The Hampton Heat was an apt name for Saturday night’s race at Langley Speedway.
With temperatures well into the 90s, spending more than two hours in a Late Model Stock Car was almost more than Connor Hall could take.
As soon as Hall pulled his car into Victory Lane, it was hard to celebrate. He didn’t even have the energy to take a victory lap.
“I felt like that Sponge Bob episode where he got put out of the water and it was just a dried up sponge,” Hall said Monday. “I was out of it.”
But the energy and effort was worth it, because the win at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway, .396-mile NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned asphalt oval in Hampton, Virginia, was “definitely” Hall’s biggest win of his young career.
It was Hall’s third victory of the season, and was a good bounce back from a week prior when an issue cost him the top spot in the track’s Taylor Waste Services Late Model Stock Car points standings.
“The thing that went through my head was holy cow,” he said. “I just pulled it right into Victory Lane, and I saw my crew chief banging on the hood. It was really cool.”
Hall was the first local winner of the Hampton Heat in five years.
“At first I was kind of like ‘heck yes’ for us as a team,” he said. “And then when I got out on the hood of the car and stood up and I looked at the crowd, that made it more cool for me personally. But when I pulled-in. I was really thankful we won mainly for my guys because every single person on my team is a volunteer. So, they’re giving up 20-25 weekends of their life for me per year, and some of those guys have been with me for five or six years. So, whenever you can make it worth their while is definitely a healthy feeling for yourself and your conscious as well.”
Three wins this season would typically be enough to make some drivers happy, but Hall said he’s always on the hunt for more. Winning a track championship would be nice, but collecting wins is bigger to him.
While he feels like his season is going great so far, he has goals for the rest of the season, and expects that win total to rise in the final few months of the year.
“To me I have a job to do to keep going so that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “Today is Monday and we’ve already kind of agreed to stop basking in it, living in the moment, and realizing we had our fun this weekend, let’s go after more the next. It’s not really a fun way to go about it I guess but at the same time if you keep living in the, ‘Oh, we’re the Hampton Heat winner’ you’re going to go into the next race flat-footed. You’ve got to stay hungry.”
The hunger to race has always been there for Hall. His dad raced boats and his mom is from Hickory, North Carolina, the heart of NASCAR country.
Hall’s first love of racing came on two wheels.
“I was just crazy about dirt bikes,” he said. “And I was starting to get pretty wild with them, because I was like eight or nine and my mom was like, ‘He is going to hurt himself. We need to find something for him to do.’”
From dirt bikes, Hall’s attention turned to BMX racing, which he did for about half a year. That Christmas he received his first go-kart.
“I was 10 and there was a little string attached to my front door, and I got blindfolded and they told me to follow the string,” Hall said. “And that walked me out to our garage and the string was attached to the steering wheel of a go-kart. And that was kind of all she wrote. I don’t think my parents expected it to go this far.”
Hall has been racing late models for a few years, and also has four starts in the K&N Pro Series East the last two seasons, and two others in the ARCA Menards Series. While he has big dreams to move up as far as he can in racing, he’s had to pace himself until after he get his college degree. Hall will be a senior at Hampden-Sydney College, in Farmville, Virginia, this fall, where he’s studying business and economics.
He and his team race the whole season, so the school year doesn’t stop him too much, but for his family the education still comes first.
“We’ve kind of been buying some time just because I’ll be the first person in my direct family to ever have a college degree, so it’s kind of really important to them that I finish,” Hall said. “So we’ve been buying some time and just kind of keeping the burners hot but not really starting to cook yet. So once I graduate or get close to graduating, like final semester, we’re going to try to run some more ARCA and Truck stuff hopefully in the future.”
Hall’s racing career has caught the attention of his friends at school, especially as he becomes more successful on the track.
Typically, when he has a race during the school year, his dad and crew chief will maintain the car while he’s more than two hours away. On the weekends he’s not racing he’ll still come home and do catch-up work to give them a break. If he does have a race, Hall’s dad and crew will get the car and equipment ready on Friday, then Hall will come home and help load the trailer after his classes are over. They’ll race on Saturday, and he’ll get back in the car to head to Farmville on Sunday.
His biggest thing is not putting too much pressure on his team.
“It’s easy for me to really turn-and-burn when I’m home because this is what I do,” Hall said. “We race a lot when I’m in school too, but we also try not to race out of the comfort zone of our workload. Because if I destroy a car on Saturday, since I’m full time I can usually get one rebuilt and done by Wednesday or Thursday. And my biggest concern is… not putting them in the position to have to take off from work or something to have to do that.”
Racing at Langley during the summer is easy for the Hampton native, who lives just 15 minutes from the track. It’s his home track, and where he won his first go-kart race.
Hall’s hope is there’s still more wins left for him there and many other tracks across the country.
“There’s probably one or two other big money races that I would like to go run,” he said. “Two of them are at tracks we’ve run well at in the past so I think that would be cool if I could win one or two or three of those races in one year. That would be pretty big for me at least.”