Drivers C.E Falk and Brandon Gdovic hope solid performances on the 3/4-mile oval at Richmond International Raceway on Thursday lead to bigger things. Car owner Joe Falk just hopes to qualify for Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race.
Fans looking for locals to cheer when NASCAR stops in Richmond the next three days will find no shortage. Yorktown native Brandon Gdovic will be the first area driver on the track at 7 p.m. Thursday, when he competes in the K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100.
C.E. Falk follows at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, as he tries to recapture the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown title he won so memorably two years ago with a last-lap bump of Hamlin. Joe Falk had hoped to get nephew C.E. into a car for the Nationwide Series 250-lapper on Friday, but couldn't land a sponsor.
"Finding a sponsor is like trying to get a dance from the hottest girl on the dance floor," said C.E. Falk, the three-time defending Langley Speedway Late Model champion. "You're going to get rejected more times than not, but that doesn't mean you stop trying."
Joe Falk, the 1976 Langley Late Model champ, will look for improved form from the No. 33 Cup car he purchased in late March from Richard Childress Racing. The team failed to qualify at Kansas last week after running 31st at Martinsville with Hermie Sadler behind the wheel and 34th at Texas with Tony Raines.
Steven Leicht, a former Nationwide race winner, will be Joe Falk's driver on Friday in qualifying for Capital City 400, set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Joe Falk has faced some huge challenges starting up his very small RCR-affiliated team.
He says his team will race Childress cars, but, because it takes weeks to get a new car approved by NASCAR, he's had to run the refurbished Hendrick cars his driver,T.J. Bell, raced last year. Falk, whose shop crew consists of eight employees — compared to about 40 per car on the big Cup teams — will field one of the new Childress cars this week.
"This is our very first race with the right car," he said. "We should be a lot more competitive."
Joe Falk said recently that he hopes to put C.E in his car for at least one Cup race this season. C.E. made a mini-splash nationally two years ago with his win in Hamlin's charity event, held then at Southside Speedway near Richmond.
To earn the victory, he bumped Hamlin aside on the last lap and beat Tony Stewart to the line. Hamlin was the 2011 Cup runnerup and Stewart is a three-time Cup champion.
"The phone calls and media I got after that race were unprecedented," C.E. said. "For a few days, I was the guy who knocked Denny out of the way on the last lap.
"Maybe if we do well on Thursday it will help with sponsorship."
C.E. will be in the same car he drove to victory lane in the season-opening Late Model races at South Boston and Motor Mile. Gdovic will start the K&N race in the car he drove to a third-place finish in the latest race in that series at Greenville, S.C., in March.
"That's definitely our best race car," said Gdovic, a Langley Speedway Late Model regular in 2010. "If we do well, it definitely can be a top-five car and maybe battle for the win."
Gdovic said he'd love to earn his first K&N victory at RIR, because he considers it as much his home track as Langley. Because K&N is now a major feeder for Nationwide and Truck teams, a win could help Gdovic take a step toward his bigger ambitions.
"My goal is definitely to make it to the top," he said. "I've talked to my dad (car owner Rick Gdovic) about getting in a couple of truck or Nationwide races this year.
"We'll see how it goes."
NOTES: Both the K&N and Denny Hamlin races will be televised live Thursday on the Speed Channel. Two-time Langley Speedway track champion Greg Edwards also is entered in Hamlin's race, in which the drivers will run Late Models.
The Hamlin race features numerous Cup drivers: Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Joe Logano among them. Chesapeake business owner Curtis Key has four entries in the Nationwide race for his team, TMG: drivers Erik Darnell, Josh Wise, Chase Miller and Scott Speed.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun