West Coast Invasion: Rookie Brian Ellenberger gears up for event West Coast Invasion: Rookie Brian Ellenberger gears up for event at Thunderbowl Raceway Tulare, CA -- March 20, 2009 -- There were many things that Brian Ellenberger was...
West Coast Invasion: Rookie Brian Ellenberger gears up for event
West Coast Invasion: Rookie Brian Ellenberger gears up for event at Thunderbowl Raceway
Tulare, CA -- March 20, 2009 -- There were many things that Brian Ellenberger was looking forward to as he took to the road for the first time with the World of Outlaws in 2009. One of the items at the top of that list was racing on the West Coast for the first time in his career, and competing at a number of tracks that he had heard about and read about for years.
The first of those visits was The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the World of Outlaws competed last month for the first time since 2006. That was followed up by a stop the famed Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California, a date that Ellenberger had circled on his calendar since he announced in December that he would be a contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award this season.
For the third consecutive event, Ellenberger will visit a track for the first time this weekend as the World of Outlaws invade the high-banked and always racy 1/3-mile at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 for two full nights of racing. After starting the season at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, where he had competed in the past, Ellenberger will visit eight tracks in a row for the first time before the series visits Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Arkansas, where he competed and won last season.
"The tracks certainly are all unique," he stated, when asked about West Coast facilities. "At Chico (Silver Dollar Speedway), it's a little darker dirt and it stays tacky most of the night. At Las Vegas, it was a little sandier and a lot different than Chico. They are definitely different types of tracks."
Ellenberger turned in a very solid performance in the opener of the Mini Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway last weekend, finishing 14th with a very strong 54-car field in attendance. He endured 13 cautions and two red flags in a bump and grind race en route to picking up his best career World of Outlaws finish aboard the Ti22 Performance J&J.
"It was a neat place and fun to race at," shared Ellenberger. "I had seen pictures of it and read about it and it was definitely one of the places I was anxious to get to. There is a lot of history at the track. It was a crazy feature (last Friday night), but it was a lot of fun being out there."
Helping to ease the learning curve of his first full year on the road with the World of Outlaws, Ellenberger has received advice and guidance from a number of drivers and crew chiefs that have been on the road for years. Among this list is Sonny Kratzer, the reigning World of Outlaws Crew Chief of the Year, who turns the wrenches on Kerry Madsen's machine. Ellenberger also talked extensively to a couple of California natives who have turned countless laps at the tracks that the World of Outlaws are currently competing on.
"A big part of it is talking to the other guys and they have all been a big help," explained the native of Butler, Pennsylvania. "Sonny (Kratzer) was a big help to us at Chico and talking to guys like Randy Hannagan and Jason Meyers that know these tracks out west, has been a big help. I'm definitely picking brains, but you adjust. You go out and get your few hot laps and find the groove and stick with it. I look at it like every other track we go to, whether it's the ones back home or here. We try not to let it psyche us out."
Ellenberger, who has visited numerous tracks on the East Coast and in the Midwest during his career, uses many of those speedways as reference points when he visits a track for the first time and looks to get up to speed. While most of the drivers competing full-time with the World of Outlaws have competed several times at the tracks on the West Coast, the first-year driver doesn't let this deter him.
"I don't know if intimidating, more than they have the upper hand on me," he noted. "They have seen these places before so they certainly have an upper hand, but I don't let it intimidate me at all. We set a goal to make sure that we qualify as good as we can and start with that each night. It's all about getting in the show from that point on. Then we put our race face on and try to do our deal."
With just 24 starting spots each night in the A-Feature, every time Ellenberger takes to the track is vital, beginning with hot laps. With 40-plus cars in attendance at five of the first six events this season, that has meant that single lap qualifying has been in effect. Having competed with the All Star Circuit of Champions last season and for a number of years in the past, he is very accustomed to time trials.
"It sets the tone for the rest of the night and that has been a big challenge for us so far this year," he admitted. "Normally we qualify pretty decent. We have these new J&J cars, and it's not the cars fault, it's our fault. We had a few things goofed up in Florida and Vegas and I think we have a few things fixed and it certainly showed last Friday night (at Chico). Qualifying certainly is important."
As the season picks up steam, Ellenberger will have the chance to visit a number of tracks that he has competed at in the past. For the time being he is using his experience behind the wheel which dates back to 1996 as he learns the ins and outs of being on the road with the World of Outlaws as competes at tracks for the first time.
"With these new tracks, getting laps is very important, especially seeing how the tracks change from the beginning of the night to the end of the night and seeing what the tracks normally do, he said. "Getting laps with the Outlaws and keeping pace with those guys and the level of competition is the main thing."
On Friday, March 20 at Thunderbowl Raceway, tickets in the bleachers will be $35 and grandstands tickets will be $40. To purchase tickets contact the Thunderbowl Raceway office at (559) 688-0909. To view a seating chart log onto www.thunderbowlraceway.com.
On Saturday, March 21 at Thunderbowl Raceway tickets in the bleachers will be $40 and grandstands tickets will be $45. To purchase tickets contact the Thunderbowl Raceway office at (559) 688-0909. To view a seating chart log onto www.thunderbowlraceway.com.