Sam Hafertepe Jr
Sam Hafertepe Jr. Beginning To Turn Season Around
Daryl Turford)Sunnyvale, Texas-The Plumbfast Racing Team and Sam Hafertepe Jr are starting to heat up following a difficult start to the 2009 season. The past few races on the WoO tour have seen the Fusion Energy Boost 15H become much more competitive as evidenced by a recent 11th place run in New York followed up by a superb charge from 21st to 5th at Attica Raceway Park that garnered Sam his first career Hard Charger Award.
Sam and the team have typically struggled on slick tracks so when they drew late number in qualifying at Canandaigua one typically would have assumed the team would struggle. Fortunately that would not be the case as Sam laid down a respectable lap and earned himself the pole position for his heat.
The heat went according to plan as Sam immediately jumped into the lead at the drop of the green flag and was able to pull away for a decisive heat race win over Steve Kinser.
The good luck continued to snow ball as Sam was able to pull the #2 pill for the Dash but unfortunately Hafertepe got a little overzealous on the original start and was penalized 1 row.
“I knew Donny Schatz was going to be fast from the pole so I was willing to risk getting knocked back a row to possibly put myself to win the feature”, explained Sam. “My guys told me I jumped it pretty bad so I guess it was an easy call for the officials”.
Sam would restart the Dash in 4th and would lose one spot to Kinser who was on a mission coming from 6th to win the Dash.
Canandaigua was a typical, slick, black New York surface and Sam along with crew member Kory Miller did everything they could think of to get the car right.
During the early laps of the feature Sam held his spot and was pressuring New York racer Jessica Zemken hard. Lap after lap Sam tried to work his way around her on the outside and was finally able to get it done. Immediately after passing Zemken however the car started to get slower and slower. Sam limped the rest of the way home to a respectable 11th place finish.
“We were better than we usually are on these surfaces so I’m happy we made some progress”, said the 360 sprint car graduate. “There’s definitely something we’re missing but we are getting better and I’m glad we are moving in a positive direction”.
The team would head to Ohio to prepare for a date with some of the best local racers in the country. Through the week crew members Kory Miller and Daryl Turford prepared the car at Kears Speed Shop and got it ready to race at Attica Raceway Park.
“Shirley, Mark and everyone at Kears are so good to us when we come to Ohio”, said Sam. “They kind of spoil us and it was great to relax with everyone from Kears during the off days”.
Any hint of relaxation went out the window as the Fusion Energy Boost 15H was not operating how Sam wanted when the car rolled off the trailer at Attica.
“It’s kind of hard to explain, the car felt fine, but at the same time, kind of dead”, said Hafertepe.
Time trials did not go much better as Sam could only muster 24th quick in time trials which lined him up 6th for the heat.
The heat was action packed as Steve Kinser, Jody Keegan, Cap Henry and Sam all battled for the final transfer spots. Unfortunately despite a late-race charge Sam would come up 1 position short and would have to run the B Feature.
When the Outlaws travel to Ohio it’s a given that some fast cars are going home on the trailer before the feature. Sam had no intentions of being one of those cars but with a 7th place starting position he had his work cut out for him. Hafertepe became engaged in a battle with fellow Outlaws Lucas Wolfe and Danny Lasoski but following a restart at the half-way point Sam was able to make a daring 3 wide pass and hang on for the final transfer spot.
“We needed that badly”, said the relieved Sunnyvale, TX racer. “I’ve got 2 guys on the road with me but on race days Daryl has to work the t-shirt trailer which leaves Kory to handle everything until feature time by himself. Kory was absolutely worn out but he never quits and I sure as heck wasn’t going to quit on him”.
Sam lined up 21st for the A Feature and at the drop of the green flag it was evident that after all the changes he and Kory had hit on something. While most of the field was running the top Sam was able to work his way around the bottom of the speedway and began passing cars at a rapid rate.
“You always hear guys saying how you need to be smooth on slick tracks”, said Sam. “That wasn’t the case tonight, tonight I was hauling that car off into turn 3 really, really hard and it was sticking for me. If we could get the car to exit just a little better we would have been pretty tough to beat”.
Following the first yellow Sam was up to 12th and moving forward. Astonishingly race leader Donny Schatz crashed in lapped traffic and collected 5th place running Lee Jacobs. As a result Sam was now running 5th with 10 laps to go.
“If the race would have stayed green we might have gotten a few more spots”, explained Sam. “We went with an SC15 and I think most guys when with the softer SC12 right rear tire so on long runs we were getting faster and faster”.
The final 10 laps saw Sam make several attempts to pass 3rd and 4th place running Tim Shaffer and Randy Hannagan but the 23 year old could never quite make the pass stick and came home with a hard earned 5th place finish.
“We’ve struggled all year and through 23 races didn’t even have a single top 10 finish”, said the 2007 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year. “Suddenly in the last two weeks we’ve reeled off 2 top 5 finishes and have generally been fast wherever we’ve gone. I’ve said all year that our hard work would pay off and we are finally starting to get rewarded”.
The team is now headed to I-96 where the team has typically struggled.
“We usually struggle on slick tracks”, said Sam. “However we think we found something at Attica and we are hoping it works at I-96 and maybe we can ride our momentum to another good finish”.
FUSION ENERGY BOOST FAST FACT-Sam’s Hard Charger Award was the first of his career.
“We’ve had good cars when we’ve started deep in the past”, recalled Sam. “It just always seems like one way or another that they never turned out how we planned. We had a great run going at Skagit last year when we hit a rut and tore up a torque ball. Earlier in the year at Vegas we were going really good from deep when we cut a tire”.
While the award may be nice Sam hopes it is one he doesn’t win too often.
“Usually that award means you’ve messed up somewhere in the night and it’s held you back from being as good as you really are”, explained Sam. “Hopefully we capitalize on the nights when we have a fast car and put ourselves in a position to win instead of finding ways to put ourselves behind the 8-ball”.
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