Rising Rookies: Bruce & Hafertepe Ready for Action at Houston Raceway Park Baytown, TX--March 14 2007-- A lot has changed since Tony Bruce Jr. and Sam Hafertepe Jr. last raced at Houston Raceway Park. For starters, the track was a 4/10-mile oval...
Rising Rookies: Bruce & Hafertepe Ready for Action at Houston Raceway Park
Baytown, TX--March 14 2007-- A lot has changed since Tony Bruce Jr. and Sam Hafertepe Jr. last raced at Houston Raceway Park. For starters, the track was a 4/10-mile oval when they last took to it, and it has recently been reconfigured into a "big" ¼-mile. Also, the last time the pair of young drivers competed at Houston Raceway Park, they were driving 360-sprint cars. Now, the two "Juniors" are both competing for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award with the World of Outlaws.
The pair is excited to head back to Houston Raceway Park for The Texas Shootout on Friday March 16, as the World of Outlaws return to the always racy track for the first time since the 2005 season.
The challenge of a new track surface in a 410-sprint car has the duo enthused to return to action, especially after having a week off after the series competed in the Arizona desert two weeks ago.
"Anytime they reconfigure a track it's a challenge," said Hafertepe, a native of Sunnyvale, Texas. "It used to be about a 3/8's-mile and now they say it's a quarter-mile. There will be a lot of difference and a lot of things that change. It should make it an even playing field for everybody."
Bruce used every tool at his disposal to learn as much as he could about the reconfiguration of the track over the course of the last couple weeks. He has talked to a few people that have seen the track in person, as well as utilized the modern marvels of technology.
"I got on the internet and saw some pictures of the track," said Bruce, a native of Liberal, Kansas. "I don't know that they changed it all that much from what it used to be. It's still going to be the same surroundings, and just another race track to go to."
While many of the teams used the break in the schedule to head back to their shops and regroup, Bruce and his team had a different plan in mind, as they prepare for the next few weeks when the World of Outlaws schedule will pick up.
"The main reason we did not going home was to get used to working out of this brand new trailer," explained Bruce. "There's nothing really at our shop. I don't have any cars, or wheels or motors. Everything is inside of our trailer, so really going home would just be an extra fuel bill for us."
Hafertepe was able to return home, and being the only full-time driver with the World of Outlaws from the state of Texas, he has a scant four hour drive on Friday to the track. That is easily the shortest trek the team will have all season. After spending two weeks on the West Coast, first competing in California and then twice in the Arizona desert, the break in the schedule allowed Hafertepe and his team time to prepare for the bulk of the World of Outlaws schedule that is just around the corner.
"We had about a week and a half to get prepared and that helped a lot," he explained. "It helps having a week off. We were able to get things together and organized for each track that we will go to."
Both drivers are still adapting to the nuances of driving a 410-sprint car versus a 360. They both had great success driving the latter before embarking full-time this year with the World of Outlaws. Hafertepe is the reigning American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) Sooner Region Champion. He also has finished in the Top-10 three times in ASCS National points. Bruce finished in the Top-Five in ASCS points in 2005, and also was the Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year in a 410-sprint car.
"This 410 deal is so much different that I would not say that racing on a quarter-mile will be an advantage to us," Hafertepe said. "We're stating to get a handle on the speed of the car, and everything is starting to feel good to me now."
Both young drivers turned plenty of heads during the season opening Florida DIRTcar Nationals. Bruce set fast time in the finale of the three nights of racing on February 11, with a solid field of 50-plus cars in attendance, at the blazing fast half-mile at Volusia Speedway Park.
"Anytime you can set fast time and be competitive and make it into the A-Main, you definitely know that you are headed in the right direction," stated Bruce. "We've been fast and we still have a lot of room for improvement, but we'll just keep plugging away. As long as we keep putting it in the show, we have no choice but to get better."
Haftertepe, who still only has a handful of starts in a 410-sprint car to his credit, turned in his best career run with the World of Outlaws on February 10 in the Sunshine State. He won his first heat race with the series, and followed that up by winning the dash to earn his first pole position. In the A-Feature, he ran in the Top-Five all night and came home an impressive fifth.
"Winning that dash showed that we can run with these guys," he explained. "It's good for the rest of the year, knowing that we are capable of running with them. We look forward to going to every race."
Both drivers gain more confidence each time they visit the track. Whether they are on the track competing or in the pits, they are constantly learning and gaining experience. With nearly 90 races on the always demanding World of Outlaws schedule, this knowledge will serve them well as they continue to visit new tracks and compete with the best of the best night in and night out.
"It's definitely good to watch the veteran drivers on the track," said Hafertepe. "There are a few people you can talk to around here, but I try to learn by myself, and not get confused by what everyone else is doing."