One of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series’ most historic tracks is undergoing an ambitious renovation.
Langley Speedway, a .396-mile paved oval in Hampton, Va., is undergoing a complete repaving this offseason. The worn surface and nuanced configuration have long made the speedway an equalizer among drivers. The surface will be new in 2013, but the track’s configuration will remain the same.
The old surface – only about 15 years old – had more issues than just routine wear and tear. Cracks developed that allowed water under the surface into the base in the turns and as the base deteriorated the asphalt surface cracked into chunks.
Longtime Langley Speedway competitor Bill Mullis just completed his fourth year of leading the speedway’s business operations and promoting the track. He attended Langley races as a youth and first raced in go-karts there. Later, he competed at Langley in the Legends, Super Street and Pro Six divisions from 1996 until 2007. Between him and his daughter Ashley, they have six karting championships at the Virginia track located near Langley Air Force Base.
“As president of the Hampton Roads Karting Club I raced on the track for many years. I’ve been intimately familiar with the pavement issues. You feel every little bump racing a go-kart,” Mullis said. “In recent years the surface in the corners began deteriorating quickly. Two years before I became promoter of the track, the club put in two asphalt patches about 30 inches wide in the corners.
“This year we had to study the situation. I called engineers, got opinions and came up with three ‘prescriptions’ to get the track’s surface ‘well’ again. We could patch it up; cut the two racing grooves in the corners and replace the asphalt as a Band-Aid; or repave the whole track for only 40 percent more than the ‘Band-Aid.’
“Now we’re making the base under the turns three-feet deeper. The cost is in the corners. The rest of the track is in good shape,” Mullis said.
“There were rumors we were going to change the layout or banking. I wouldn’t do that. Who am I to change 63 years of Langley Speedway history,” Mullis said.
“We’ve worked very closely with John Klick (representing the track’s decades-long family ownership) and Basic Construction on this project,” Mullis said. “Basic has their best people and best equipment on the job. They showed up with all their machinery to start work two hours after our contract was signed.”
Mullis said Tuesday that the old surface has been completely removed, creating a temporary 35-foot tall mountain of grindings in the pit area. Potential weather issues brought about a pause in the project.
“They will not open the subsurface to rebuild the base under threat of rain,” Mullis said. “I think the job will be done between this Friday and next Friday… certainly before Christmas.”
Langley’s promoter and media relations veteran Chuck Hall said the improvements are necessary.
“The repaving is long overdue,” Hall said. “Bill Mullis accepted the challenge to give participants and fans a great place to go racing. He wants a speedway that has competitive racing without worry about the surface coming apart. He wants to have a great place to go racing. That’s what he’s committed to.”
“It’s going to be a totally different track,” said Greg Edwards, the speedway’s 2012 and three-time NASCAR Late Model Stock Car champion. The new surface will be the third he’s raced on there since he began his career in 1988. The track was repaved for the 1998 season when Edwards won his first NASCAR Late Model championship.
“Everyone is happy to see Bill make this kind of investment. There’s no question he believes in Langley Speedway’s future. He’s a business man, a man of his word, and a racer at heart,” Edwards said.
“I like the character of the speedway,” Edwards said. “The last time the track was paved it took about four weeks to get a second groove worked-in. It’s going to be fast and smooth. We’ll have to create a whole new set-up book. We think we have a pretty good idea how the track will change. It’s going to have so much grip we think we’ll be seven-tenths of a second faster.”
Mullis’ contribution to Langley Speedway’s growth comes nearly two decades after the most recent major facility renovations. In the mid-1990s, then-track operator Wayne Wyatt replaced guard rail with concrete walls, did a major infrastructure update, paved the track, and added new aluminum bleachers topped with new corporate skyboxes and control tower.
The relationship between Langley Speedway and NASCAR dates back 48 years to 1964 when Ned Jarrett won the first of nine Langley NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events. Jarrett won the first two national series events there on dirt in 1964-65. Richard Petty won the last two events on dirt in 1966-67. David Pearson had two Langley wins on Langley’s new pavement in 1968 and added a third in 1969. Bobby Isaac and Bobby Allison won there in 1970.
The first track on the present site was a .333-mile dirt track named Dude Ranch Speedway that opened in 1949. Closed between 1953 and 1962, the track was enlarged to a .4-mile dirt track and reopened in 1963. The modern era dawned in 1968. The track was paved for the first time and renamed Langley Field Speedway.
Langley Speedway was a key to NASCAR’s future when in 1982 it became a founding track for both the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series appeared at Langley 14 times from 1982 to 1988. Virginia’s Tommy Ellis is the series all-time leading Langley winner with five victories.
Phil Warren is Langley’s all-time leading NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car track championship winner with seven. Danny Edwards Jr. has five Langley titles while C.E. Falk III won three in a row from 2009 to 2011. In addition to 2012, Greg Edwards also won championships in 1998 and 2006.
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour began annual appearances at the track in 2010 with the next date scheduled for Aug. 31, 2013. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East has stopped at Langley since 2011 and will return on June 22 next year.
Langley Speedway opens for the 2013 season on April 6 with a six division show headlined by a 150-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car feature. In all, 23 Late Model Stock Car feature events are scheduled over 16 race nights.
The track’s complete 2013 schedule is available at www.langley-speedway.com.