For longtime fans of Langley Speedway, the ninth annual Hampton Heat Late Model 200 appeared headed for a finish that locals would remember for years. On consecutive laps, track legends C.E. Falk and Nick Smith, both former Heat winners, would make contact multiple times in a battle for another trophy and the $10,000 winner’s check.
But it wasn’t to be. In the midst of their battle, Bobby McCarty, racing at Langley for the first time, passed them on lap 190 and went on to win by about a half-straightaway over second-place Brenden Queen.
Falk, a three-time Heat winner, finished third, inaugural Heat winner Smith was fourth and Justin T. Carroll was fifth. The win was the second in as many weeks for McCarty, who won at his home track of South Boston a week before.
“The 12 (Smith) and 40 (Falk) started racing so hard and they slipped up the track, and I took my opportunity,” said McCarty, who is from Summerfield, N.C.
McCarty’s win, and even Smith’s late challenge, were unexpected because Falk was so dominant. The all-time leader in Heat history coming into the race with 665 laps led, Falk added 187 more to that total.
He won the pole and led all 100 laps before the 15-minute break at the halfway mark. He and second-place starter Philip Morris banged doors on the front straight at the end of the first lap, but Falk came out ahead.
Morris challenged Falk multiple times for the lead in the first half of the race without success. Morris, a four-time NWAAS national champion, would fade early in the second 100 laps due to a poor handling car.
“I don’t know what everybody else’s car is like,” Falk said at the halfway point, “but mine drives pretty good.”
Smith was Falk’s main challenger on most of the six restarts in the caution filled second half. Falk held him off easily until the final restart on lap 179, when, his tires worn, he could not shake Smith.
Photo by Andrew Fuller