Hessert at Home at New Jersey Motorsports Park Road Course MILLVILLE NJ (9-22-08) -- Cherry Hill, New Jersey's Tom Hessert III spent much of his days this race season out of town chasing the full 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule. The tables...
Hessert at Home at New Jersey Motorsports Park Road Course
MILLVILLE NJ (9-22-08) -- Cherry Hill, New Jersey's Tom Hessert III spent much of his days this race season out of town chasing the full 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule.
The tables will soon turn however when the series, in its 56th consecutive season, chases Hessert home for the inaugural Loud energy Drink 150, road course style, at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey Sunday, September 28th.
"Racing in my home state is really cool," said Hessert, who's been fluctuating in the top-10 points all season long.
"I really haven't been able to race much over the years in New Jersey, so to come back and race here in a quality series like ARCA -- it's something I'm definitely looking forward to. Ever since the schedule first came out, I've had my eyes on this race. It would mean a lot to me to run up front there."
The road course element is also most assuredly attractive to Hessert who spent his boyhood days watching his dad turn right and left.
"Most of my life in racing has revolved around road racing. I grew up at all the big road races around the country following my dad since I was a couple weeks old."
Hessert is the son Tom Hessert, Jr., a renowned road course racer with very impressive credentials, which includes three victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the IMSA Camel Lights and GTS 2 divisions and three wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Hessert, Jr. was also the 1988 IMSA Camel Lights champion.
"Most of my history in racing has been on ovals, so I, personally, other than watching my dad, don't have a lot of experience on road courses. I've run in some Skip Barber regional events on road courses and I ran the 24 Hours of Daytona as a teammate with my dad in 2003 and 2004. And I usually get in a shifter kart once or twice a year at Englishtown (New Jersey); but other than that, it's been all on ovals.
"So what little I've done should lend itself to running at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but on the other hand, there are several guys in the ARCA RE/MAX Series who have vastly more road course experience than I do."
But like most coming to NJMP for the inaugural ARCA RE/MAX Series race, the majority has never raced a big, heavy 3400 lb stock car on a road course.
"We did some road course testing. I've never driven a heavy car on a road course. My dad was actually a teammate with Boris Said at the 24 Hours of Daytona in '97; and I saw him (Said) at Daytona this year and have picked his brain a couple times since then."
Outside of quarter midgets and go-karts, Hessert III has spent most of his driving career in open-wheel cars, in USAC Sprints and Midgets. His accomplishments include a third place points finish in USAC National Midget points in 2004 and a third place finish in the Belleville Midget Nationals, also in 2004. He also twice finished fifth in the Night Before the 500 Midget classic.
These days, his days are spent aboard the no. 1 Andy Belmont Racing Maaco Auto Painting Ford in the ARCA RE/MAX Series where he's cutting his stock car teeth on tracks like Daytona, Salem, Pocono, Toledo and Kentucky, to name a few. Hessert started strong right out of the gate this year with a solid sixth place finish at Daytona after leading 21 laps.
"From a realistic point of view, I'm very satisfied and excited about what we were able to accomplish as a team at Daytona. It was definitely a great momentum builder for the rest of the season. But from a racer's standpoint, I certainly thought we should have, could have finished in the top-five.
"Racing on the dirt was really cool too, but the one I think that will mean the most to me is the road course race at Millville.
"It's going to be very challenging, and that's of course, part of the lure. Stock cars don't slow down or accelerate as fast as a lighter, open-wheel car. You have to plan ahead more. There's a lot of compromising going on too. It's sort of like racing at Pocono. You can't be good in every corner. You have to try and balance the car in such a way that you're good enough everywhere without losing too much in any particular corner. One of the most important things is coming off the corners -- especially when you're coming on to a long straightaway. If you're not coming off the corner right, you're not going to carry enough momentum to get down the straightaway.
"I hope we're able to put together a purpose-built road course car for New Jersey. We had plans for a car we were gunna use, but then we hurt our primary short-track car in testing, so we had to take our road course car and turn it back into a short-track car. Either way, I want to be ready for this race. This thing is that important to me. I don't get to race in my home state very much, so I want to make the most of this opportunity."
Three practice sessions for the Loud Energy Drink 150 on Friday and Saturday will precede the race, September 26th and 27th. SIM Factory Pole Qualifying is set for 2:15 PM ET Saturday afternoon. The inaugural Loud Energy Drink 150 is scheduled for take off at 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon.