KILGORE, Texas — Sam Hafertepe Jr. had to talk car owner Keith Dobbs into running the full Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series schedule this season.
The decision pad off in more ways than one.
In addition to his first championship with the series, he picked up 10 wins, including historic runs at the Skagit Dirt Cup and the Fred Brownfield Memorial in Washington.
Hafertepe talked about the team’s early indecision.
“We weren’t sure we were going to run,” he explained. “We thought we might run regionally, but I had it in my mind that I wanted to run the national tour. I just didn’t know if that was going to be possible. We tried Donald Trump style politics on the owner and it worked. Once that happened, we didn’t really know how good we were going to be, until about May.”
That’s when the team scheduled a practice session at Lonestar Speedway near Kilgore, Texas.
“We were already fast, but that really made us into a car that would win once in a while, to a car that would be consistently in front,” Hafertepe said. “That was crucial for a number of reasons. Ryan (Beechler, crew chief) and I had never worked together before. We needed that time to race not only the competition, but the track and ourselves. It helped us figure out where we needed to be with the car. That gave us the balance in the car, and we took off from there.”
The team loaded up for The Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway and success followed.
“We had a baseline down really well, and we went out and won the first night,” Hafertepe said. “We felt we should have won the second night too, but we second-guessed ourselves before the A. But we took a lot out of that and it propelled us into Speedweek.”
Sam picked up the ASCS Speedweek title with wins in Amarillo and Wheatland, Mo., as well as consistency at the other tracks.
“Even at tracks we don’t do well at, we were good at,” he says. “We had one hiccup at Sedalia, but after that, we just picked it up with a win Wheatland.”
More victories followed, so too, did the championship, which he clinched at Oklahoma’s Creek County Speedway in October.
Hafertepe hopes to do more 410 sprint car racing next season.
“We’re going to try and do more 410 racing,” he said. “It was a stretch to just be able to do the ASCS National tour last year. Now, financially, the team is a little better off. We’re still trying to make some motor improvements. We’re trying to improve on what we have every day. Our game plan is to get more 410 races on the schedule. We want to go to Knoxville in August and be in contention like we have been in the past. We’ve ran well on some prelim nights there, and getting some more 410 shows will help us toward that.”
Next up will be January’s Chili Bowl. Hafertepe will again be fielding his own midget.
“We’re going to try and make it,” he said. “We’re putting a motor back together. It’s going to be getting to a point where we’ll be pressing to get it done, but we’ll try. Our focus, of course, is our sprint car team.”