WAYNESBORO, PA - Dave Ely hasn't let the ghost's of drivers past overwhelm him in the early part of the 2001 sprint car season while piloting the famous Weikert's Livestock ...
WAYNESBORO, PA - Dave Ely hasn't let the ghost's of drivers past overwhelm him in the early part of the 2001 sprint car season while piloting the famous Weikert's Livestock #29 J&J sprint car. The 23 year-old competitor will defend his 2000 Early Bird Championship on Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway, and he's confident this will be a great opportunity for the new combination to shine.
"We've struggled a lit bit to start the season, but we're trying to sort through some things here," said Ely. "We turned over pretty hard the first race of the season, which I think set me back a little. We had the car going pretty well at Lincoln last Saturday, so I think that's a sign of good things to come. Last year, it was a pretty similar situation so I'm confident things will work out well."
Ely, who won four feature races, scored 19 top five finishes, and 28 top ten finishes in 2000, joined the Weikert family late last season and is beginning a long-term relationship with a very successful racing family. The Weikert Livestock team has a 30-year history in racing with over 600 feature wins with a list of drivers that includes Kenny Weld, Paul Pitzer, Keith Kauffman, Bobby Davis, Jr., Doug Wolfgang, and Kenny Jacobs. Bob Weikert's cars have won 81 times at Williams Grove putting him in first place on the car owners' win list. Ely claims the owners of the #29 sprinter haven't put any added pressure on him.
"The Weikert's have been racing for a long time so they've been through it all," said Ely. "They haven't made things real difficult for me right away, because they are looking at a long-term situation. I have a lot of confidence that no matter how things go that they'll be behind you as a driver. That's been evident with our start to the season this year. I feel like I've struggled a lit bit, yet they are still happy. All the pressure I have comes from within myself. We always want to do our best and naturally, the Weikert car has been a prominent ride not only in Pennsylvania, but throughout the country, and we'd like to keep that tradition growing."
Ely claimed his first career feature victory at "The Grove" in last year's Early Bird Championship as he beat the Chesson brothers (James and PJ) in one of the most exciting events of the season. Ely's bonsai charge on the last lap allowed him to take the lead from James Chesson and claim the $6000 victory.
"Last year, it seemed like we put it all together the week before the Early Bird at Lincoln," said Ely. "We won the feature by passing all the good guys and we had been consistently in the top three at Williams Grove, so we came in with a lot of confidence. We qualified sixth and the inversion was sixth so we started on the pole. I don't think we would have won if had it not been for a last lap red flag. That setup a last lap shootout and we came out on top, it really gave us a lot of confidence that we could put it all together. We were able to qualify solid, transfer through our heat race so that we could start up front and capitalize on that by doing well in the feature race."
A victory in Friday's race would go along way towards helping the #29 team reach some of their 2001 goals. Both Ely and the Weikerts are hoping for a consistent season. They both have been hot and cold in the past few seasons and if they can be top three or four finishes on a nightly basis, they'll be right where they want to. Being where they want to will put them in a great position according to Ely. "When you get to that point, there are going be times when your not the best car, but you can still win the race. If we can get there, then everything else will fall into place."
Ely and the Weikert Motorsports team are using a 2001 J&J Auto Racing car and Ely's been pleased with it's early season performance.
"Anytime Jack (Elam) develops something new, I'm anxious to get a chance to use it," said Ely. "They put so much thought into everything they do. Things aren't done halfway, and they are willing to spend the time doing the research and development. The new radiator and hood design have been phenomenal. I can't believe how clean the radiator stays, especially considering some of the tracks we've already been on this year. The aerodynamics of the new hood seem to be well ahead of everyone else. That's a great thing about working with J&J Auto Racing is the craftsmanship and repeatability of equipment. Everyone does a great job and I feel fortunate to be racing one of their cars, not only because its fast, but also because it's a safe race car as well."
Friday's race will be the first of many "big shows" for Ely and the Weikert Motorsports team. The Waynesboro, PA, native knows that he's got some big shoes to fill in the famous #29, but he's confident that this team will continue the tradition and he's optimistic that begins to show at the Early Bird Championship.