Career-First Sportsmen Victory has Langham Picturing Repeat Performance on Meet the Drivers Night
By Chuck Corder
Jonathan Langham had zero plans to race this season.
A part of him, deep down, might tell you he also had zero desire to race in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen series this season. Langham’s racing career, highlighted by three track championships in his native Alabama, hit a rough patch the last five years.
But all it took was a gentle persuasion from Howard Langham, Jonathan’s dad and a Gulf Coast short track veteran, to rekindle the fire.
“Let’s load the car up. We’ve gotta be in Pensacola to pick up some parts anyway,” Howard Langham told his 28-year-old son a few months ago.
A chance trip to Five Flags Speedway turned into a heat victory for Jonathan Langham, who went onto finish fourth in the 25-lap feature race that evening. The younger Langham has only gotten better with a dominant past month of racing at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
Langham owned June, highlighted by his first career victory at Pensacola’s high banks last time out two Fridays ago.
He hopes his luck continues in July, as The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen return Friday to Five Flags, along with the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks, Pro Trucks and the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks.
It’s all part of the track’s annual Meet the Drivers Night where fans can get autographs, hero cards and take photos with their favorite drivers. Making a special guest appearance will be national champion Alabama quarterback and current Cincinnati Bengals play caller AJ McCarron.
ates open at 4 p.m. Friday and admission is $10 for adults; $10 for seniors, military and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids 5 and under.
“Honestly, these last few weeks have meant a lot,” Langham said. “I’m chomping at the bit for Friday to hurry up and get here, so I can do it all over again. If somehow we can pull off another Friday night like the one we had a few weeks ago, I’d probably shed a tear because it’d be unreal.”
For a driver who has competed at Five Flags for a decade now, Langham’s victory was sweet and long overdue.
He had a chance to unload that heavy burden the race before on June 16, but settled for runner-up honors when winning would’ve meant wrecking eventual winner Jason Huffmaster just a few yards from the checkered flag.
Langham said that night he was ready to wait another night for a milestone win than “dump” a fellow driver. He didn’t have to wait long for his reward.
“I’ve always said, whenever I finally break through, it’s gonna be memorable,” said the fitter at Maeco Fabrications in Grand Bay. “I didn’t wanna fall into one, or luck up into one. I wanted all the cards to play like we needed them to. I wanted a win to be special.”
What has been so special to Langham is getting to work on the car each night, shoulder-to-shoulder next to his dad.
In Howard Langham’s 40 x 60 shop, the father-son duo work on Jonathan’s No. 1 Sportsmen along with their Pro Trucks and several of Mobile-area cars that compete in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks class.
“Like all father and sons, we’re just alike,” Jonathan Langham said. “We’re gonna bust heads and some things we won’t necessarily agree on while we’re working at the shop. But we make the best of it. Nine times outta 10 when we roll out of the shop, we’ve got the cars and trucks on their ‘A’ game.
“The drivers might not be, but the cars sure are.”
With his renewed passion, the Langhams are paying it forward to the next generation of driver.
Jonathan and Howard Langham both work on go-karts for Parker, Jonathan’s 6-year-old son, and the go-kart for Howard’s 10-year-old son.
“He gets out there and he wheels it,” Jonathan Langham said of Parker. “I’m just there to motivate him. We let him do the rest.
“I don’t know who gets more excited: him or my little brother. They definitely have a lot more want than me and dad do now, that’s for sure. These little boys will clean ’em, work on ’em, do whatever. Anything that makes them feel better, we’re all for it.”
What’s made Jonathan Langham feel better this year are the podium finishes he’s beginning to pick up in rapid succession now.
It has been eight years since Langham completed the second of back-to-back Sportsmen class track championships at Mobile International Speedway.
“That was very spectacular, honestly,” Langham said of his 2008-09 titles. “We won eight races out of 16 in 2008. And, then, six races out of 14 in 2009. In 2010, we won eight races, but lost the championship by two points.”
He credits his success this season to starting over. Langham has rebuilt the entire chassis of his No. 1 Sportsmen, which is sponsored by B&B Transport, Day Racing Products, Mobile Top Soil, AR Bodies, and Jane and Howard Langham.
Jonathan Langham admits that in the last handful of years, as his and his father’s fascination with the Pro Trucks class grew, the attention he devoted to the Sportsmen was lackluster.
“We’d blow the cobwebs off of it and take it to a racetrack and run it,” he said. “But, after I ran second to Huffmaster, I told Dad, ‘If we keep running, I know the stuff we need to do.’ It showed in the last race.”
Riding high off his first win at Pensacola, Langham knows there’s a fine line between enjoying the moment and wallowing in it. He’s ready to back up a memorable moment with another this Friday night.
“Pensacola has never been a good track to me, but I always wanted to get a win over there because my dad won there,” Jonathan Langham said. “We have our moments where the track may not listen to the driver as much as we want, but that’s gonna happen at all racetracks. We’re racers. It’s in our blood. We’ll end up at racetracks somewhere.”