2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Sam Hafertepe Jr. Concord, NC-- January 23, 2009--The off-season always goes by fast, but it went by especially quick this year for Sam Hafertepe Jr. as he geared up for another year on the road...
2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Sam Hafertepe Jr.
Concord, NC-- January 23, 2009--The off-season always goes by fast, but it went by especially quick this year for Sam Hafertepe Jr. as he geared up for another year on the road with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in 2009. He also took on some added responsibilities after his family's purchase of Lone Star Speedway in their home state of Texas.
With the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH just around the corner at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, February 6-8 for the World of Outlaws, Hafertepe and his team are making sure every nut and bolt is tight and everything is squared away before hitting the road for the Sunshine State to open the 2009 season.
"We are excited to get going, though it seems like we just finished 2008," said Hafertepe. "We have all the pieces in place and we are finishing up a few things here in the shop. We just want to make sure we have everything finalized before we go down there."
The 2009 season will mark Hafertepe's third with the World of Outlaws as he continues to gain priceless experience each time he climbs into his race car. He won for the first time in a 410-sprint car last year in early season action in Florida. While a number of the drivers he competes against have been racing longer than he has been alive, the second generation driver does not let that intimidate him.
"Experience is the biggest thing and I have been saying that since day one," he admitted. "We're definitely getting a lot more experience and getting more comfortable with every place that we go to. We just look to have an even better season that we did last year."
Hafertepe came close to winning a couple of times last season, including late in the year at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California as he battled 20-time series champion Steve Kinser and Jac Haudenschild through heavy lapped traffic on the high-banked 1/3-mile, nearly taking the win from the two Hall of Famers.
"It comes right down to experience," he shared. "If I would have had a little more experience in a few instances last year we definitely would have been in the winner's circle. We'll learn from our mistakes and hopefully we can capitalize on them this year."
Hafertepe will get two chances to race in his home state of Texas this season, including in the series return to Houston Raceway Park, where he last competed in the 2007, the World of Outlaws last visit to the ¼-mile. He has a couple of wins in his home state during his career and looks forward to being able to race in front of a number of family members, friends and sponsors.
"It means quite a bit to race in Texas, especially the race that my family will be putting on," said the third-year driver. "That would definitely be one of the best races for me to win because my family is putting it on. It's always nice to win around home."
Hafertepe has been balancing his time this off-season between working in the shop and helping his parents, Lisa and Sam Sr. prepare Lone Star Speedway for racing for the first time since 2004, which ironically hosted the World of Outlaws in the last event at the track. The wide open half-mile will welcome the series back this season on Friday, April 10.
"We've been doing a lot of dirt work out there and I have had a lot of things coming at me this off-season," said Hafertepe. "It's been character building and has given me something else to do when we are not working on the car. I've had fun with it."
After shuffling around a number of crew members last season as he looked for the right combination, Hafertepe is pleased with the crew he has in place. Helping to ease the learning curve even more last year, Hafertepe had Hall of Famer Rick Ferkel helping the team for a portion of the season.
"We are pretty solid this season," he explained. "I have the same guy who finished last year with me back and he has been working with me for about six months. It will be good to have him back on board and we have a guy from Indianapolis coming on this year as well. We should have a very solid team and it looks like a very promising year for us."
Last season, Hafertepe was 11th in the World of Outlaws championship standings, on the strength of 18 Top-10 finishes, 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. He looks to build on this season as he continues to compete against the best sprint car drivers in the world night in and night out.
"We had our sights set on a Top-10 in points last year and anything less than that this year would be a disappointment," said the 23-year old. "We definitely want to win a few races and feel that we are capable of that. We want to chart more Top-Fives this year and more Top-10s. Every year we want to get better. I think we'll be a team to contend with this year and I definitely think that we'll be in Victory Lane."
The 2009 World of Outlaws season opens on February 6 at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, with the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH. For more information on the event, including tickets, visit: www.dirtcarnationals.com.