This history minute takes us back to a NASCAR National Championship Modified-Sportsman race on the dirt at Langley Field Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on October 25, 1964 - the Ray Platte Memorial 200.
Back in 2010, RR member, Jack Walker (Coastal Jack) posted the results of this race in our RR photo section with a brief write up. The write up immediately below is how Jack described the event:
The 2nd annual Ray Platte Memorial Modified- Sportsman race was held at the 4/10 mile dirt Langley Speedway on October 25th, 1964. Forty-Four cars were in the pits attempting to qualify for the 40 starting spots in the 200 lap event. Sonny Hutchins of Richmond, VA turned the fastest lap at 20.83 seconds to win the number one starting spot. Doug Yates of Chapel Hill, NC driving the #1va was able to secure the outside front row starting position. Lap leaders were Sonny Hutchins, Ted Hairfield, Earl Moss, and Ray Hendrick. Hairfield was able to lead on 3 different occasions including the final 73 laps. Lil Bud Moore from Charleston, SC was able to work his way through the field getting as high as 3rd from a starting spot near the rear of the field before his steering locked up. Hairfield and Bob McGinnis of Danville went the entire distance without a pit stop. There were 2 red flags, and 3 caution flags in the event. Hairfield won $1000 for the victory before a crowd of 5000 fans.
Here are the results below that Jack Walker posted in our photo section back in 2010 and which he has also posted at his Carolina Race Place site:
Winner Ted Hairfield's beautiful #4 "Snakebite II" coupe at another venue as posted by RR member, David Bentley.
A couple of notes - the namesake of the event, late Ray Platte, was a noted modified driver from Norfolk, Virginia who was killed at Virginia's South Boston Speedway.
Photo of Ray Platte from the Ralph Rose Scrapbook as maintained by Ralph's daughter June Rose Hudgins, who penned the note below:
Sadly, Ray Platte was killed in a wreck at South Boston Speedway, VA. He was driving Bobby Issac's car that day. My mother, Toni, encouraged and helped organize the Ray Platte Memorial Race held at Langley Field Speedway to honor him and his wonderful family. Doug Yates of NC won the race and presented the trophy to a young Ray Platte, Jr. It was a day I'll never forget.
Pole sitter Sonny Hutchins was driving the blue #90 Swansboro Motor Co. Ford modified of Richmond's Junie Donlavey. The 1VA driven by outside pole sitter, Doug Yates was the same Shirley Construction Corp. modified out of Portsmouth, Virginia that Eddie Crouse had driven to two consecutive NASCAR National Modified titles in 1962 & 1963. That ride would soon be taken over by Lennie Pond.
4th place finisher, Denny Zimmerman was one of the famed "Eastern Bandits" led by Eddie Flemke and including Rene Charland and Red Foote. Foote finished 37th. Zimmerman would later be named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.
Both Bill Champion and Bud Elliott had famous NASCAR Cup and Busch Series nephews. Champion is the uncle of Ricky Rudd, while Elliott is the uncle of both Elliott and Hermie Sadler.
The sons of Hairfield - Bugs - and Ray Hendrick - Roy - would later enjoy successful short track careers on Virginia weekly NASCAR tracks.
Bill Dennis would go on to be named NASCAR Grand National Rookie of the Year and driving Junie Donlavey's #90 Truxmore Fords and Mercs become the first driver to ever win three consecutive Permatex 300 Late Model Sportsman races at Daytona.
Lennie Pond would be named 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year over Darrell Waltrip.
Langley Field was paved in 1968, but 9th place Al Grinnan and Bud Elliott would continue to race dirt through the 1970s at North Carolina's Wilson County Speedway, along with Shelton McNair in his potent #M-1. Both Grinnan and Elliott would win Wilson track titles in the 70s and recently McNair's son has raced an unlimited Late Model at Lucama, North Carolina's Southern National Motorsports Park.
Gene Lovelace would die of a heart attack en route to the hospital after pulling his Late Model Sportsman off the track at Richmond's Southside Speedway for relief driver, Lennie Pond.
The paint scheme of the second place finisher, Earl Moss lives on with RR member, Bobby Williamson's #300 tribute car.
Ray Hendrick is credited with more NASCAR Modified and Late Model Sportsman victories than any other driver in the sanctioning body's history.
I was fortunate to see every one of these drivers above race - most at one of Richmond's two NASCAR venues. This was quite a field of drivers. I am very appreciative that Jack Walker was able to both assemble the results and give some insight on the race.
In 2010, retired motorsports journalist, Al Pearce wrote a nice piece on the history of this race venue in Hampton, Virginia:
The following article about the history of Langley Speedway was written and published in 2010 by Hall Of Fame Sports Writer Al Pearce of the Daily Press, and Newport News, Va. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News:
Langley Speedway roars into its 60th anniversary season with a well-established and well-earned reputation as one of NASCARs best weekly tracks. From its modest opening in 1950 as a dirt track with few amenities to todays paved showplace, Langley has consistently stayed ahead of the competitive and administrative curve.
In the late 1940s the property on North Armistead Avenue in Hampton was home to Dude Ranch, an 8/10th-mile oval for lower-level thoroughbred racing. The owners occasionally hosted stock car races, which generally attracted more fans than the horses ever had. The owners eventually shortened the track to 4/10ths-mile (clearly, 8/10ths was too long for weekly racing) and turned their attention to cars. Dude Ranch stayed a small, rough-hewn bullring until 1963, when ex-racer and local businessman Henry Klich paid $1,000 for the lease and promptly renamed it Langley Field Speedway.
Today, Langley remains southeastern Virginias longest-running professional sports enterprise and one of the oldest in the Commonwealth. In the 1960s and early 1970s it hosted nine Grand National races (now, Sprint Cup) featuring many of NASCARs greatest drivers: Richard Petty, David Pearson, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Bobby Isaac, Benny Parsons, James Hylton, Marvin Panch, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Tiny Lund, Junior Johnson, Donnie Allison, Pete Hamilton, Dave Marcis and Wendell Scott.
More than anyone, Klich led the track into the modern era of stock car racing. He presented the Peninsulas first Cup race in May of 1964, when
Jarrett won a 250-lapper ahead of Panch and Buddy
Baker. Jarrett came back almost a year later and won another 250-lapper, this one ahead of Dick Hutcherson and Elmo Langley. In 1966, Petty beat Hylton and Neil Castles in the spring race. A year later, during his historic 27-win season, Petty won ahead of Allison and Hylton in Langleys last dirt-track Cup race.
Realizing that NASCAR was about to abandon its dirt tracks, Klich paid a local contractor $25,000 to pave Langley shortly before its May of 1968 Cup date. Pearson won that first paved-track show over Isaac and Buddy Baker, then repeated in August ahead of Petty and Isaac. In 1969, Pearson beat Hylton and Marcis in a 375-lapper, the tracks longest-ever Cup race. Isaac beat Allison and Castles in the May of 1970 and Allison beat Parsons and Hamilton in November of that year. Sharp-eyed readers and trivia buffs will note that every driver who won a Cup race at Langley had been or was going to win the NASCAR champion.
Klich retired as promoter late in 1969, but retained the lease and kept a close eye on things from his nearby home. Local car-builder Donnie Harris doesnt think Klich (who died in January of 2001 at age 70) gets enough credit for starting Langley on its way to respectability. He turned Langley from a Saturday night redneck get-together to real good racing, he said of Klich, who briefly raced in lower-level cars at Langley in the 1980s. He did everything he could to make the speedway better, to make it successful. He brought in the best drivers he could find and made the public aware of what good racing really was. A Daily Press headline summed it up best the day after Klich died: He Made Us Major-League.
During the early 1970s, after Klich retired as promoter, Langley endured a series of well-meaning but generally overmatched promoters/track operators. Norfolk-area businessman and drag racing promoter Hank Hankins had the track for a while. When he left, a local group featuring Bob Wall, Carl Breen, Gene Hutcheson, Lee Cogdill and B.W. Mitchum took their turn. For the better part of a year, former TV sportscaster Charlie Bailey served as the tracks promoter/general manager.
To many fans and competitors, Langley Speedways savior was Joe Carver. (The track almost certainly would have survived without him, but in what form?) Tall, white-headed, confident and charismatic, the Charlie Rich-lookalike moved to Hampton from Nashville in the fall of 1973. He was on hand for a late-season show and was named Baileys replacement a few days later. He immediately set about rebuilding the tracks sagging image and stirring up what had become a complacent and inconsistent fan base.
He ruled for 10 years, moving Langley forward and creating something of a Golden Age for local racing. Feisty to a fault, Carver never shied from conflict with fans, competitors or the media. In truth, he probably created more feuds and painted payback scenarios than actually existed all part of his come see this style of marketing. Even so, fans saw some of the countrys best short-track racers and enjoyed some truly creative Saturday night promotions. (Wholl ever forget the $1,000-to-win match race among Darrell Waltrip, Sonny Hutchins and Ray Hendrick or the Cup drivers he brought in for special Late Model shows)?
Carver opened the tracks vault in the 1970s and lured many of the regions best short-track racers. Among them: out-of-towners Hutchins, Hendrick, Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd, Butch Lindley, Paul Radford, L.D. Ottinger, Morgan Shepherd, Gene Glover, Bill Dennis, Red Foote, Jack Ingram, Tommy Ellis, Sam Ard, Jimmy Hensley and Geoffrey Bodine. Later, beginning in the early-1980s and going for seven years, a new wave of stars came to Langley with the second-tier Busch (now, Nationwide) Series. Among them: Dale Jarrett, Tommy Houston, Jimmy Hensley, Rick Mast, Brett Bodine, Mark Martin, Phil Parsons, Jimmy Spencer and series champions Jack Ingram, Sam Ard, Tommy Ellis, Larry Pearson and Rob Moroso.
During this period the current-day Late Model Stock Car class was born and nurtured. From it came many of Langleys most successful drivers: Danny and Greg Edwards, Phil Warren, Elton Sawyer, Billy Smith, Charlie Doyle, Bubba Adams, Diane Teel, Wayne Hanbury, Roger Sawyer, Chip Hudson, Eddie Johnson, Buddy Malish, Mike Buffkin, Howard Crews, Joe Gaita and Shawn Balluzzo. Todays crop of Late Model stars includes the Edwards brothers, plus Mark Wertz, C.E. Falk, Woody Howard, Nick Smith, John Staton and Jeff and Dean Shiflett. Its been said that everybody whos been anybody in NASCAR weekly-track racing
since the early 1970s has been to Langley a time or two.
All told, Langley hosted nine Sprint Cup races between 1964 and 1970 and 14 Nationwide Series races between 1982 and 1988. In addition, its hosted ASA, Hooters Pro Cup, Goodys Dash, Southern Modified and Grand American races. Among the ASA racers who came to Langley were a young, unknown Californian named Jimmie Johnson and a fourth-generation kid from North Carolina named Adam Petty. Then, there were the times a high school kid from near Richmond his name was Denny Hamlin came down each weekend with a purple No. 11 Mini-Stock. In the mid-1970s a tall, thin, raw-boned kid from Kannapolis, NC came in for a Late Model Sportsman race. Later, Dale Earnhardt won a few Cup races and championships.
Not surprisingly, the promoters who took over when Carver returned to Nashville after the 1983 season never quite measured up. In their own unique ways, though, George St. Amand and Joe Baldacci improved the track, offered good shows and presented a comfortable environment. But it wasnt until Wayne Wyatt and partner Jim Wood came along in 1995 that Langley began growing again at a steady rate. If Carver saved the tracks soul during his 10 years, Wyatt and Wood saved its body.
They operated Langley during the time of its greatest physical improvement. Between 1995 and 1997, Wyatt and Wood replaced the aging and unsightly steel guardrail with a concrete wall. They repaved the track and replaced the board-and-scaffolding bleachers with an iron-and-steel grandstand. They added more than a dozen skyboxes and VIP suites, and a modern race control and media booth. Its is believed that Langley was the first NASCAR-sanctioned weekly track with skyboxes and suites accessible only by elevator.
Wyatt brought in Dwight Schaubach as his financial partner in 1999, and they worked together through the 2004 season. Sandy Lemonds and her racer/husband, Dale, bought the lease late in 2004. When Dale was killed at Langley in August of that year, Sandy and her brother, King Hodges, operated the track in 2005 and part-way into the 2006 season. When King finally succumbed to a lingering respiratory disease in April of that year, Sandy chose to turn over day-to-day operations to long-time friend Lou Gotti, her late husbands former Legend Car crew chief.
In the spring of 2009, with the economy taking a toll on local short-track racing, the cash-strapped Gotti sold the track to former racer/area businessman Bill Mullis. Mullis much like Klich raced support divisions at Langley, South Hampton and Southside Speedway. Mullis plans on writing the next chapter of Langleys history, he started by bringing in former Promoter Chuck Hall, and by continuing the compassion as a racer and respect for the speedway as a business. To initiate his goal Mullis has secured top racing events and series in just his 1st year including, the prestigious INEX Nationals for October 2010. The INEX Nationals are a 1st for the entire state of Virginia. Also on the list are two USAR Pro Cup series races (formally Hooters Pro Cup), the NASCAR Whelan Southern Modified Series and the NASCAR home track sanctioned racing all in 2010. With fan support growing to record numbers Bill Mullis has dedicated and directed his mission to making the grand ole Langley Speedway shine once again. Langley Speedway celebrates 60 years of racing excellence in 2010, and Bill Mullis and his staff prepare to help write the next chapter for Langley Speedway.
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
updated by @dave-fulton: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM