An On-Going Education: Hafertepe Learns from Three-Time Champion Swindell Sam Hafertepe Jr. always enjoyed going to school, though his mind was always on racing and what he could do to make his race car go faster. For the last couple of weeks,...
An On-Going Education: Hafertepe Learns from Three-Time Champion Swindell
Sam Hafertepe Jr. always enjoyed going to school, though his mind was always on racing and what he could do to make his race car go faster. For the last couple of weeks, he has been receiving an education in all facets of sprint car racing from a legend of the sport. The rookie driver recently welcomed three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell to his team to help ease the learning curve during their first full season racing a 410-sprint car.
Hafertepe was not yet born the first time that Swindell won at Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania in 1981. In his career at the high-banked 0.4-mile, the 2006 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame won a total of 15 A-Feature events. Swindell will work with Hafertepe on Tuesday, July 17 at Lernerville during the Cleveland Brothers Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup.
"We got hooked up with him through our shock guy and everything seems to be working out pretty well," said Hafertepe, driver of the G.H. Plumbing J&J. "I'm trying to learn as much as I can from him while we have him here."
Hafertepe is proud and humbled at the same time to have Swindell working with the team. In addition to his three World of Outlaws titles, Swindell is second on the all-time career win list with 268 A-Feature victories, as well as being the 1983 winner of the Knoxville Nationals.
"It's not intimidating," said the native of Sunnyvale, Texas, of working with a legend of the sport. "You just don't want to second guess him, because he has been around and he certainly knows what he is doing."
Hafertepe is confident heading to Lernerville Speedway on Tuesday, July 17 for the Cleveland Brothers Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup. In his first career visit to the 0.4-mile high-banked oval in May, he finished second in a very strong third heat race that contained former Lernerville track champion and 1999 World of Outlaws Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Tim Shaffer, as well as the 2001 series champion Danny Lasoski. This earned Hafertepe a spot in the Crane Cams Dash, where he finished second.
"Lernerville is a track that we felt really good on," said Hafertepe. "We ran strong up there last time. Our set-up hit and worked pretty well for us. He (Swindell) will help us quite a bit and that will be a big advantage. He is very familiar with that track and will be very good. We look to capitalize on what we learned there last time."
While he has raced at a number of tracks around the country, Lernerville offered a new challenge to the rookie driver in May when he first visited the storied track. With a solid field of cars on-hand he knew he had to be fast each time he took to the track to earn one of the coveted 24 starting spots in the A-Feature.
"I can't really compare it to anywhere else," noted the second-generation driver. "Each track has its own unique characteristics. It has a little different layout than a lot of other places."
The Cleveland Brothers Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup will be the sixth event of the "SuperClean Summer of Money" on ESPN2 for the World of Outlaws. This gives fans in his home state of Texas an opportunity to see Hafertepe race as he continues his rookie season with the World of Outlaws. A total of eight events comprise the "SuperClean Summer of Money" which runs for eight consecutive Sunday's on ESPN2.
"Hopefully having the races on ESPN2 will help us with our sponsors and help get us more sponsors as well," he noted. "It's great to have a network like that involved with the World of Outlaws."
Hafertepe continues to visit tracks for the first time, but with the season past the halfway mark, he will now begin to visit tracks for the second and even third times. He is just 33 points out of the Top-20 in the overall World of Outlaws championship standings. He finished a season-best fifth on the second night of the season at Volusia Speedway Park in the Florida DIRTcar Nationals, in just his seventh start in a 410-sprint car, with a field of nearly 60 cars in attendance.
"I feel like things are going in the right direction," he said. "We had a streak of making 10 or 11 shows in a row. We've been real consistent lately and we keep building and learning every night. Making the show each night probably is the toughest part out here."
The Cleveland Brothers Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup will begin a grueling stretch of five races in six nights for the World of Outlaws at three different tracks. After competing in the first East Coast swing of the season, Hafertepe is prepared for the week and the intensity that will be involved each time he hits the track, especially in Pennsylvania where the competition is some of the most fierce the World of Outlaws encounter all season.
"I think it's harder on the crews than it is on the drivers," explained the reigning American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) Sooner Region Champion of the busy week of racing. "For us the main concern is keeping our guys fresh."