HAMPTON – There have been no shortage of compliments aimed over the years at Late Model Division drivers at Langley Speedway. They never get old, though, particularly when they come from one of NASCAR's heavy hitters.
"A Late Model driver can go back to their home track, finish in the top five and feel good about themselves," Jefferson Hodges said, standing on pit road Friday. "They don't really know the truth until they race at a place like Langley."
That's pretty high praise from a guy like Hodges, a former crew chief for a Late Model national champion and for the Late Model team of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and also in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series. These days he's the general manager and competition director for the Rev Racing team affiliated with the NASCAR Drive For Diversity, NASCAR's effort to involve more women and minorities in the sport.
The seven-driver Rev team is based in Concord, N.C., but Hodges has so much respect for Langley Speedway – where he got his start working on a Late Model crew 19 years ago – that his Late Model drivers will race here six times this season. Their debut will be on Saturday, in the Aviation Institute of Maintenance Late Model 100.
Rev's regular Late Model drivers, Paige Decker and Devon Amos, will run Saturday along with Mackenna Bell, one of the team's five K&N Pro Series East drivers. Bell made the trip to Hampton to get some practice for the K&N race set June 26 at Langley.
What all three have in common is that they earned their places on the Rev team in large part with their performances in the D4D Combine held annually at Langley. That should shorten the learning curve all visiting drivers experience on Langley's 4/10-of-a-mile asphalt oval.
"It's exciting to finally be on a track where I've made some laps," said Decker, an Eagle River, Wis. native with little racing experience in the South. "To get a full test in (Friday) is going to do nothing but set us up for success."
Amos, who hails from Rio Rancho, N.M., said, "I guess it helps when you've been there before, because you have fewer jitters and you're more familiar."
Even with some previous laps, Hodges knows his drivers are longshots to reach Victory Lane in their racing debuts at Langley. The track's history includes numerous drivers who went on to compete in NASCAR's Cup and Nationwide series, and many others who could have had they gotten the financing.
"Racing here can't do anything but help them," Hodges said of the Rev drivers. "If they can run 100 laps on the lead lap and still be in the top 10, that would be good.
"If you can race with (Langley Late Model stars) Nick Smith, Danny Edwards (Jr.) and Greg Edwards, you can race with anybody anywhere."
NOTE: Saturday's six-race card at Langley includes twin Grand Stock 20-lappers, a Super Street 25, a UCAR 25 and an Enduro 25.