Sammy Houston dialed the six-digit code to his weather-beaten black briefcase and clicked open the snaps to a white envelope bearing the letters "NTR" in all capitals. It stands for "New Track Record."
Houston, the crew chief for the No. 77 Late Model car at Langley Speedway, removed $500 from the envelope and handed it to the vehicle's driver, Nick Smith, for breaking the division qualifying record. Had Houston paid off everyone else who established a qualifying record Saturday, he would've been out $3,000.
On a night of speed like no other in the track's 63-year history, Langley Speedway opened the 2013 season with new qualifying records in each of the six divisions that raced. Smith was likely the best-compensated of the group.
"I forgot Sammy and I had a deal, but it's pretty cool," said Smith, whose 15.252-second lap on Langley's 4/10ths-of-a-mile oval obliterated the two-year-old mark of 15.748 set by Danny Edwards Jr. "The money couldn't come at a better time."
"We had the track qualifying record in 2011 the first time we drove the new car at Southside Speedway (near Richmond), and we didn't lose it until (Friday) night," Houston said. "When we drove the (number) 88 at Southside, we ran on a lot of poles.
"Getting this pole is a great accomplishment for Nick and (car owners) Earl Hall and Chris Hall. I think the money caught Nick off guard, but I'm proud of the pole."
No one in the large crowd that braved temperatures in the low 40s could've been caught off guard with someone breaking the Late Model record. They had already seen records set in the other five divisions.
Ryleigh Lemonds, a 9-year-old phenom, started things off with a 20.819-second lap that broke the record of 21.199 she set en route to the Bandolero Division title a year ago. But Lemonds did not race Saturday because she damaged her car in practice in a spin braking for another spinning car. Madyson Mulligan won the season-opening race in the division, holding off Trevor Wells.
Among the record-breakers Saturday, defending Super Truck champion Robbie Davis went furthest back and set his new mark by the biggest margin. His 17.992-second lap was nearly a second faster than the 18.832 Brian Loving clocked early in the 2006 season.
"It's unbelievable," Davis said of setting the record so decisively. "You can really feel how much faster the track is. You can drive a lot faster in the turns because it has a lot more grip."
That grip is the result of $250,000 of brand-new asphalt Basic Construction laid down in December. It has made the track so fast that Tim Wilson set a UCAR Division qualifying record of 19.196 seconds — bettering Landon Florian's mark of 19.230 set in 2011 — then posted an even faster lap en route to victory in the 25-lap feature.
That race was delayed for 33 minutes when Courtney Shifflett's car flipped on its roof in Turn 4. Shifflett was unhurt.
Like Wilson, Super Street driver John Pereira set a qualifying record, then led every one of the (40) laps. Pereira held off Randy Akers, who ran on his bumper the final 30 laps.
"All I can say is that he drove me clean," Pereira said.
Because the high groove on the new asphalt is considered so treacherously slippery until more rubber is laid down, Smith was hoping the Late Model drivers would drive each other clean.
"That second groove is still dangerous and has crash written all over it," Smith said. "I told (defending Late Model champion) Greg Edwards, who was starting on the outside next to me, I would not run him up into the second groove."
C.E. Falk rallied from the fifth starting position to win the season-opening 150-lap Late Model Division race at Langley Speedway on Saturday. Falk, looking to reclaim the division title he owned from 2009-11, passed pole winner Nick Smith for the lead entering the fourth turn of lap 71 and led the final 80 laps.
Falk fought off a bid in the final 16 laps by Smith, who had fallen back as far as fifth after losing the lead before rallying to finish second. Greg Edwards, the 2012 division champion was third, with Brenden Queen and Casey Wyatt rounding out the top five.
Smith began on the pole by running a record lap of 15.252 seconds on Langley’s 4/10-of-a-mile oval in qualifying. That shattered the previous record of 15.748 set nearly two years ago by Danny Edwards Jr. So fast is the new asphalt at Langley that the top 12 qualifiers in the 17-car field bettered Danny Edwards’ previous mark.