2007 World of Outlaws Rookie Preview: Tony Bruce Jr. Concord, NC--Jan. 23, 2007 -- Liberal, Kansas may be home for Tony Bruce Jr., but once February rolls around he does not see home very often. Life on the road is something he has become very...
2007 World of Outlaws Rookie Preview: Tony Bruce Jr.
Concord, NC--Jan. 23, 2007 -- Liberal, Kansas may be home for Tony Bruce Jr., but once February rolls around he does not see home very often. Life on the road is something he has become very accustomed to, thanks to racing. While he may not get to sleep in his own bed much, for the past three years Bruce has been traveling extensively, logging plenty of miles, and turning countless laps as he gained valuable experience racing on a variety of tracks while climbing the sprint car ladder.
After getting his feet wet last season running a portion of the World of Outlaws schedule, Bruce is ready to take the plunge this season and embark on the full World of Outlaws schedule of nearly 90 races from coast-to-coast, as he will battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award.
Bruce has come up through the ranks from junior sprints to mini sprints to 360-sprints. The last three seasons he has been racing with the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS). He finished 10th in national points last season and was fourth in 2005. Though he has plenty of laps in a 360-sprint car, he has adapted quickly to the rigors of 410-sprint car racing.
"It definitely is a lot different running a 410 sprint car versus a 360," explained Bruce. "The tires are different, and the competition is the main thing. With the speed, you really can't tell that all that much. The competition is where the level is, the toughness of it."
With an average care count of 41 machines per event in 2006, Bruce knew that every time he signed into the pit area at a World of Outlaws race, he would have his hands full. Having run those races last year and received that experience, he is prepared for a full-season against the toughest competition in the world night in and night out.
"I knew coming in that this would not be easy," said Bruce. "Not to take anything anyway from racing 360's because that is tough too. Everyone out here is a professional, and it is the best in the business."
Bruce will be the youngest full-time driver with the series this season at the age of 22. He visited many tracks for the fist time in 2006, including a trip east to the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania. He also journeyed to the West Coast for the first time in his career, and that took him to Calistoga Speedway and Silver Dollar Speedway, both in California.
For many young drivers, it is tough to adapt to a new track, only having a handful of hot laps before time trials to get up to speed. When he was not on the track last season, Bruce would observe what lines veteran drivers were running and the routines they carried out to prepare for a full night of racing. He also learned during every practice session, when he took to the track with the veteran drivers.
"A key to getting up to speed is following someone in hot laps that you know is good at that particular track, and has a lot of experience," he noted. "The key is to not lift, and hope for the best."
As the 2006 season wound down, Bruce showed just how much he learned over the course of the season. In the final event of the year at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he recorded his best career World of Outlaws finish, a very solid sixth. His first Top-10 came earlier in the season at the famed Knoxville Raceway.
"The 2006 season was definitely a learning experience," admitted Bruce. "Anytime we touched the track, we learned something. I learned a ton of things not to do, and that was a key for us."
Heading into this season, Bruce knows exactly what he expects from his team and himself as they take to the road. While he knows this will be one of the most competitive seasons in series history, he is ready for the challenge, both physically and mentally.
"We really want to win the Rookie of the Year Award," he said. "Finishing out of the Top-10 in points, would really be a bummer. I'd settle for nothing out of the Top-10. A realistic goal would be to be in the Top-10 and I would even like to be in the Top-Five. We'll just play it by ear and hopefully we can get in the Top-10 and be the Rookie of the Year. I think we would really have an accomplished season then."
With the season opening DIRTcar Nationals Presented By Mopar Speed Shop at Volusia Speedway Park just around the corner, February 9-11, Bruce and his team have arrived in Florida a couple weeks early to turn some extra laps. After putting in countless hours in the shop over the winter, the team will be able to enjoy their trips this season a little more, and travel a bit more comfortably.
"We have a new truck and trailer," beamed Bruce. "We built new cars and got everything ready for Florida. We're certainly excited."
Bruce will have a couple of opportunities to make it back home and work out of his own shop during the course of the season, as the series will visit Dodge City Raceway Park as well as Heartland Park Topeka in the Jayhawk state.