A true home track: Hafertepe looks forward to World of Outlaws return to Lone Star Speedway Being from the state of Texas, Sam Hafertepe Jr. has never really had a "home track" in his first two seasons on the road with the World of Outlaws...
A true home track: Hafertepe looks forward to World of Outlaws return to Lone Star Speedway
Being from the state of Texas, Sam Hafertepe Jr. has never really had a "home track" in his first two seasons on the road with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. After all, the series has raced just once in that span in his home state. That will change this weekend as the third-year driver will have a chance to compete at what is now his home track, Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, which his parents Sam Sr. and Lisa purchased during the off-season and are in their first season of promoting in 2009.
It was announced back in December that the World of Outlaws would return to Lone Star Speedway this season for the first time since 2004 and since that day, Hafertepe and his family have been working feverously to make sure that everything was in place for the biggest race the track will host this year. Prior to this spring, the last time any cars raced at Lone Star Speedway was on March 12, 2004, the date that the World of Outlaws were in town. The track has hosted a couple of events this season in preparation for the series visit this Friday, April 10.
"It's something we have been anticipating for quite a while with my family owning the track," said the younger Hafertepe. "It's been a lot of hard work and we have put so much into it. Hopefully we'll have a good showing for all of our hometown fans."
In addition to preparing in the shop for his third full season on the road with the World of Outlaws, the younger Hafertepe spent a large part of the off-season at Lone Star Speedway, helping prepare the facility for the 2009 season and most importantly helping to prepare the racing surface which had not seen action in nearly five years.
"We anticipated it would be a lot and work and have spent a lot of time out there," shared the native of Sunnyvale, Texas. "Hopefully it pays off. We've done a lot of work and it's almost back to brand new right now. We have a few more things left to do, but for the most part it looks really good right now."
Having been in the driver's seat since 2002, Hafertepe Jr. has received a whole new perspective on racing this off-season and all that preparing for an event of the caliber of the World of Outlaws entails. Now each time he straps into the Fusion Energy J&J, he has a greater appreciation for all of the promoters that stage events from coast-to-coast.
"It opens your eyes up to a lot of things," admitted the 23-year old. "There are a lot of things that people don't see behind the scenes. Being kind of a promoter now, it has opened my eyes up to it. It certainly is a lot of work, and it's hard to juggle promoting and racing at the same time."
The event at Lone Star Speedway on Friday, April 10 will be the first for the World of Outlaws in Texas since 2007. Over the years, the series, which was born in Texas in 1978, has competed countless times in the state, though visits recently have been few and far between, with just two races over the last four seasons in the state.
"Texas has been waiting for the Outlaws to come back," Hafertepe said. "It's great to bring the series back to Texas. There are a lot of fans down there that have not gotten to see the Outlaws for a long time. We are really looking forward to it and hopefully the fans are too."
Lone Star Speedway has long straightaways with high-banking which leads to breathtaking speeds, which is similar to a couple of the most famed tracks on the World of Outlaws circuit. Hafertepe has competed just once at Lone Star Speedway in his career, with that coming in the World of Outlaws last visit to the track in 2004.
"I kind of compare it to Eldora (Speedway in Ohio) and Williams Grove (Speedway in Pennsylvania)," he noted. "They are two totally opposite tracks, but that's kind of how it's shaped, like Williams Grove and has banking like Eldora. It's got a nice professional look to it and it should be a good race."
After having a breakout season in 2008, which saw him finish 11th in the World of Outlaws championship standings on the strength of 18 Top-10 finishes, with four of those being Top-Five performances, Hafertepe has had a slow start to 2009 and has been plagued with more than his fair share of bad luck. He looks to get on track this weekend a doubleheader weekend for the series in his home state, beginning at Lone Star Speedway on Friday and continuing on to Saturday night at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, where he has competed a handful of times in his career.
"We just need a good strong run," he deadpanned. "We haven't had the greatest year so far and we've been dealing with a few other issues with motors and stuff like that. Hopefully we can have a good strong Top-10 or Top-Five run and build from there."
Hafertepe will take part in an autograph session at the track to help welcome the World of Outlaws back to Lone Star Speedway on Friday at approximately 4:45 p.m. He will be joined by three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell, who has won six times with the series at Lone Star Speedway and seven times overall in his career. Also signing autographs will be veteran Jac Haudenschild, who has competed at Lone Star Speedway in the past and who will be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame this season. Lucas Wolfe, the reigning Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner, will also be on hand to meet and greet fans.
On Friday, April 10 at Lone Star Speedway, general admission tickets for adults will be $25, with children ages five-under admitted free of charge in the general admission seats. All reserved tickets will be $30. For tickets visit www.lonestarspeedway.com or call the track at 903-986-9731.