It was your typical, let’s meet some friends, have a beer and not talk about work type of night. Well, that lasted about 30 minutes when the interest of My Life at Speed came up.
My high school friends are also Facebook friends of My Life at Speed, which is really cool to know when catching up with high school buddies. Luckily for us, they also live the adrenaline powered lifestyle and it was a hesitant, “Hey – can you read this article about our friend, Karie’s brother Naima Lang?” who was racing the next day at Evergreen Speedway. What was quickly revealed, Naima Lang was a local business owner (Lang Auto) and a racer – the racer who was in the points lead for the Super Late Model class for the area. What made Lang even more interesting on paper…errr….electronic article….was that he had gotten “the call”. The call from a NASCAR owner, Greg Rahl, to drive the 07 car and compete in his first race in the big league K&N Pro Series 200. What was also interesting, is that Lang had never been in the car (or any other NASCAR K&N Pro Car). Evergreen Speedway has new owners who are trying to reinvent the local track and this was the first time in 3 years, the NASCAR WEST K&N PRO SERIES had been to the speedway. My fianceé and I were in – and ready to experience our first, local NASCAR race.
The day was like any other race day and we got our credentials and ventured into Evergreen Speedway to find the team.
Turns out Naima Lang is one of the top drivers and current point leader in the Super Late Model standing. For a long time I have wanted to attend races at Evergreen Speedway, but not taken any opportunity to do so. Was I surprised. The speedway had that “local” track feel with the smell of hot dogs and popcorn in the air, but there was a freshness to it – new paint, new amenities and made you just feel welcome. The staff certainly was key to that impression and I even overheard a manager talking to a younger gate attendant. “Son, you need to wear the proper hat – that’s the way we showcase our sponsors and look uniform to the fans…” The attendant pulled his “work uniform” hat out of his back pocket and received a pat on the shoulder as a good job kind of gesture.
As we finally made our way to the infield and to the pit area, we were quickly greeted with “Wow – you guys came out here!! Thanks for coming and we are excited to have you as part of our team!!” We also noticed another key element that seemed to be true all the way around the speedway. It was family. Naima’s team had a spread of food that rivaled any picnic potluck and the crew somehow all seemed to be related. Naima told us later that he had handpicked all of them and knew that they didn’t need to be “managed.” They were the type of group that worked hard and attention to the details was key. Wayne and Karie Sagiao were my original high school friends – and related to Naima Lang. Wayne went on to say, you know “we work hard because Naima inspires us to work hard….he treats us right. That’s not money, that’s about respect. We are proud to be out here.”
When Naima was done with one of the autograph sessions he came by and honestly, I was almost taken back by his unassuming nature. He was talking to the crew and hearing what changes they had done to the car. We were introduced and again, what Naima talked about was his family. His racing family at the track. The love of a wife who also raced and could beat the boys. His sons who could venture into the garage at home and help him work on his car. The crew – who not only had to make sure that his primary car was ready for the Super Late Model class, but also sprint across the infield to the K&N NASCAR West Pro Series pits to prepare a car that he had never driven before.
The day was so great and we will be featuring Naima Lang, his family and crew in some other stories over the next few weeks. What we learned, or were reminded of, is that it is the racer, the people behind them, the dedication to the sport that made it a great day. It also reminded me that there are many Naima Langs out there, waiting and deserving to get the call. We need to support our local tracks and speedways. If you haven’t been to your local track lately, I urge you to do so. Thanks to Evergreen Speedway and their new owners for making such an effort to make the speedway great again. Your efforts were noticed.
Oh – and to recap the day with Naima Lang, he not only won his Super Late Model Class and is the current points leader, but also put on such an impressive show in the K&N NASCAR West Pro Series. Lang would end up with a big check for the most passes all day. It was fun to watch him work his way up the field. (Photos and more of my comments below with the galleries)
Thanks to my fiancée Chris and My Life @ SPEED who gave me this race day opportunity. I even met racer Tom Moriarity, an early Dumonde Tech Racing Oil tester and heard over the PA, Doni Wanat, a longtime motocross racer, also was in the field. I did not get a chance to say hi to Doni but may in the future as I’m sure Chris and I will go again. Special thanks to my longtime friends, Barb and Mark Sauve, Karie and Wayne Sagiao, Aline Swisshelm and Doug Moury.
Take a look at the three photo galleries below to get a glimpse of what we experienced. Oh, and definitely check out the CONTOUR onboard camera video showing two restarts as Naima Lang battles for the lead and win. He knows how to “Hold his Line”. 😉
This day, current Super Late Model points leader got first ride in the K&N Pro Series NASCAR Race series. He did not disappoint his Evergreen Speedway fans, crew and the car owner Greg Rayl. Late in the race, Naima had worked his way to a top 10 position. The #91 car of Jason Fraser pitted for new tires. Jason was hotly chasing Naima for a few laps, before finally catching him in the north turn getting the inside line. In the grand stands, we watched with excitement watching the charging #91 closing fast, hoping Naima could hold him off. Through the north turn, having better traction, Jason was pushing hard. Naima held his line and position when the back end of the #91 broke loose, sending him to the infield, nearly tagging Naima in the left rear corner. Whew! Naima went on to finish 7th Place.
With 100 laps completed and a win, next was the 200 lap K&N Pro Series NASCAR Race. Naima qualified 14th. His first time in he car, was qualifying. “We were really amazed that he or his crew didn’t make one adjustment to the car from the time we took it out of the trailer. Naima drove the car as it was, using talent to make up for the handling of the car” said car owner Greg Rayl (Racing West link). During the first 100, Naima shows his driving skills (photos demonstrate) as the #6 touches the wall, forcing him down the track in front of Naima, who has to correct and DRIVE the rest of the corner. This was a such a fun race to watch. Naima was awarded the “Coca Cola move of the race” award by passing the most cars. A promising performance for the future we hope.