Saturday, July 20, 2024

Nearly 8K fans showed up, so this ‘Showdown’ is expected to return to Langley next year

Denny Hamlin shows off his trophy for winning his charity race Thursday, April 19. (Courtesy of Jim Arend)

HAMPTON — The fans who braved the cold and wind Thursday night couldn’t have asked for a better ending at Denny Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown at Langley Speedway.

Standing in victory lane, the same place he stood after winning his first short-track race more than 20 years ago, Hamlin thanked the crowd for a great turnout and then said: “Looking forward to seeing everyone back here next year.”

He put an emphasis on “here.”

It was an all-but- official announcement that his race, which benefits the Denny Hamlin Foundation, will be returning to the track in 2019.

In between qualifying and the start of the race, he had hinted that would be the case.

“I don’t see any reason why not,” he said on returning to the track where he was rookie of the year in 1997 and won the Grand Stock division at the age of 16. “This place has done a great job of hosting us and being so good to us. It’s hard to say no when you can pack the house like we did tonight.”

Track officials brought in temporary stands, which were placed between turns 3 and 4, in anticipation of an overflow crowd.

Those stands were needed to accommodate a few hundred of the estimated 7,500 fans on hand, which had dwindled to about half that when the checkered flag waved at 11:20 p.m. with temperatures in the 40s.

Hamlin qualified second for the 200-lap, Late Model event, behind local track star Danny Edwards Jr. Kyle Busch, a teammate of Hamlin’s at Joe Gibbs Racing, was third. Hamlin, who won this event in 2011 when it was at Richmond, dominated the race, leading 181 laps.

But it wasn’t easy in his return to the fourth-tenths of mile oval. He was challenged at the end by C.E. Falk, the 2010 winner, and then Busch, a three-time winner of the Showdown (2008, 2009, 2013).

“This is special,” said Hamlin, who headed to Richmond after the race for this weekend’s NASCAR races. “I knew the last 50 wasn’t going to go as easy as the first 150. I knew I had my hands full there at the end.”

C.E. Falk (02) and Denny Hamlin, both former winners of this event, race for the lead between turns 3 and 4 in the Denny Hamlin Showdown Thursday, April 19, 2018. (Courtesy of Jim Arend)

Busch, who was coming off two consecutive wins in the Monster Energy Series, got to Hamlin’s back bumper, but couldn’t get around him.

He wound up second. NASCAR veteran Timothy Peters, who won this race in 2015 at South Boston, came in third. Falk, another former winner (2010 at Southside Speedway) finished fourth, and Peyton Sellers was fifth.

Edwards, the pole winner, was involved in a wreck on lap 152 and was done for the night.

There were eight caution flags, not counting the scheduled stops at laps 75 and 150.

But the night wasn’t all about racing.

“It means a lot to give back to these guys,” Hamlin said about local track stars and grassroots racing. “This is our ninth time doing this thing. It’s great to give back to them and see all the people in
the stands that are excited seeing myself and Kyle race in person. And on the flip side, seeing some of the young Late Model drivers excited to race against us and size us up and see where they stack up.”

Edwards showed his talents by winning the pole, which impressed Hamlin.

“Any time a local can come out there and beat some of the guys that do all these tour races and some of the all-stars of Late Models, it definitely says a lot for them.”

While it made for an extra busy week, especially since the finish of last week’s Cup race at Bristol was postponed until Monday, it means a lot to Hamlin.

“It’s awesome because so many of the people that support this grassroots racing here at Langley will be at the racetrack this weekend in Richmond,” he said. “It’s nostalgic for me. It really brings back a lot of good memories.”

He enjoys seeing so many familiar faces.

“To come to victory lane and in the pit area and see hundreds of people that are still working on the same race cars that they were working on before I even made it into racing, it’s cool to see that,” he said. “There were some people I saw on the other side of the fence right before I got into the car that helped me build my very first car, so it’s great to see everyone and experience it.”

An estimated 7,500 fans were on hand for the event Thursday, April 19, 2018. (Courtesy of Jim Arend)

And it appears they will have the chance to experience it again next year at Langley Speedway.

In the first race of the night, Renno Marchetti captured the pole and then never trailed, leading every lap of the Super Street event.

Landon Abbott placed second, followed by Bill Eaker Jr.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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