But it wasn’t a smooth ride as it took a few years for the charity event to come to Hampton.
“The decision to run at Langley this year really started a few years ago,” said Hamlin, 37, who grew up in Chesterfield. “We wanted to have the Short Track Showdown there in 2016, but the track was going through an ownership change and it didn’t work out.”
It also wasn’t possible to have the event in 2017. The official announcement that the 200-lap pro-am Late Model race, which features NASCAR stars and local drivers, was coming to Langley was made last July.
“Our hope is to have the race at Langley for a few years, and then, like we have since the race started, rotate the event to other tracks in Virginia,” said Hamlin, who has 31 career victories on NASCAR’s top circuit.
That doesn’t mean other big-name drivers won’t be on hand.
Chuck Hall, the general manager and promoter at Langley, said he expects a handful of drivers to show up in support of the local short-track community.
He said with the Xfinity race at Richmond Raceway on the 20th and the Monster Energy race there the following evening, a lot of drivers have sponsor commitments the day of the Showdown.
“Without a doubt, there will probably be a lot of superstars that because of promotional schedules are not able to be here for the day, but would be expected to be here to view the race,” Hall said.
Don’t expect the local drivers to be at a disadvantage. In one aspect, they have the edge because of their track knowledge, although Hamlin, Busch and Peters did get in some practice time at Langley
“It’s not going to be an easy task for Denny and Kyle,” Hall said. “You’ve got guys that run around here, Greg Edwards and these guys, that are super drivers. “It’s going to be fun to watch, no doubt.”
Hamlin, who at the age of 16 began his career on the four-tenths of a mile track, is excited about returning to Hampton. He captured his first race at the track in the Grand Stock division on the way to winning the season points title and being named the rookie of the year in 1997.
“Langley is a fun track that I have raced on before, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there,” he said.
Hall said it means a lot to the tracks and local fans to have stars return for such races, but having Hamlin makes it extra special because of his ties to the venue and the fact many local fans have
followed his career from Langley to the Monster Energy Series.
“I mean if it had been any other driver, it’d have been great,” Hall said. “But it’s great and special that we’re having the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown.”
The event raises money for the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which benefits cystic fibrosis.
“We average about $75,000 in donations each year from the Short Track Showdown, and are hopeful to eclipse that this year,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin, Busch, Peters, Tony Stewart, and local Late Model stars C.E. Falk and Matt Bowling have all won the event at least once. Peters is the defending champion.
Practice starts at 11 a.m., with qualifying beginning at 5 p.m. The last-chance race is schedule to start a little after 7 p.m., followed by the Super Streets. The Showdown is expected to start around
Tickets are on sale here. Advance tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and military, $15 for kids 6 through 12, and free for kids 5 and under.