Reprint from Tri-State Speed Press dated July 14, 1969
Driver Spotlight "Elmo Langley-A Front Running Independent" by Corky Connors
How do independent Grand National drivers beat factory backed teams on the race track? "They don't", said Elmo Langley of Charlotte, North Carolina, "and probably never will".
Running behind the NASCAR factory set has become a way of life for Elmo Langley, but the desire and challenge to defeat the superior machinery is an obsession that must be admired. Formerly of Landover, Maryland (still considered home), Langley has never enjoyed the benefits surrounding the coveted factory support, but this hasn't dampened the spirit of our 39 year old competitor.
Elmo started racing stock cars in 1953 on the dirt tracks within the Washington, D.C. vicinity as a hobby. Since then the hobby, like dirt tracks have all but disappeared and is now considered a business by Elmo.
A business it is, as tires alone for the remainder of the 1969 season will cost him between five and eight thousand dollars at $54 each. The 427 cu. in. engine that powers his 1968 Ford Galaxie, also requires a large piece of his purse money. Although the factory teams have switched to the new 429 engine; due the high costs and scarcity, the independents still utililize the older, more reliable powerplant.
Whenever Ford converted to the new engine, it gave Elmo and other independents the opportunity to purchase at a savings the older 427 engines. Since this occasion rarel;y arises , Langley purchased five engines (normal price $3600) from Holman and Moddy in Charlotte and optimistically looks forward to completing the season on his present supply.
Unlike most front running independents who purchase ex-factory cars, Elmo takes a lot of pride in his workmanship and builds his own at a considerable savings. Being a sheet metal worker, prior to his racing career, is evident in the neat, trim appearing car he sports and allows him to build a car that structurally equals the factory equipment.
Langley enjoys running all tracks on the NASCAR circuit, but admits that his financial position limits his ability to excel on the superspeedways. Running older equipment and the coast of pushing his Ford at 180mph force him to be competitive, but not a front runner. On the short tracks, the odds are more in his favor and likewise, finds him battling with the front competitors.
Although Elmo Langley has been competing in Grand National races since 1954, his first win didn't come until 1966 at Spartanburg, South Carolina. That season also brought him another win at the Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia. That year he finished 11th in the national point standings and has steadily improved, as he was 9th in '67, 6th in '68 and is runninga strong 5th in the current season.
At the seasons end, points convert into money for the competitiors, with 1969 having added incentive for the drivers using Firestone tires. Elmo said "If I finish 5th in points this year, I should receive about $40,000 from Firestone". He added, "this will give me the best season ever, and for once I stand to do better than just break even.
Competing for points also puts a great strain on the independent, as Elmo must participate in all races, regardless of the expenses. This past year at Riverside, California the "Riverside 500" was rained out twice with Elmo being forced to find work at the Ford West Coast performance center of Holman-Moody-Stroppe just to hold over for the desired points.
The tight schedule and long hours haven't hurt this competitor as he admits, "I am in better physical condition thab I have ever been. I don't get tired in the long races and the heatthat fatigues so many (competitors) never seems to bother me".
Elmo's home life is rather limited. He moved to Charlotte, North Carolinain 1966 to be home with his wife, Nancy, and three children, but still he spends 12 to 14 hours daily at the garage preparing for the next race.He smilingly added, "I was able to relax at home the Sunday after Darlington, but outside of that I am constantly on the go".
His Chief Mechanic, Pete Pearson, handles the work on the car and Elmo says, "this guy covers a lot of ground in a day and does a fine job".
Henry Woodfield of Woodfield Ford in Damascus, Maryland has benn a big help to Elmo over the past years. Henry's most recent assistance has been to provide a new air conditioned Ford van tow truck. Elmo acknowledges, "I have been low on money several times and Henry has helped me over the rough days".
With Elmo Langley, rough days seem to be part of his life, but we at Tri-State sincerely hope that he will have a good year in 1969 and soon acquire a good factory ride that will smooth out his future in Grand National racing.
Editors Note: Grand National racing became Winston Cup which in turn became Nextel Cup. Late Model Sportsman became the current Busch Grand National racing.