Greg Edwards flexes Late Model muscle, while Super Street produces fireworks as Langley Speedway opens 64th season

HAMPTON — Early in a race career that spans about a quarter-century, Greg Edwards rarely finished out of the top two or three of a season-opening race. His more recent openers have been so calamitous that it's a wonder the Titanic museum hasn't offered to sponsor his Chevy.

"Blown tires, broken rear ends, wrecks," Edwards said. "You name it, some kind of disaster has happened to us on opening night the past few years.

"Last year we blew a motor in practice, had to go and get a replacement one and finished third. It's good to get through opening night without a problem."

Edwards did more than that. He dominated the Late Model 100-lapper to open the Langley Speedway's 64th season in front of a large crowd.

Nick Smith, who won a division-high eight races a year ago, won the pole on the 4/10-of-a-mile asphalt in 90.464 mph. Matt Waltz, who won five poles and two races in 2013, was second.

But neither they, nor Mark Wertz and Justin Carroll — who flashed early speed — were a match for Edwards. After Smith led a few laps and Waltz 15 laps, Edwards sped by them and never looked back in leading the final 82 laps.

The performance validated Edwards' hunch that his car would be strong to start the season. Edwards said that after practicing just 15 laps last week, he loaded the car back onto the trailer because it was so good already he didn't need anymore test laps.

"We're not going to make any major changes," Edwards, a three-time division champion, said after his win on Saturday. "There are some little things we might do with shock combinations, but unless that makes the car faster, we're changing back

"This is going to be our baseline. I'm proud of this team and everyone's attitude.

"Everything is going in the right direction."

Waltz and Smith remained second and third to the finish. Brandon Gdovic and Casey Wyatt rounded out the top five.

Super Street

The most exiting finish of the night came in the Super Street 40. Landon Abbott won his first race at Langley after turning the car of leader Randy Akers on the next-to-last turn of the final lap.

Akers ran nearly 80 mph to win the pole, then ran off to a huge lead that was 10 car-lengths going into the final laps. It was a great showing for the veteran, who wasn't even going to race Saturday until wife Rita bought him eight tires and urged him to go for the division title that has eluded him by close margins on multiple occasions.

But Akers was unable to get quickly past a stubborn lapped car and Abbott closed to within two car-lengths going into Turn 3 of the final lap. Here, as often happens when there is contact, the view-points of the drivers diverge.

"Randy likes to chop you," Abbott said, referring to a driver trying to block to keep the lead by braking often. "I had had enough and we got together."

Akers said, "He just ran through me. It was a dirty shot."

Akers spun, facing in the wrong direction and finished eighth. Abbott drove off to a first career victory, with Sammy Gaita, Renno Marchetti IV, Bill Eaker and Jeff Sweeney rounding out the top five.

"It's pretty awesome," said Abbott, a 20-year-old from Henrico County, of his first win. "A lot of hard work goes into this and it's good to get the first win out of the way."

An unhappy Akers drove up to Abbott in Victory Lane and issued a stern warning.

"I told him, 'You don't know who you're messing with' and said what comes around goes around," Akers said. "I'm not bashing the kid, and I guess he got excited going for his first win.

"But I let him know that I'm going to drive him like he drives me. We had a good car. It was fast all day."

Other races

The Super Trucks also produced a battle that lasted to the final turn. Chase McAdams surged past Jacob Carr in Turn 4 of the final lap to win the division 25-lapper. Carr had led most of the race after Bill Wallace won the pole. …

Chris Hildebrand showed the kind of speed many expected, winning the pole for the Legends 25 in 80.704 mph. But Tommy Jackson Jr. led the final 15 laps en route to victory, edging defending division champion Spencer Saunders and Hildebrand. …

Jesse Jones IV won the UCAR pole in 74.248 mph and led the entire 25 laps, holding off Richard Ellis by four car-lengths to the checkered flag. Cole Bruce captured the Bandolero pole, but Devon Courtney led the final eight of 15 laps to get the win.

O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.