HODNETT FINDS CHEMISTRY WITH APPLE TEAM THOMASVILLE, PA - Blending personalities together to make a team isn't an exact science. In the world of racing, it's paramount that a driver and his crew are on the same page. Former World of Outlaws...
HODNETT FINDS CHEMISTRY WITH APPLE TEAM
THOMASVILLE, PA - Blending personalities together to make a team isn't an exact science. In the world of racing, it's paramount that a driver and his crew are on the same page. Former World of Outlaws (WoO) star, Greg Hodnett has driven for a number of teams during his career, but when he's with the Apple Chevrolet team in Pennsylvania, things just seem to work. Hodnett is in his second tour of duty with the Bob Stewart-owned team, and just as the case was in 1998 and 1999, they are winning races again. On Friday, the team will debut a 2001 J&J Auto Racing car as Hodnett tries to add another Williams Grove Speedway feature win to his resume when the WoO Gumout invades Central PA.
"We're excited about this weekend," said Hodnett, who is a transplant PA Posse Member from Memphis. "Coming back to this team has been a good transition. We had some success in Florida to start the season, but also a few disappointments. The first night out we destroyed a car. A week later we won an All-Star Feature, and the following night we finished third in the $25,000-to-win East Bay Winternationals. We had an up and down start in Florida, and it seems like it's followed us here to Pennsylvania. Mother Nature slowed us down a little bit, but we did manage to win a big race (Williams Grove Early Championship on April 6th). For some reason it's been feast or famine, but I think once we start racing more regularly we'll be where we want to be."
Hodnett rejoined the 12 team and Crew Chief Lee Stauffer last fall following a season with the World of Outlaws. He drove for Guy Forbrook and finished 15th in the season standings after missing a number of races due to a separated shoulder. He did win the Outlaws debut at Texas Motor Speedway and a WoO prelim at Hagerstown days after returning from the shoulder injury.
The return to the team reunited a solid combination of driver, crew chief and owner. In late July of 1998, Hodnett joined the team and won 20% of the races they entered including wins at Selinsgrove Speedway, the Sharon Nationals, Port Royal Speedway, the Tuscahora 50, Williams Grove Speedway and the Selinsgrove National Open. The following season the success continued as the team entered 97 races and won 12 features including an Outlaw win at Eldora Speedway live on TNN, and an All-Star win at Sharon Speedway. To go along with the wins, the Apple Chevrolet #12 team finished with 15 2nd place and 7 3rd place finishes. Hodnett points to a lot of reasons for their success, but for him two aspects stand out.
"I think our communication is great and the trust factor is clear," continued Hodnett. "They won't do anything to the car unless we talk about it. When I come and tell them something, we try to figure out a way to make the car better versus the crew just telling me I'm not driving right. We really work well together, and I'm positive that's a big key."
This weekend the team will be debuting a 2001 J&J Auto Racing car. Hodnett and his family have been friends with Jack Elam for years, and Greg started his career piloting J&J's. The #12 team will join a long and distinguished list of J&J users in Central Pennsylvania.
"I've known Jack for a long time, and he's been wanting me to get back into J&J," said Hodnett, who used J&J's to claim the 1993 WoO Rookie of the Year. "There's a lot of loyalty involved in sprint car racing, and I appreciate my crew trying something new. We thought we would try a new car and get some feedback to Jack, and maybe even get ourselves a little faster. When most of the guys here in PA are winning with J&J's, you know the cars are working well."
"The J&J cars are definitely fast, built well and certainly easy to work on. We were real happy with the way it came together, and we're anxious to race with it. We were testing on Monday night and made about eight laps before it rained. Even in the short time we were on the track, the car felt good. You might think that eight laps isn't enough to really gauge anything, but usually you can tell right a way how something feels. The key is for us to keep doing what we've been doing, because you can make a good car bad simply by your decisions. We just hope we make the right ones, so that we can get up front and beat guys like Fred Rahmer, Lance Dewease and the rest of the guys."
Although he's traveled full-time for most of his career, Hodnett's comfortable with a schedule that includes races primarily in Pennsylvania. The competition doesn't get much tougher and to have your program going in the right direction when the Outlaws do come to town is always a key.
"Our goals for the season are probably just like everyone else," continued Hodnett. "We want to be competitive every night and win as many races as we can. Hopefully, we can get our stuff together and be competitive all season long. Winning the Early Bird Championship was a big confidence boost for our team."
"We've got some big races coming up here in the next month. This weekend we'll be racing the World of Outlaws Gumout series at Williams Grove and Port Royal, and the following weekend the All-Stars will be at Lincoln. A couple weeks later the Outlaws will be here, and then we're going to follow them to Charlotte. This will be an important month for us and hopefully, we can get things started well with a new car this weekend."
J&J'S TO RACE ACROSS THE COUNTRY THIS WEEKEND
Along with Hodnett, Dewease, Rahmer and Dave Ely, Daryn Pittman will lead the charge for the J&J team in the WoO Gumout races this weekend. Pittman will have his #3 Winnebago/Gaerte Engines J&J in the field both nights hoping to gain the early lead in the Gumout Series.
The Pennzoil World of Outlaws will be busy also racing on Friday and Saturday at legendary Knoxville Raceway. Andy Hillenburg will have his #2 Luxaire J&J on hand and Donny Schatz will be driving the #15 ParkerStores J&J. Schatz finished second in last year's Knoxville Nationals and is hoping to get his first career Knoxville Raceway Feature win.
Donny Goeden, who won the IRA season opener last weekend at Hales Corners Speedway, will try to make it two for two in his #27G J&J.
A number of other J&J competitors will also be in action this weekend.