ELMA, Wash. – After dropping to second in the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series standings following the Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup, Sam Hafertepe Jr. didn’t waste much time in returning to the top of the heap.
A quick turnaround at the Fred Brownfield Classic, highlighted by a pair of top-five finishes, allowed Hafertepe to retake the top spot with the ASCS National Tour.
Cutting a path through the field on both Friday and Saturday night, Hafertepe’s weekend highlight came on Friday after he waged a fierce battle for the runner-up spot with ASCS National Rookie of the Year leader John Carney II.
Coming out third in the race after his scrap with the No. J2, Hafertepe felt he had the car to beat if a late-race caution hadn’t taken the leaders out of traffic.
“We probably had one of the best cars on Friday night, but with the caution there at the end, that messed us up,” noted Hafertepe. “I feel like we had a shot to win it, and had the caution not come out, we probably would have won it, but you never know. We had a great car and I was excited with our finish.”
On Saturday night, Hafertepe was able to pick up 10 spots in the feature before the track cleaned off and locked down around the bottom, resulting in a fourth-place finish which gave him the point lead back by 44 markers.
“The track was really tough to pass on through the Heats and fortunately, we were able to get by a few guys,” said Hafertepe. “Not enough to get the redraw or anything, so starting 14th, we had a really good car and got through about as well as anyone did, but once the rubber came in, it just stopped us from moving forward.”
After taking some time off to work on the team’s overall program through Independence Day weekend, the next outing for the Hills Racing Team No. 15h will be the NAPA of Montana Grizzly Nationals at Gallatin Speedway on July 12-13.
Though it has been a race that Hafertepe has led laps at over the past couple seasons, a win at the Belgrade oval has eluded him.
“I’m excited about going back to the Grizzly Nationals,” said Hafertepe. “I feel like we probably should have had two wins there already, but blew tires leading and couldn’t close the deal. Hopefully we can lead all the laps this time, knowing how the track is, and we’ll see if we can’t stand next to a Grizzly Bear.”