Hampton Heat 200 Night | July 26th, 2014
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
at Langley Speedway - Hampton, VA
Seventh Annual Hampton Heat 200
Saturday, July 26, 2014
HAMPTON, Va. (July 26) — Four-time track champion C.E. Falk moved out front on lap 112 and led the way to his first victory of the season in the Seventh Annual Hampton Heat 200 for the ComServe/Verizon Wireless Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Saturday’s late-night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program at Langley Speedway.
Matt Waltz, an eight-time race winner this year, earned the pole position in late afternoon qualifying, clocking in at 88.482 mph. Langley newcomers Deac McCaskill and Brayton Haws were second- and third-quickest, while Greg Edwards and Woody Howard rounded out the top five on the mammoth 37-car starting grid. Little more than half a second separated the fastest from the slowest in a field that included 13 of the Top 100 in the current NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national rankings, as well as a handful of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regulars.
After time trials were completed, a brief, but heavy, shower hit the speedway. Track-drying operations got under way and, soon, opening ceremonies were set to begin. At that point, though, another drenching downpour descended on the track and the process started all over again.
Scheduled as the fourth event on a four-race slate, the Hampton Heat 200 was moved into the leadoff spot. Dispensing with the customary pre-race pageantry, drivers strapped in and fired up their machines. The green flag finally waved at about 11:20 p.m.
As the race got under way, Waltz grabbed the early lead. McCaskill settled into second, followed by Haws, Edwards and Howard, who snagged the fifth spot from Kaz Grala. As Howard pulled ahead, he left the door open for Nick Smith and Matt Bowling.
At lap 7, Waltz enjoyed a four-length advantage over McCaskill. Half a straightaway separated the lead duo from third-place Haws, who was under pressure from Edwards. Behind them, Smith closed in on Howard and took the fifth position on lap 9. Six laps later, Smith battled past Edwards to advance to fourth.
The first caution flag flew on lap 28 as smoke puffed from beneath Tyler Ankrum’s machine along the frontstretch.
On the restart, at lap 37, Waltz was flanked by McCaskill, who picked the outside lane. Waltz fought off McCaskill and retained the lead. Meanwhile, Smith, who also launched from the outside, moved into third.
Within a couple of laps, Waltz had pulled away by five car-lengths as Smith began hunting for the runner-up spot. He grabbed the position on lap 41. A lap later, the second yellow flag appeared for a three-car tangle in Turn 1. Setting the running order, Waltz was the leader, followed by Smith, McCaskill, Haws and Edwards. Falk, who qualified 13th, was up to sixth.
As the race resumed, to begin lap 53, Waltz cleared Smith, who had restarted to his outside, and Howard bypassed Haws to return to the top five. Falk overtook Haws for sixth on lap 59 and brought Dillon Bassett and Bowling along with him.
On lap 62, Edwards swiped the third spot from McCaskill. Eleven laps later, a slight bobble in Turn 2 cost Howard the fifth and sixth positions as Falk and Bassett stormed past.
After opening a five-length lead, Waltz found the going a bit tougher on lap 75 when he waded into slower traffic. Smith seized the opportunity and erased Waltz’s advantage. Edwards was also on the move, closing ground on the two leaders.
Just as Smith initiated a bid for the lead, the third caution flag waved on lap 80 for a two-car incident in Turn 1.
Back under green, to start lap 99, Smith positioned himself on Waltz’s outside flank and nosed ahead at the flagstand to take the lead for the first time. A couple of laps later, fourth-place McCaskill endured a wild ride up the track in Turns 1 and 2 and tumbled all the way back to 13th.
The fourth caution flag was displayed on lap 102, signaling a planned 15-minute break. It also set the stage for the weirdest twist of the race.
Drivers had been instructed to remain on the track until the pace truck led them down the pit lane. Instead, on lap 103, Smith and Waltz peeled off from the pack and headed for their crews. They both realized their miscue and sped on through the pits and back onto the track. The damage had been done, though, as officials began to discuss the appropriate penalties for the premature stops.
After the break, the field returned to the track. Edwards was the new leader, having taken over point on lap 103, followed by Falk, Bassett, Bowling and Howard. Waltz and Smith were placed at the rear of the lead-lap cars, in 24th and 25th, respectively.
On the restart, to begin lap 107, Edwards quickly disposed of Bassett, who was to his outside. Falk rushed to fill the opening underneath Bassett and came away with the second position as they returned to the start/finish line. Howard scuffled past Bassett for third on lap 109, but, in a virtual replay of McCaskill’s earlier adventure, he skittered up the track in Turns 1 and 2 on lap 111 and dropped to seventh.
Meanwhile, at the front, Falk had zeroed in on Edwards and motored into the lead through Turns 1 and 2 on lap 112. Two laps later, the fifth caution flag flew for a five-car jumble in Turn 2. Smith, running in 21st, was among the drivers involved, bringing his night to an abrupt end. He wound up 30th in the final rundown.
It’s said that cautions breed cautions and that certainly turned out to be the case. The 43-lap stint from lap 114 to lap 156 was punctuated by three yellow flags, which consumed 31 laps. During the 12 green-flag circuits, Bassett managed to wrest the runner-up spot from Edwards.
Bunching for a restart on lap 157, Falk was the leader, followed by Bassett, Edwards, Bowling and Brandon Gdovic. Five-time track champ Danny Edwards Jr., who qualified 19th, had also crept into the picture, lining up in sixth.
Back under green, Falk cleared Greg Edwards along the backstretch and left the lane open for Bassett. Dalton Sargeant moved up to third and Bowling snagged fourth.
The eighth yellow flag was unfurled on lap 169 for a multi-car melee in Turn 3. During the ensuing caution period, Waltz, his vision limited by a rumpled hood and fender, collided with Mackena Bell on the frontstretch and saw his night come to a disappointing conclusion. He was 26th in the finishing order.
As the race resumed, to begin lap 179, Falk pulled ahead of Bassett off Turn 2. Danny Edwards Jr. emerged in the third position, followed by defending race winner Peyton Sellers and Sargeant, who slipped from third to fifth.
Caution #9 appeared on lap 185 as Eddie Johnson ended up parked at the bottom of Turn 3 with a rumpled race car, ending a frustrating outing for him. He was 24th in the final rundown. Meanwhile, Devon Amos scrubbed along the outside wall in Turns 3 and 4, but was able to continue.
Lining up for another restart, Bassett took his third shot on the outside of Falk. With the laps winding down, the faceoffs between the two were becoming more physical.
Heading to the green flag, to begin lap 194, Falk and Bassett made contact off Turn 4. They maintained control of their machines, though, and went door-to-door for a full circuit with Falk easing ahead in Turn 2 on lap 195.
The tenth, and final, caution flag waved on lap 195 for debris on the frontstretch and pushed the event past its scheduled 200-lap distance.
Setting the lineup for the last restart, Falk was out front, followed by Bassett, Danny Edwards Jr., Greg Edwards, Sellers, Grala and Bowling. Of that group, Bassett, Greg Edwards and Grala opted for the outside lane.
Under green for the final time, Falk cleared Bassett off Turn 2, leaving him to battle Danny Edwards Jr. for second.
At the checkers, Falk was the winner by 0.411-second — about two car-lengths. Danny Edwards Jr. was second, pouncing when Bassett skated wide through Turns 3 and 4 on the white-lap lap. Greg Edwards was third, while Sellers and Bowling completed the top five.
Gdovic headed the second five, in sixth, while Bassett slipped to seventh. McCaskill, Brenden Queen and Mark Wertz rounded out the top 10. Also on the lead lap at the end of 205 circuits were Howard, Austin Thaxton, Justin Carroll, Sargeant, Chris Johnson, Grala and Brandon Brown.
Rolling into Victory Lane after the race, Falk commented on the effort behind his third Hampton Heat 200 title: “We had a good car the past two days. The only thing that didn’t go well was qualifying, but this 40 machine was tough. No sponsors, just some black and red on her and she’s mean. She was good in that first half and even better in that second, so we did a good job of adjusting and, Dillon, he was really good. Those restarts kept falling in our favor. We were really good on those short runs and that was the difference.”
The Late Models will be off next weekend, returning to action at Langley on Saturday, Aug. 9, with a pair of 75-lappers.
In the evening’s other feature events:
In the 40-lap Butterfoss & Barton Orthodontics Super Street race, Sammy Gaita started on the pole, at 75.474 mph, and wired the field for his fourth victory of the year.
Renno Marchetti IV shared the front row with Gaita and remained on his outside flank until they reached Turn 4 on the opening lap. Returning to the flagstand, Gaita pulled ahead, then set sail. By lap 3, he had extended his advantage to four car-lengths.
While Marchetti turned his attention to a challenge from third-place Landon Abbott, Gaita steadily added to his lead. By the halfway mark, the margin had swelled to half a straightaway.
At the end of the caution-free run, Gaita was the winner by 2.054 seconds over Marchetti. Abbott was third, followed by John Pereira, who advanced from sixth to fourth. Randy Akers started and finished in the fifth spot.
Chris Hildebrand assumed the lead on lap 16 and rolled to his fourth victory in a 25-lapper for the Cycle City Corp. INEX Legends.
Tommy Jackson Jr. qualified on the pole, at 79.141 mph. He was unable to get his machine fired on the grid, though, and was pushed to the attention of his crew in the pits. With Jackson on the sidelines, Spencer Saunders moved up to the pole position, flanked by Hildebrand.
Saunders led the first 15 laps of the event with Hildebrand in tow. On a couple occasions, Hildebrand stole a glance to the inside of the leader, but couldn’t pull off the pass.
On lap 16, Saunders looped his machine in Turn 2, bringing out the only caution flag. Officials were ready to send Hildebrand to the rear of the field along with Saunders. In a nice display of sportsmanship, though, Saunders let it be known that Hildebrand had played no role in his spin, preserving Hildebrand’s spot atop the leaderboard.
On the restart, Hildebrand quickly fashioned a narrow margin over Brandon Gdovic, the new second-place runner. By the end, that gap had grown to almost half a straightaway — 0.946-second, to be precise.
Gdovic was second to the line, while Saunders rebounded to take third. Rette Causey was fourth in his first start of the season and Brian May completed the top five.
In the Rhonnda Claiborne, Realtor HRKC Pro Winged Champ Kart feature, Jonathan Mullett snagged the lead on the last lap and posted his first victory, becoming the seventh different winner in eight races. Due to four lengthy caution periods in the early going, the event was trimmed from 20 to 16 laps.
Tyler Stallings started on the pole, at 61.545 mph, but gave way to Aaron Leach on the opening lap. Leach’s night came to a sudden end, though, when he popped the outside wall in Turn 4 on lap 4 and meandered back across the track as the rest of the field scrambled to avoid him.
Leach’s exit passed the lead to Jordan Valdes, who showed the way for laps 4-8. On lap 9, Charlie-Ray Lorah, Ryan Hudgins and Mullett triple-teamed Valdes and drafted into the front three spots. Two laps later, Mullett slipped by Hudgins to take over second place.
With Hudgins shuffled out, the lead draft had dwindled to only two karts, Lorah and Mullett. Behind them, Dominic Guarry, Robert Pellek and Josh Ayer were closing in.
On lap 15, Ayer scooted past Guarry and Pellek in Turns 1 and 2 to grab third place. Joining the lead duo on the white-flag lap, he was position to provide the drafting boost that carried Mullett to Victory Lane.
At the finish, Mullett was the winner by 71-thousandths of a second over Ayer. Lorah was third, followed by Pellek and Guarry.
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