Craig Murto

Craig Murto

The Hampton Heat 200 at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, was aptly named.

It was 101 degrees at the track as the cars prepared to qualify for the 11th running of the $10,000-to-win race, round two of the Virginia Triple Crown. Temperatures inside the race cars were measured at close to 150.

Despite the heat and humidity, a large crowd of spectators was on hand to watch Mike Looney bring the stout field of 23 NASCAR Late Model Stock Cars to the green flag. In the field were former national Weekly Racing Series champions Lee Pulliam and Peyton Sellers, as well as former NASCAR Truck Series winner and Cup competitor Timothy Peters.

The early part of the race belonged to local Langley Speedway regulars, as Nick Smith, Greg Edwards, Danny Edwards and three-time winner of the event C.E. Falk raced near the front. Greg Edwards led a lot of laps, and at one point it appeared he and his brother Danny might pace the field.

Eventually, however, it became the Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers show. That was until Pulliam went for a spin off of Sellers’ front bumper. Both drivers got sent to the back but were able to work their way to the front for top-10 finishes.

The final four laps took about 40 minutes to run, as multiple attempts to restart resulted in yellow flags before the lap was complete. Eventually, though, the final four laps ran and they were worth the wait.

Nick Smith led the restart with Connor Hall on his outside. Langley is a flat racetrack, and normally the outside is not the place to be. But Hall made it work and shot to the lead in the final laps, grabbing a major win on his home track.

Connor Hall was the winner followed by Nick Smith. Greg Edwards held on for third, while Peyton Seller and Brenden Queen round out the top five. Sixth through 10th were Lee Pulliam, Woody Howard, Timothy Peters, Terry Carroll, and Justin Carroll.

A number of drivers had problems dealing with the heat, and at least one driver reported that his “cool suit’ failed, which makes matters worse when the liquid flowing through your driving suit to keep you cool is warm. Falk and Tyler Hughes reported heat issues, and Casey Wyatt was taken to a local hospital for observation and to receive fluids.

Trackside discussion was the absence of Josh Berry, Bobby McCarty and Philip Morris, all of whom competed in round one of the Triple Crown at South Boston Speedway.

Word in the pits was that McCarty damaged his car the week before, and chose to sit it out. Berry, who drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr., focuses on the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour events, and with the heat may have decided to pass. But the puzzle was the absence of Morris, a former NASCAR Weekly Series national champion. The race counted toward the national points, and he was in a battle with Sellers for the 2019 title.

In a Monday afternoon phone call, Morris said he didn’t go because he discovered late Thursday that his crew chief would not be allowed to attend Friday’s test. Morris’ crew chief has been suspended from NASCAR events this season due to an earlier altercation but has attended Friday tests at Dominion Raceway and Motor Mile Speedway, as tests are usually not considered NASCAR events. Morris had a new car to run at Langley and felt without first testing with his crew chief he didn’t want to risk the equipment. And there was not enough time to get an older car ready.

Many tracks up and down the East Coast and as far away as Wisconsin closed due to the heatwave. But Langley Speedway had no choice but to race unless it rained, as all the NASCAR tracks in Virginia and even the CARS Tour worked around the schedule to allow their Late Models to compete. In the end, the Hampton Heat 200 was an exciting race held before a large crowd. And it was aptly named.

This weekend there is free spectator admission at Summit Point (West Virginia) Raceway on Saturday and Sunday for Sports Car Club of America road racing. Get there early, about 9 a.m. if you can. Bring a grill; you can even camp overnight free of charge. See you there!

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.