2007 World of Outlaws Rookie Profile: Sam Hafertepe Jr. Concord, NC--Feb. 14, 2007 -- Sam Hafertepe Jr. has always wanted to race against the best, and this season he will have that opportunity every night, as he takes to the road with the World...
2007 World of Outlaws Rookie Profile: Sam Hafertepe Jr.
Concord, NC--Feb. 14, 2007 -- Sam Hafertepe Jr. has always wanted to race against the best, and this season he will have that opportunity every night, as he takes to the road with the World of Outlaws. The native of Sunnyvale, Texas will be one of the youngest drivers on the circuit, as he contends for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award.
Having been around racing his entire life, he grew up watching his father Sam turn laps on the dirt tracks of their native state, as well as thunder down the dragstrip. The younger Hafertepe first climbed into a race at the age of 12, when he began racing karts. He won a track title at Blacklands Speedway in his native state.
On the track this season, Hafertepe will compete against many drivers that he marveled at growing up. He also will compete at many tracks that he has only heard and read about in the past.
"You definitely have to stop and pinch yourself sometimes out there," said Hafertepe. "All these guys have so much more experience than I do, and I am just trying to learn every chance I get from them."
With the increased number of teams following the series full-time this season, Hafertepe knows just how important time trials and heat races will be each and every night. Every time he takes to the track will be a learning experience and he looks to get as much track time as he can.
The young driver turned many heads when he won his first World of Outlaws heat race on February 10 during the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. The heat included veteran driver Terry McCarl, Jason Solwold, reigning O'Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Greg Wilson, and Greg Hodnett, who competes in the sprint car hotbed of Pennsylvania among others. Hafertepe knows that the competition will continue to be that stout at every event.
"It is hard to make the show every night with how tough the competition is and that is what we are counting on," he said. "We just need to keep getting more laps to run with these guys. For us in qualifying we just want to get into the Top-24. That makes it a lot easier to give us a chance to make the main. That's what the most important thing is."
After the Florida DIRTcar Nationals, Hafertepe has now raced a 410-sprint car a grand total of 17 times. For the past five seasons he very successfully competed in 360-sprint cars with the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS). He was the 2006 Sooner Region Champion. He also has finished in the Top10 in ASCS National points for the past three season, including a career best third in 2005.
"It is so much faster driving a 410, and everything happens so much quicker," explained Hafertepe. "You have to really be up on the wheel a lot more. The more we run with these guys, the better we will learn to do that."
Hafertepe made a name for himself on the second night of the World of Outlaws season, February 10, as he won his first career dash with the series, to earn the pole position for the 25-lap A-Feature that followed. In the dash he bested a 10-car field that included reigning World of Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz, as well as 2001 Champion Danny Lasoski, in addition to Craig Dollansky, Brooke Tatnell, and fellow rookie Kerry Madsen among others.
With nearly 90 races on the World of Outlaws schedule this season, Hafertepe will have plenty of chances to visit knew tracks and continue to gain valuable experience in a 410-sprint car. He will visit many tracks for the first time, including when the series returns to action February 23-24 at Thunderbowl Raceway in California.
"You just have to feel everything out when you visit a new track," he commented. "With these guys you have to have your car perfect each time you go out, and then you still may not have quick time. You may not even be within the same bracket as them."
Having run an aggressive schedule last season, Haftertepe is ready for the challenges that will ensue while following the always demanding World of Outlaws schedule that stretches from early February until the final checkered flag of the season flies on the Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway on November 3.
"It definitely is better to race as much as you can as a driver," he said. "We ran 85 races the past three years anyway, and it won't be a big difference to us traveling wise and racing wise. The competition level is better, and to race more, you have to be on your game a lot better."
Before heading to the Golden State to compete at Thunderbowl Raceway, Hafertepe and his team will have a chance to return home to their shop and regroup before hitting the road for a couple weeks. One of the shortest trips the team will make all season will be when the series returns to Houston Raceway Park on March 16 in their native state of Texas.
"Being that you are racing not every night of the week, but rather a couple times a week it makes it a little bit easier that we do not have to head back home every time," said Hafertepe.
With the level of competition at an all time high, Hafertepe knows consistency will be a key this season to having success. After winning his first heat, and dash while at Volusia Speedway Park, he has the confidence that his team will rise to that challenge and continue to learn and gain experience all season long.
"We just want to stay clean all year and have a good year," Hafertepe said. "We just want to do the best we can with what we have, and remember that we are racing against the best."