2008 World of Outlaws Season Review: Sam Hafertepe Jr. Concord, NC-- November 24, 2008--After paying his dues in 2007 during his rookie year on the road with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, Sam Hafertepe Jr. had a breakout year in...
2008 World of Outlaws Season Review: Sam Hafertepe Jr.
Concord, NC-- November 24, 2008--After paying his dues in 2007 during his rookie year on the road with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, Sam Hafertepe Jr. had a breakout year in 2008. The sophomore driver came close to winning a couple of races and when the final numbers were tallied, he had racked up 18 Top-10 finishes, with four of those being Top-Five performances.
The native of Sunnyvale, Texas wrapped up the year 11th in points, after a 19th place showing in 2007 as a rookie. He hit his stride in the middle of June, rattling off five consecutive finishes of ninth or better, highlighted by a fourth-place finish at River Cities Speedway in North Dakota. He used this momentum to continue run among the Top-10 and earned three podium finishes by season's end.
"All in all we had a pretty good year," said Hafertepe. "We were satisfied with how the year went. We had our ups and downs, but we are happy. We are looking for even better things next season."
Hafertepe opened 2008, by arriving early in Florida early to begin the season by turning some extra laps and won his first career race in a 410-sprint car. That gave him added confidence heading into the always challenging World of Outlaws season.
He gained a lot of momentum during the first East Coast swing of the season for the World of Outlaws, scoring Top-10 finishes at Lernerville Speedway in the Commonwealth Clash, as well as at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway in late May in an event that was broadcast live on SPEED. He followed that up with a third-place performance at Virginia Motor Speedway to match his career-best finish as he continued to chase his first series win. He raced his way into the Crane Cams Dash 23 times in 2008 to earn Top-10 starting spots in A-Feature events, including winning the dash to start on the pole at Princeton Speedway in Minnesota.
"Everything we learned last year helped us this year, from being out on the road to all the race tracks," shared the sophomore driver. "We got to see tracks for the second time this year and that had us more prepared. We'll be even more prepared for next year."
Hafertepe came close to winning on a couple of other occasions this season, including at Thunderbowl Raceway in California in October, where he wound up third. He also finished third at Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York as well as the aforementioned strong run at Virginia.
"It definitely lifts the confidence and makes you feel like you belong out here when you are running up front. Next year we hope to be running strong again and running up front and continuing to improve."
Hafertepe continued to gain precious experience on bigger tracks in 2008, and picked up back-to-back Top-10's at Eldora Speedway and Knoxville Raceway. He followed this up with four consecutive Top-10 finishes on short tracks, as he continued to learn the intricacies of racing on various sized tracks.
For the final stretch run of the season, Hafertepe welcomed Hall of Fame Driver Rick Ferkel, one of the original "Outlaws" to his team to serve as crew chief. This allowed the 23-year old driver to focus more on driving and not have to worry about turning the wrenches himself, though the sophomore driver remained one of the most hands-on drivers in the pit area, driving his truck and trailer throughout the season.
"It took a lot of pressure off of me, because I normally set my own car up," Hafertepe noted of Ferkel's presence. "It relaxes me more and makes me more confident as a driver."
While Hafertepe continued to compete against drivers that had been racing for 10, 20 and even 30 years, he viewed that as an important tool to help him continue his development as a driver.
Late in the season he matched his best finish of the year with a third-place run at Thunderbowl Raceway in California, battling Steve Kinser and Jac Haudenschild for the win, nearly getting around the two legendary drivers in heavy lapped traffic aboard the Fusion Energy Boost J&J.
"There is no price you can put on how much you learn out here racing with the Outlaws," explained the native of Sunnyvale, Texas. "You have guys out here that have been racing longer than I have been alive. You just learn more and more every night and that is very important. I've probably learned more this year than I have ever learned before."
Hafertepe recently wrapped up his 2008 seasons with a pair of races in his home state of Texas. He and his crew are now back at their shop feverously gearing up for the 2009 season, which begins in less than 80 days. The young driver is a firm believer that hard work in the off-season leads to strong results over the course of the always demanding World of Outlaws campaign.
"The first thing we do is tear the cars down and get stuff moved in," he said. "We already have a lot of stuff in place to get started for next year. We'll be working hard all winter to be even more prepared for next year than we were for this year. I don't feel like we were prepared enough this season. We'll go back to the shop over the winter and hopefully have a top notch program for next year."
The 2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series seasons kicks off February 6-8 at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida with the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.