The closing stages of the 2020 Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway saw Corey Heim and Connor Hall emerge as the two fastest cars in the field, with both of them being prepared to settle the win amongst themselves.
Instead of one of them celebrating in victory lane, Hall and Heim were left fuming at the end of the 200-lap feature after a three-wide maneuver by Brenden Queen on a restart with five laps remaining resulted in both of them finishing behind the wall with crash damage.
“I’m good friends with Corey,” Hall said. “I let the kid stay at my house when he comes into town and vice versa. He had a good car, I had a good car, and if I had finished second, I would have gone over and given Corey the biggest high five of his life. He’s one of my best friends and we were going to duke it out.”
Hall, who won the 2019 edition of the Hampton Heat 200 in a thrilling finish with Nick Smith, worked his way up from 13th place on the starting grid to third by the halfway point and was content on conserving his equipment until the final 20 laps.
Hall watched as Danny Edwards dominated the first half of the Hampton Heat 200 until a strong restart by Heim following the first competition caution enabled him to take control of the lead and run his own pace.
A second competition caution with 50 laps remaining tightened the field up and resulted in several on-track incidents, which put Hall and Heim on even ground with one another as the two traded the lead multiple times with Heim on the bottom of the track and Hall on top.
Heim admitted that Hall was pushing him and his car to their limits during the closing stages of the Hampton Heat 200, but he refused to give his friend any room to work with as he fought desperately to hold his lead and pick up his second career Late Model victory.
“Connor definitely had a better car than me at the end,” Heim said. “It was good enough to finish in the Top 3 because of track position, but I was holding my own and I was waiting to see where everything was going to go. We were going to have a great race to the finish.”
A caution for Rick Gdovic’s spin with a handful of laps remaining set up a restart that once again had Heim occupy the low line with Hall on top, but Heim now had to deal with Queen behind him on the second row after he passed Edwards and Peyton Sellers during the two previous short runs.
When Heim took the green flag, Queen drove underneath him and Hall as the trio entered Turn 1, which caused Hall to lose control of his car and slide into Heim before he slid back up the track in front of Edwards, who ended up losing all of his track position trying to avoid the crash.
Despite the lackluster finish, Heim was thrilled that he was able to compete against Hall in a prestigious Late Model event for the win, but he was disappointed that Queen’s decision to go three-wide into the first turn ended up ruining great nights for both of them.
“Connor and I race each other with a lot of respect,” Heim said. “I don’t really get to race him a lot, but we both showed each other respect tonight and I thought it was going to be his race or mine to win there, but [Queen] had to dive in over his head and take both of us out. I had respect for the kid, but I kind of lost all of it today.”
A frustrated Hall watched as Queen performed burnouts and did a Polish victory lap around Langley, but he was proud of the way he performed on Saturday evening and credited everyone on his crew for giving him a car capable of winning the Hampton Heat 200 two years in a row.
“This team is just me, my dad and some buddies who volunteer and help,” Hall said. “To be able to run with some guys like Lee Pulliam and some of the other big teams is a testament to our program. We got wrecked last week and pulled this car out to try and get it as good as we could, but this is a tough pill to swallow.”
Hall was confident that he could have passed Heim for the lead if the right opportunity became available, but even though he understands the motivations behind Queen’s desire to win the Hampton Heat 200, he wanted him to use better judgment while planning for the final restart of the night.
“I know the feeling of winning [the Hampton Heat 200] and it’s a great feeling,” Hall said. “[What Queen did] wasn’t the way that I would have liked to have won this race, but he’s the one taking home the trophy and the $10,000. The people who watch real racing know that there were two cars who were the class of the field, but I’m really let down and I don’t know what to say.”
While Heim pursues a championship in the Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour, Hall and Queen will continue their battle for a track championship at Langley in two Late Model features on August 1st.