2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Sam Hafertepe Jr. As a rookie with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series last season, Sam Hafertepe Jr. received a priceless education. He was able to...
2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Sam Hafertepe Jr.
As a rookie with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series last season, Sam Hafertepe Jr. received a priceless education. He was able to compete with the best sprint car drivers in the world night in and night out and the experience and knowledge that he gained both on and off the track, are something that will stick with him forever.
The native of Sunnyvale, Texas is gearing up for a second season on the road this year with the series, which will begin with the 37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida on February 8. Last season in the event, Hafertepe earned a career-best fifth-place finish on the second night, after winning the dash to claim the first career pole position of his career with the series.
"We're really pumped up for this year," said Hafertepe. "We learned a lot from last year, and all of that will help us better prepare for this year. We're looking forward to it."
The 2006 American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) Sooner Region champion finished a very respectable 19th in championship points with the World of Outlaws in 2007 and was second in the standings for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. He earned 10 Top-10 starting spots in A-Feature events, while recording three Top-10 finishes in those races. He also led his first laps with the series at Ohsweken Speedway in Canada. In addition, he won the B-Main five times to race his way into A-Feature events. Prior to last season, he had only made four starts in a 410-sprint car in his career.
Hafertepe ran a very aggressive schedule for a number of seasons leading into 2007, but going on the road full-time with the World of Outlaws was a completely new experience for him and his team. They discovered something new every single day and all of this knowledge will benefit them this season.
"Last year we were cutting our teeth on everything and I feel we are far more prepared this year," he explained. "We're ready for the year and I feel confident going into it. I think we can be a contender every night. We learned so much last year in every aspect from the car to the team to the traveling to the tracks. That all has made us more confident and more excited to get going."
At the age of 23, Hafertepe is one of the youngest full-time drivers with the World of Outlaws, though he does not let that fact, or his limited experience in a 410-sprint car intimidate him. Each time he hits the track, competing against drivers twice his age and many of whom have been racing longer than he has been alive, he gains confidence and continues to hone his skills.
"We raced with them every night last year and you have a lot of respect for them," said the native of Sunnyvale, Texas. "I don't think it will be intimidating, we just have to hold our own."
After visiting over 50 tracks for the first time in 2007, Hafertepe has a vast collection of notes to look back at this season, when he returns to many of those facilities. Among those are some of the most hallowed tracks in racing: Eldora Speedway, Knoxville Raceway and Williams Grove Speedway. He will also return to Canada twice to compete, including at Ohsweken Speedway where he led 13 laps last season.
"Going back to tracks this year will definitely be a huge advantage," he noted. "Last year we visited most of those tracks for the first time and we now have a couple of stops at them behind us. We're a lot more prepared for the tracks and I'm ready to get some quick times and maybe win a race or two."
Hafertepe is very confident in the team that he has assembled for this year. He utilized a few different crew members in 2007, and also had three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell help the team out for a portion of the summer to help lessen the learning curve as a rookie. With about 80 races on the schedule this season, having a strong team is one of the key components that it will take to be successful with the series, and the schedule that spans nearly ninth months.
"We have one of our guys coming back from last year and that is good for the chemistry of the team," said the second year driver. "We're still looking for one more crew member before the season starts."
With one full year of racing with the World of Outlaws under his belt, Hafertepe has a couple of goals for this season, as he looks to build on the solid foundation that he established last year.
"My first goal would be to see if we can get in the Top-10 in points," he said. "We would like to accumulate a lot of Top-10 finishes this year and be real consistent, and not have so many nights where we are missing it in the feature or having mechanical failures. We want to capitalize on all of the mistakes we made last year."
He returned to the cockpit last weekend for the first time in 2008, competing in the famed Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the second time in his career. He plans to head to Florida early to turn some laps prior to the World of Outlaws season opener.