Hafertepe Thunders to ASCS Gulf South Triumph UNION HILL, Lou. (March 13, 2004) -- Nineteen-year-old Sam Hafertepe, Jr., foiled Terry Gray's efforts to play the role of spoiler at Thunder Valley Speedway Saturday night, holding off the four-time...
Hafertepe Thunders to ASCS Gulf South Triumph
UNION HILL, Lou. (March 13, 2004) -- Nineteen-year-old Sam Hafertepe, Jr., foiled Terry Gray's efforts to play the role of spoiler at Thunder Valley Speedway Saturday night, holding off the four-time American Sprint Car Series national champion over the final rounds to win the season opening 25-lap Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores ASCS Gulf South Region feature.
"That was awesome! We've been waiting a long time for this, I still can't believe it" exclaimed a jubilant Hafertepe after pocketing $2,000 for his first career Sprint Car feature victory.
After topping the evening's third heat race, Hafertepe led the feature field to the green flag with Kent Lewis, Jr., alongside. Hafertepe jumped into the early lead as fourth-starter Gray raced into second on the second lap.
Gray stalked Hafertepe in the early going, with the leaders approaching lapped traffic after just five rounds. Gray moved in to challenge for the lead on the sixth circuit but jumped the turn three cushion and nearly flipped. Gray made the save, but slipped to fifth behind Hafertepe, Lewis, Jeff Day and Jan Howard.
The fast-paced event was interrupted six circuits later by the red flag when Tony Krites jumped the same turn three cushion and vaulted out of the park and down the steep embankment. Krites escaped the wild ride uninjured.
After the ensuing restart was waved off for Richard Cordray's turn two spin, Lewis battled past Hafertepe for the lead down the backstretch. Hafertepe dove underneath Lewis to retake the point exiting turn four, only to have the lap negated when a broken steering arm sent Howard into the front stretch wall. Howard flipped violently down the front stretch, collecting Brandon Berryman and Greg Rilat in the melee. Howard hobbled away from his mangled mount with minor aches, with Rilat the only one able to rejoin the fray.
Back under green, Hafertepe led the way as Day and Gray dashed past Lewis for second and third. Lewis would surrender the fourth position two rounds later to defending ASCS National champion Travis Rilat, who was making his charge toward the front after staring 16th.
With Hafertepe holding a slim three car-length advantage over the battling duo of Day and Gray, lapped traffic once again came into play on the 18th round. Hafertepe adeptly maneuvered his Wells-powered Plumb-Fast G-H Plumbing No. 15 J&J through traffic as Gray utilized traffic to take command of second.
Gray was poised to challenge Hafertepe for the lead when the race's final red flag flew after 21 rounds for Stephen Chevallier, who dumped his machine in turn two after losing his steering.
Set for a four-lap dash to the checkered flag, Gray made a bid for the lead in turn two on the 22nd round. Hafertepe was up to the task however, fending off Gray's challenge then racing to a seven car-length victory in the final rounds.
"I knew Terry would probably try a slide job to get by me after that last red," Hafertepe commented afterward. "I just stayed up high, I didn't think anybody could get past me as long as I stayed up there."
Gray said, "I thought we might have a shot at him at the end, but my car got to pushing so bad that I couldn't do anything with him."
Hafertepe and Gray were chased to checkered flag by Rilat, who slipped around Day in the final rounds to snare the show position. Day claimed fourth, with Lewis rounding out the top five. Two-time ASCS Gulf South Region champion Kelly Angelette crossed the stripe in sixth, with Todd Johnson, 15th-starter Chris Sweeney, Scottie McDonald and Butch David completing the top ten.
Lewis, Angelette, Hafertepe and Gray topped heat race action for the 29-car field, with Sweeney winning the 12-lap B Main.
Darren Stewart was on his way to a convincing victory in the evening's opening heat race when engine problems sidelined him for the night.
First Heat (10 Laps): 1. Kent Lewis, Jr., 2. Jeff Day, 3. Mark Harrison, 4. Greg Rilat, 5. Scottie McDonald, 6. Richard Holt, 7. Darren Stewart. DNS: Ken Blanchard.
Second Heat (10 Laps): 1. Kelly Angelette, 2. Brad Stokes, 3. Stephen Chevallier, 4. Chris Sweeney, 5. Richard Cordray, 6. Ray Allen Kulhanek, 7. Rick Behr.
Third Heat (10 Laps): 1. Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 2. Jan Howard, 3. Brandon Berryman, 4. Jerry Bell, 5. Travis Rilat, 6. Brandon Corn, 7. David Forbis.
Fourth Heat (10 Laps): 1. Terry Gray, 2. Butch David, 3. Todd Johnson, 4. Tony Krites, 5. Larry Howery, 6. Terry Parrish, 7. Mark Henderson.
B Feature (12 Laps): 1. Chris Sweeney, 2. Travis Rilat, 3. Jerry Bell, 4. Richard Cordray, 5. Mark Harrison, 6. Ray Allen Kulhanek, 7. Brandon Corn, 8. Rick Behr, 9. Larry Howery, 10. Richard Holt, 11. David Forbis, 12. Terry Parrish, 13. Mark Henderson. DNS: Darren Stewart, Ken Blanchard.
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 2. Terry Gray, 3. Travis Rilat, 4. Jeff Day, 5. Kent Lewis, Jr., 6. Kelly Angelette, 7. Todd Johnson, 8. Chris Sweeney, 9. Scottie McDonald, 10. Butch David, 11. Brad Stokes, 12. Greg Rilat, 13. Ray Allen Kulhanek, 14. Richard Cordray, 15. Stephen Chevallier, 16. Mark Harrison, 17. Jan Howard, 18. Brandon Berryman, 19. Tony Krites, 20. Jerry Bell.
Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores ASCS Gulf South Region Points (Top Ten): 1. Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 150; 2. Jeff Day 146, 3. Kent Lewis, Jr., 144, 4. Kelly Angelette 142, 5. Todd Johnson 140, 6. Chris Sweeney 138, 7. Scottie McDonald 136, 8. Butch David 134, 9. Brad Stokes 132, 10. Greg Rilat 130.