Hafertepe Continues Rookie Season at Tri-City Speedway Sam Hafertepe Jr. is beginning to lose count of the number of tracks that he has visited for the first time this season with the World of Outlaws. The native of Sunnyvale, Texas is a ...
Hafertepe Continues Rookie Season at Tri-City Speedway
Sam Hafertepe Jr. is beginning to lose count of the number of tracks that he has visited for the first time this season with the World of Outlaws. The native of Sunnyvale, Texas is a contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award and is in his first full season competing in a 410-sprint car.
Earlier this season he made his first trip to California to compete at Thunderbowl Raceway, as well as racing in a pair of events in the Arizona desert. He also took part in his first East Coast Swing of his career, competing at the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania. In addition to this, he also has added the storied Eldora Speedway to the list of tracks that he has visited for the first time, and has since returned to the half-mile for a second time.
He will add to this list yet again on Thursday, June 14 as the World of Outlaws return to Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Illinois for the first time since 2005, when the track was a half-mile. This past off-season the surface was reworked into a 3/8-mile, which has drawn rave reviews from the drivers that have competed on it in weekly competition. With the changes to the track, all the teams will start the night with a blank slate, as Hafertepe does on most nights in his rookie season.
"It may put everyone at a little more equal playing field," said Hafertepe, driver of the G.H. Plumbing J&J. "That is the problem with us going to new tracks, because a lot of the guys out here have been to them before and we have not. The change in the track at Tri-City should equal it out a little bit for us."
Hafertepe along with his crew that consists of Kirk Reinert and his father/car owner Sam have been keeping meticulous notes at each track they visit. They try to compare these notes to other notes they have from tracks they have competed on in the past. Each time he hits the track, Hafertepe feels more comfortable in the car and is able to communicate more specifically what the car is doing to his crew.
"You have to keep a nice baseline at every track that you go to," the rookie driver explained. "You have to work off that. I need to hone my skills a little better in a 410-car on the smaller tracks. We are doing pretty well on the big tracks, we just have to get a little better on the smaller tracks."
After running a number of seasons in a 360-sprint car with the American Sprint Car Series, Hafertepe continues to learn each time he takes to the track in a 410-sprint car with the World of Outlaws. He used a day off from World of Outlaws action last Friday to bolt a 360-cubic inch engine in the car and compete at U.S. 36 Raceway in Missouri, winning the Budweiser Shootout in the process.
"The speed is so much greater in a 410 and the cars handle so much better," noted the always optimistic driver of the adaptations he has made to the more powerful machine. "Once you get used to the speed everything else seems to work itself out. It is just as tough as I thought it would be out here. We're up to the challenge."
With a record number of teams traveling full-time with the World of Outlaws this season, one of the biggest challenges each night for Hafertepe is earning one of the 24 starting positions in the A-Feature. He has raced his way into the Crane Cams Dash a couple times this season, and continues to improve on his qualifying efforts. Until this season, he had always drawn for a starting position, and thus was not used to the two laps of qualifying that begin each World of Outlaws event.
"Our main goal each night is to make the show," he said. "Any laps we can run in the feature, we build on our knowledge from there."
Hafertepe had heard for many years about how tough the competition was in Pennsylvania and on the East Coast, and he experienced that firsthand during the series first East Coast Swing during May. In the first race of the swing, he finished second in the Crane Cams Dash at Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania and finished 11th in the A-Feature.
"It was really tough on us," shared the rookie driver of his first trip East. "We went through a little slump in Pennsylvania and the Eastern Swing. We started changing some things on the car, because we weren't running as well as we thought we should. It may have messed us up a little, but we are more prepared for the next time we go back. I think we are back in stride now."
While he had adapted quickly too many of the tracks he has visited for the first time, there are still a few that Hafertepe knows will take a while to get used to.
"It will probably take more than two or three times to get used to places like Williams Grove to get accustomed to those types of track," he said. "I think we will be ok."
Hafertepe won the Crane Cams Dash for the first time in his career, on the second night of the season opening Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway in February in just his seventh start in a 410-sprint car to earn his first career pole position. He went on to finish a career-best fifth that night with a field of nearly 60 cars in attendance from all across the country.
"We may have run too good too early, but it was definitely a confidence builder for us, knowing we can run with these guys," he said. "We've been on the road before and it's not a real big deal for us being on the road."
Being based in Texas, Hafertepe and his team do not get to stop at home very often during the season. They were able to a couple of times earlier in the season, once when the series raced at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas. With the bulk of the schedule on the horizon, they headed back home after the Eagle Nationals, as they prepare for a busy rest of June and a very demanding July that will see them compete 15 times in a 28-day period.
"We'll stop at home before we head to Tri-City," said the reigning American Sprint Car Series Sooner Region Champion. "We'll get everything back organized and taken care of. We'll square a few things away and possibly start to build new cars if we need them."
On Thursday, June 14 at Tri-City Speedway, reserved tickets in the Top-Five rows will be $32. General admission tickets will be $30. Children ages 12-under will be admitted free of charge. For ticket information call 1-800-617-9077 or visit: www.tricityspeedway.net.