayne Lockhart, Chris Hopkins and rookies, Jeff Oakley, Renno Marchetti IV and Lee Reinhardt and the stage was set for one of the best seasons in Langley Speedway history.
The season was one of dominance, some controversy and saw a dirty 4 letter word most hated by racers and fans alike…Rain many times. After the season opener was postponed by rain, things got going on April 23rd featuring 17 strong Late Models and in seeking his third straight title, all eyes were on Falk and his brand new ride after extensive repairs had to be made after a March 12th date at South Boston Speedway. Falk was involved in a crash on the front stretch that destroyed the front and rear clips of his chassis, but any doubt raised how good the car would be was quickly answered as Falk won the pole for the season opener.
But, on this day it was Danny Edwards, Jr. that would make a statement by winning impressively in his brand new chassis. CE Falk finished second and Greg Edwards would place third. The next 2 events saw his brother, Greg Edwards picking up wins and leading the point’s battle early on. It also brought on some drama between Greg Edwards and Falk. Greg Edwards got his first win of the season when he got into Falk with 5 laps remaining that sent Falk up the hill. Greg Edwards at that point was the faster car, but would admit responsibility in the contact. But, Falk wasn’t buying it as the two have had battles before. Greg Edwards won his 2nd feature by dominating wire to wire, it was clear at this point that Greg Edwards was after his 3rd championship as well.
As anticipated, Kyle and Matt Waltz were showing some muscle with some strong finishes along with Debolt. After some impressive wins by Greg Edwards, many were questioning what and if there was anything going on with CE Falk not posting a win yet in 2011. Though it seemed that CE Falk was a bit off in challenging for a win, his worst finish was still second. Though, he seemed unconcerned, Falk would practice his Toyota Camry before the June 4th twin 50’s and hit on a set up that found himself back in victory lane. But, also on this night the patience and tempers is what fans may remember the most. What seemed to be just a racing deal got really ugly, really fast, when at the start of the race, drivers Matt Waltz and Godsey got together in turn three. Both cars suffered heavy damage and could not continue to race.
Then things went from bad to worse for the two drivers as an altercation occurred on pit road. Later on in the second race that night, brother Kyle Waltz found himself involved in some controversy as well, it was later learned in the week that both Kyle and Matt were suspended and fined by Langley Speedway. Matt was suspended and fined for walking to another drivers pit box during the race and Kyle was suspended and fined for aggressive driving. Godsey, though involved in the incident wasn’t cited by speedway management for his role on pit road. In the end, Waltz Racing on their Facebook page made a public statement of the race team’s intentions and it was the last Langley Speedway saw of bothyoung drivers.
After posting his first two wins of 2011, Falk also took over the point’s lead over the Edwards brothers, who were second and third. Going into the June 25th date, scheduled was a pair of 75-lap features that saw some familiar faces return to the scene at Langley Speedway. Rick Gdovic and his son, Brandon Gdovic were both back racing Late Models at Langley Speedway for the first time since they made the leap up to the K&N Pro East Series and during an off week in that series, prepared their Late Models for the show. Dude Gibbs was another familiar face, returning to compete on the 4/10 mile track. Heading into this event, lots of talk in the stands and even more along pit road about the aggressive driving and the many cautions so far at this point in the season. While the young bloods were accused of rough driving, the old salts were accused of not being patient. But so far, the cooler heads were the ones winning.
Greg Edwards was one of those cooler heads and won the first 75-lap feature, but to no surprise, Greg and Falk would put on a show battling side by side for most of the event. In the 2nd 75 lap race, Falk would make the right adjustments and charge his way forward to the checkers after his earlier third place run. Again, fans were treated to some great side by side racing courtesy of Greg and Falk and in the end, both champions saw victory lane on June 25th and Falk maintained the points lead.
Next up was Langley Speedway’s premier event, a 200 lap and $10,000 to win event, called the Hampton Heat 200. Last years winner, Falk was certainly a safe bet to win, but just as ready to go was the Edwards brothers but the event with its big purse attracts some familiar names from other local tracks. Old Dominion Speedway regular, Richard Storm would make the trip along with stand out racers like Brandon Butler, Rodney Cook and Nick Smith. Also back was the 1993, Langley Speedway Late Model track champion, Eddie Johnson who always races well on the 4/10 mile oval. But on this day, things couldn’t have been better for Falk as not only would he lead the afternoons practice, Falk would go on to claim the pole and go wire to wire to become the first back to back winner of the event. Not only was the temperatures getting hot in mid July, so was Falk, the two time track champion would go on to score two more wins on a July 23rd race date bringing his win total for the season to seven and extending his points lead over rival Greg Edwards.
The last event for July had some significance in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model Series, what some said seemed more like an invasion, saw Sellers Racing come to town with standout racers. Three-time NASCAR National Late Model champion Philip Morris and Natalie Sathers. While Sathers was there to expand her experience in competing on other tracks, Morris was there to add to his NASCAR National and Virginia State points total, looking to pick up much needed wins in the twin 75-lap events. However, things didn’t go as expected for the Sellers Racing entries as Danny Edwards, Jr. added another pole to his 2011 resume with Falk to his outside, row 2 saw Greg Edwards and Morris turning in good laps for the twin 75’s. In the hunt also for a National title, Falk would work his way past the Edwards brothers to assume the race lead. While Falk was having his way, Morris wasn’t far behind following Brandon Gdovic running second and third.
A caution would come out that had Morris going to the high side to challenge Falk on the restart. After a quick sprint down the frontstretch, Falk would clear Morris without much of a fight. Morris settled in 2nd and got a good look at Falk’s line in and out of the corners. But, for the next several laps, Falk’s lead would grow to four car lengths. Whether Morris had anything for Falk or not, it ended up not mattering in the end as Morris found himself involved in a late race caution that saw the front of his car destroyed as he got into a lap car while coming through the field. He would have to settle for a 9th place finish. But, for Falk, he would cross the stripe first collecting win eight and picking up precious points over second place, Greg Edwards. In the 2nd feature minus Morris, Falk and his race team made all the right adjustments as he would cruise to win number nine and marking six in a row. Eddie Johnson had a great finish in the event placing 2nd and Greg Edwards finished 3rd in this race.
Rain would play havoc again to the season at Langley Speedway, but after a few rainouts, action finally picked back up on August 20th for twin 50’s and the story going on at this point was that time was running out for Greg Edwards. Though clearly he was the second class of the field, Greg Edwards admitted that he and his race team had been making changes to his race set ups since midway through the season. But, the two time track champion knows how fortunes can change and was ready to get back on track to make a run at CE Falk. Wesley Falk flexed his muscle during qualifying by claiming pole for the first feature of the night. Racing began with the Falk’s battling for the lead but, Wesley Falk would gain the upper hand and lead lap one with Greg Edwards right there taking second, while CE tucked in at third. CE first cleared Edwards on his way to the front and then after several side by side laps with his brother, he was finally able to clear himand motor away to another win.
In the 2nd 75-lap feature, coming to the green, Falk and Greg Edwards brought the field into turn one. There was no doubt that Edwards knew if he could beat Falk to the point and get in the clean air that he might be able to hold off Falk in hopes he might burn his stuff up trying to pass him. But it wasn’t to be, in the center of turns one and two, Falk’s machine shot up the hill and gets into Edwards who then momentarily stares at the turn two wall before he is able to regain control. Edwards would lose several spots from the contact and then things went from bad to worse for him as the caution came out on lap two that saw over half the field turned and pointing the wrong way. Among them was Greg Edwards, though he was able to continue, his hot rod would not be the same and finished ninth. Falk was able to regroup and recover from his contact with Edwards and after a brief battle with Wyatt on the restart, he would dominate the rest of the way, capturing the race win and a sizeable point’s lead. After the race, Falk claimed responsibility for the contact and expressed his regret for the misfortunes to Greg Edwards that soon followed.
With the September 18th deadline approaching which is the cutoff for points towards the state and national championships. Phillip Morris made a return trip back to Langley Speedway and for his troubles, the rains came with him. Again rain washed out action for the week thus eliminating Greg Edwards at any shot in the point’s race. Falk would just need to start the race to once again, win his third straight track title. But before that would happen for CE Falk, rain washed out the racing the following week as well. It wasn’t until October 1st that the Whelen All American Late Models would get together one more time to conclude the 2011 race season at Langley Speedway. Going into this 50 lap feature saw a much reduced field of cars. With the Virginia is for Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway, the marquee Late Model Stock Car event just one week away, racers Danny Edwards Jr., Greg Edwards and Shayne Lockhart cars were committed to that event and would not be involved in the season finale.
Also committed for the same event was CE Falk but he wasn’t about to miss this race and in a prepared back up car, Falk still proved to be as good as his primary by winning the pole for the event. When the racing began, the only challenge for Falk came at the start of the race from Wyatt. Once cleared, Falk would drive away to his 12th win. With that win it also made nine consecutive wins in a row as Falk also made a little track history by becoming only the second racer to ever win three track championships in a row, sharing that honor with, Elton Sawyer.
So, after a crew chief change in the pre-season, a sluggish(if you can call second place sluggish) start to the season, Falk and his EF Motorsports team ended the season with nine straight wins, 12 wins overall, several poles and with a third straight track championship. Not too shabby ……