Langley Speedway has released its 2011 schedule, which features two nationally televised touring series events among 28 race dates. Opening night is April 9, with racing scheduled weekly through Oct. 29 except for NASCAR's two visits to Richmond International Raceway: April 30 and Sept. 10.
Highlights include the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on June 18, which will be telecast on the Speed Channel, and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified race on Sept. 3, which will be telecast on Versus. In addition, the popular Hampton Heat Late Model 200 moves into its fourth year, while the USAR ProCup Series also might return.
Approaching his second anniversary as owner, Bill Mullis took the opportunity upon the release of the schedule to talk about Langley Speedway, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this past season.
Q: I'm sure race fans and drivers appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep a track running in this economy, but they mostly want to know it will be there for them. What's the state of Langley Speedway?
A: It's extremely stable. With (promoter) Chuck Hall there and my bookkeeper (Debbie McAlpin), I feel I have the team I need for creating long-term stability. It's challenging but exciting.
I'm proud of what we're doing. It's been tough, but the further I go, the happier I am and the sweeter it is.
Q: What are some of the big challenges?
A: The speedway is a very, very expensive operation. It has income, but it has huge debt service. The Late Model purse, the lease and the insurance create a very hefty figure.
Q: Are the facility upgrades moving along to your satisfaction?
A: We made a lot in 2010. I don't have to foot the cost of putting blue metal roofs on the buildings. That's already done. I don't have to rebuild the billboards that fell down. I already did that. And I don't have to spend $70,000 out of pocket for a new caution lane. It's paid for.
The largest single expense I have projected for this year is possibly rebuilding the public restroom, as well as building the Hampton Roads Kart Club a new go-kart track.
We need to sell more race-night sponsorships and skyboxes this year. There's quite a bit of money not tapped and expenses that can be cut without affecting the show or public.
Q: So purse money for the drivers isn't going down?
A: Not at all.
Q: Looking at the schedule, I don't see a USAR ProCup Series event there after you hosted two the past two seasons. Will they be back?
A: We're currently negotiating for a May 28 race date. I think that's a good possibility.
Q: What else are you working on for 2011?
A: The greatest thing that's happening on the racing side is that Langley is now a 100-percent NASCAR track. All divisions will race in the Whelen All-American Series, including Enduros.
It's a total commitment for co-support and it's beneficial for both. That's proven in this K&N Pro East race we have for June 18.
Q: How big a deal is the K&N race?
A: That series is turning into a proving ground for NASCAR's Truck and Sprint Cup series. Ryan Truex (younger brother of Cup regular Martin Truex) runs there. Joe Gibbs Racing has cars in it. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has interest in it.
I expect a heavy car count and a lot of fans.
Q: You had a huge gate for the NASCAR Southern Modified race last year. Did that help get the K&N race here?
A: Yes. I remember telling my wife (Kendra) that we got on national TV for that race and made a profit doing it. Then our race had the third highest rating on Versus (tape-delay telecast) of any of the Southern Modified races.
Hosting the K&N and Southern Modified races, and having all our divisions NASCAR licensed, puts us in the highest status a weekly track can have with them. We just received a helmet from NASCAR commemorating us as being one of eight tracks that has been with the weekly racing series all 30 years.
I've put in for a grant with NASCAR for financial assistance in rebuilding our public restrooms and could be successful getting it. When you enhance your relationship with NASCAR a lot of good things happen.
Q: Do you foresee a surge in weekly racing after some down years nationally?
A: I think there's an opening for tracks like Langley with good operators to educate the public that if you want to see good racing, it might be better on a weekly track than anything you see at home. Fans are asking: "What's more exciting?"
Is the Hampton Heat more exciting than what you're going to see at Phoenix? Hell yeah.
Q: The Hampton Heat has become a fixture at the speedway, hasn't it?
A: It's an excellent race and it's been good for the speedway.
Q: You've done very well in the scallop business? Why do you operate this track with all the extra time that entails, and the fact that it's unlikely to add to your bank account?
A: When you see a family race for 30 years and a guy like (Modified Division driver) Robbie Babb emerge as a winner, that's a special feeling. That's why I'm there.
I remember what a special feeling it was when I stepped out of the car after winning my first UCAR and first Truck race at Langley. I know the racing community well and I understand the value of this track and what people get out of it.
My daughter and I raced together for eight years and had the time of our lives. I'm just here administratively to allow this track to be the best it can be for the fans, drivers, advertisers and the city.
LANGLEY SPEEDWAY 2011
April 9 – Opening Night.
June 18 – K&N East Pro Series race.
July 1 – Fireworks Night.
July 9 – Hampton Heat Late Model 200.
Sept. 3 – NASCAR Southern Modifield Series.
Oct. 29 – Day of Destruction (season ending event).