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Falk wins fourth Late Model crown, while Saunders unexpectedly wins in Legends Division at Langley Speedway


HAMPTON – The first two of 10 division championships were decided Saturday at Langley Speedway: one inevitably and one surprisingly. C.E. Falk clinched his fourth Late Model Division crown earlier than his previous three with top-three finishes in the twin 63-lappers, while Spencer Saunders won both Legends 25s to overtake division leader Connor Hall and win a title no one saw coming a month ago.

Nick Smith won the Late Model twins for his seventh and eighth victories of the season, putting him two wins ahead of Falk, whose sixth checkered flag came on June 8. Despite Falk's longest victory drought after four-and-a-half seasons of virtually camping out in Dale Lemonds Victory Lane, he has remained the model of consistency.

Falk was third on Saturday in the first race, in which Greg Edwards was second to Smith. By finishing second in the nightcap, just ahead third-place Edwards, Falk increased his lead to 48 points over Smith.

At one point per place, that's slightly more than double the amount Falk needed to clinch a fourth title in five seasons even if he were to skip the Sept. 15 Late Model finale. He'll show up, though, eager to end the season with a win he can go for without having to worry about championship points.

"It's great to finally get a championship clinched before the last night," Falk said. "I won't have to go into the last race playing defense rather than going for the win.

"Championship number four is special because it was just me and my brother (Wesley Falk) working on the cars. We haven't had any parts failures or things that we could've prevented at the shop.

"It's key not to beat yourself and we didn't. We didn't have the most wins but we were the most consistent and I appreciated that aspect of the championship."

With four championships, Falk is second (to Danny Edward Jr.'s five titles) among active Late Model drivers at Langley. Falk would love to move up to a top tier NASCAR series, but if that doesn't happen he'd like to make a run at Phil Warren's track record seven Late Model titles.

"My goal is to move up the ranks," Falk said. "But I enjoy racing at Langley, my home track, because the competition is second to none.

"This is humbling, because these championships are hard to come by. I have to thank Hampton Roads Toyota Dealers for sticking by me.

"I couldn't have won this without them."

Saunders entered the Legends twins six points behind Hall, who has led the standings since winning the second race of the season. With Hall needing only fourth place finishes to clinch the title, Saunders, with no victories on the season, knew he was a long shot prior to the first green flag.

"My dad and I sat down and just decided we were going to go for the wins and let the points fall where they do," Saunders said. "We figured we had everything to gain and (Hall) had everything to lose."

Hall lost it in large part because he was sent to the back of the 14-car field for his part in a wreck with former division champion Steve Keesee as they battled for second in the first twin. Hall rallied to finish seventh but the result left him in a flat-footed tie with race-winner Saunders going into the championship-deciding second race.

"I was nervous going into the second race, but I knew all I had to do was lead all the laps and beat him," said Saunders, who works full-time building cars for the K&N Pro Series East team of driver Brandon Gdovic. "That's the way it worked out.

"It feels good to be the underdog and win. (Hall) comes from a high-dollar team and we've struggled to get sponsors.

"It was nice that our main sponsor, Kenny Taylor – owner of Crushcon and Kenny Taylor Waste Services – was at the races to see this. I told (Langley Speedway promoter) Chuck Hall, 'If you'd have told me a month ago I'd be in Victory Lane with a championship and a bottle of champagne, I'd have never believed you.' "

Other winners on Saturday were Renno Marchetti IV (Super Street), Thomas Marks (UCAR), Jeffrey Johnson (Winged Champ Karts) and Cole Bruce (Bandolero). Maddy Mulligan was second in the Bandolero race and will finish on top of that class, which runs a 10-race schedule for drivers (mostly teens and pre-teens) starting out in racing.

Langley Speedway will host the popular NASCAR Southern Modified Touring Series on Saturday for a 150-lap race.

Article Credit: Daily Press