Rookies Ready for National Open at Williams Grove Speedway For a rookie sprint car driver competing at the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania can be very intimidating, but for the four drivers currently contending for the Kevin ...
Rookies Ready for National Open at Williams Grove Speedway
For a rookie sprint car driver competing at the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania can be very intimidating, but for the four drivers currently contending for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award with the World of Outlaws, it's just another day on the job, as they compete night in and night out with the best sprint car drivers in the World.
These first-year drivers will compete in the biggest event of the season at Williams Grove this weekend, as the World of Outlaws visit the half-mile for the final time in 2007 to contest the National Open, which will again pay $50,000 to win. Adding even more luster to the event, the cameras from SPEED will be taping both nights of racing for broadcast.
Kerry Madsen currently leads the rookie standings over Sam Hafertepe Jr., Chad Hillier and Tony Bruce Jr. Prior to this season, Bruce was the only one of the four drivers that had competed at Williams Grove, as he took part in the National Open last season.
Madsen had plenty of experience on big track entering this season, having earned the Knoxville Raceway track championship in 2005. He has competed in four of the five A-Feature events contested by the World of Outlaws at Williams Grove this season, and has two Top-15 finishes.
"I feel comfortable over there," said Madsen, driver of the Selma Shell Maxim. "We've haven't been real great there yet, but I am looking forward to going back. Hopefully we can hit the nail on the head and have a good run there."
Hafertepe like his fellow first-year drivers has competed a number of times at Williams Grove with the World of Outlaws this season. On the first night of the Summer Nationals in July, he turned the fourth fastest lap in time trials with a stout 50-car field in attendance. He earned a spot in the Crane Cams Dash that night where he finished 10th and he backed that up with a very solid 11th-place effort in the A-Feature.
"The first time I went there, it was a little hard to get used to," said Hafertepe, driver of the G.H. Plumbing J&J. "Now I feel pretty comfortable there and I think we will do really good this time. We got going pretty good the last time we were there and we're real excited to go back."
Bruce competed at the half-mile for the first time last season, as he ran a number of World of Outlaws events to get comfortable in a 410-sprint car in preparation for a run at the rookie title this season. He raced his way into the A-Feature in last season's National Open, with nearly 60 cars on-hand.
"I don't think I knew any better to be intimidated," said Bruce, driver of the Best Well Services Maxim, when looking back at his first trip to Williams Grove. "We just did our own thing and surprised everybody and hopefully we can do it again. If you beat yourself, then you cannot beat anyone else. Our main focus is to get our team and our race car in line and let everything else play out from there."
Chad Hillier visited Williams Grove for the first time in 2005 as a crew member for the Selma Shell team. He has gained valuable experience in each of his trips to the track this season. In the finale of the Summer Nationals in July he came up just a couple of spots short in the B-Main from racing his way into the A-Feature.
"I had been there before, but never raced on it," said Hillier, driver of the DIRT Inc. Maxim. "It has such long straightaways. Getting the car to handle well and getting comfortable as a driver is the main thing there. We had some motor issues the first time there and I think we have that all sorted out. Every little thing we can do to get an advantage will help us out."
On the second night of the Summer Nationals, Madsen turned in the 14th quickest lap in time trials and finished 11th in the A-Feature. In the finale on the following night, he earned another Top-15 finish. He won his first career World of Outlaws A-Feature event earlier in the season on a half-mile at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida and heads to Williams Grove with 18 Top-10 finishes on the season.
"That is one of the hardest races to make," noted Madsen, when asked about the National Open. "The tough local guys absolutely add pressure to the event. Just to make the show is hard. There are so many good cars, that you could be sitting in a position to win the race or you could be sitting in the pits watching the race."
Hafertepe, the reigning American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) Sooner Region champion raced his way into the finale of the Summer Nationals and finished a very respectable 17th. He heads back to Williams Grove second in rookie points and has three Top-10 finishes on the season, in addition to leading a number of laps at Ohsweken Speedway in Canada in the World of Outlaws return north of the border earlier this season, after winning his first career Crane Cams Dash. With nearly 70 races under his belt with the World of Outlaws this season, he continues to get valuable seat time.
"You certainly have to pay your respects to the track and the history of the place," said the native of Sunnyvale, Texas. "The guys out there are tough and they race the place all the time. We race some pretty good guys out here so that prepares us for when we go out to Williams Grove."
Hillier heads back to Williams Grove fresh off a very solid 12th-place finish at Orange County Fair Speedway in New York on Wednesday night. In his first visit to the sprawling 5/8-mile, he started 24th and passed several cars on a track that was tough to pass on. He has 12 Top-15 finishes on the season, including a career-best eighth at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway earlier in the season. With the experience he has gained this season, the native of Burlington, Washington is ready to return to Williams Grove.
"It's such a tough field of cars out there, it's never easy," said Hillier. "Out here racing (with the World of Outlaws) you race against the best each night so that is extra competition. Out here, you have 20 guys that you compete against every night. When you go back there it's more good drivers to compete against. If you go out there and have a bad night it's tough, but if you go out there and have a good night, it can lift your confidence and enthusiasm, knowing the field of cars you are racing against."
Bruce accomplished in his first try what it takes some drivers years to do, when he raced his way into the National Open is his first visit to Williams Grove last season. The native of Liberal, Kansas had a solid night in the opener of the Summer Nationals at the track this season, turning the 14th fastest lap in time trials and transferring from his heat race into the A-Feature. He is quick to point out that it takes not only a good set-up and strong motor to do well at Williams Grove, but also a little luck, which begins with the pill draw for qualifying order.
"We've had some really good cars there and it all depends on qualifying," said Bruce. "We've had really good cars there and we've had really bad cars and I've been good driving wise and I've also been bad there. Every night is a new night at that place and we're looking forward to going back. I think we'll be all right."
On Friday, September 28 at Williams Grove Speedway adult reserved seats will be $32, with adult general admission tickets $28. Tickets for students will be just $15, with children 12-under admitted free of charge.
On Saturday, September 29 at Williams Grove Speedway adult reserved tickets will be $35, with adult general admission tickets $30, with students just $15 and kids 12-under admitted free of charge. For more information on tickets, visit www.williamsgrove.com.