By Daryl Turford,Tear Off Heaven photo
SUNNYVALE, TX-A promising weekend at Dodge City Raceway Park ended with a blown motor and a top 10 finish for Sam Hafertepe Jr. and The Plumbfast Racing Team. Following a 6th place run in the Friday night feature Sam was running safely in the top 10 again on Sunday when a blown motor ended his run with just a few laps remaining.
Friday night saw Sam time in 11th fastest in time trials to put himself on the pole of his heat. Hafertepe lined up beside “The King” Steve Kinser and after a dicey first lap that saw the duo run side by side for nearly an entire lap Hafertepe was able to emerge with the lead. A caution on lap 2 gave Kinser another shot at Sam but Hafertepe drove away for his series leading 7th heat race victory.
There was plenty of drama in the pits following the heat race.
“I told the guys before we went out for the heat that I was feeling a vibration,” explained Sam. “It got really bad in the heat race so the guys pulled the rear end and we found that the lower shaft was damaged. Mike (Schure) and Daryl (Turford) worked hard though and we were able to get it changed without incident and in time for the Dash.”
Sam’s time trial was not fast enough to allow The Lone Star Speedway, Maxim-Fisher #15H to make The Dash invert and as a result he lined up 9th on the grid. Following a disappointing start Sam settled into 10th and tried in vein to move forward in the single-file procession that was The Dash.
Prior to the feature event Sam decided to go with a harder right rear than most of the field and as the feature race wore on it was clearly the right choice. Hafertepe slowly worked his way through the field in the main event and with 2 laps to go passed Donny Schatz in a daring 3-wide moved on the outside of turns 3 and 4. Sam’s momentum carried him to the white flag with a run on Kerry Madsen and Jason Meyers for the 4th and 5th positions. Hafertepe blasted past Meyers and dove low beneath Madsen in turns 1 and 2 but “The Mad Man” blocked Sam’s move causing Hafertepe to lose some momentum and allow Meyers back by. The trio entered turns 3 and 4 with Sam slipping under Meyers before losing a drag race to the checkers to Jason.
As Sam and Meyers crossed the finish line the pair made contact. Meyers, apparently unhappy about it hit Sam, Hafertepe the responded by drilling Meyers in the rear bumper.
“I was pretty disgusted with Jason following the feature,” explained Sam. “Meyers has so much talent and can do absolutely amazing things in a sprint car but the way he ran me in the feature was unacceptable. He threw a very dirty slide job at me to the point that I had to turn right to avoid him and then on the final lap he missed his line, I drove under him cleanly and he tried to take me out at the checkers. It would be one thing if I stuck my nose where it didn’t belong but for Meyers to flat out miss his line and then try to take me out for it is ridiculous. To hit me after the finish was going way to far.”
The following night’s scheduled events were cancelled by torrential rain and the Saturday night program was made up on Sunday afternoon.
Hafertepe laid down a blistering lap that was 4th fastest overall but it was made much more impressive by the fact that he did so with a broken torsion stop.
“The torsion stop split apart,” said Sam following time trials. “I have no doubt that cost us quick time here again but I was also really thankful to not wad up the race car. I think it happened early in my run because I felt the car lean over suddenly and I couldn’t really explain it.”
Sam started his heat race in the 3rd position and drove a steady race to earn a 4th place finish and make his way into The Dash for the second night in a row.
The inversion draw resulted in a 5th place starting position for Sam in The Dash. On the opening lap however Kerry Madsen nearly lost control of his car and as a result the cars on the topside of the speedway blasted past the cars on the bottom. Hafertepe would recover to finish 6th.
The feature saw Sam once again driving a fast race car. Following a series of reds and yellows the race finally took shape and Sam had soon worked his way into the 4th position. The foursome of Joey Saldana, Jason Meyers and Lucas Wolfe took off and put nearly a straightaway on 5th place running Kraig Kinser before a flip brought the field back together.
Sam was once again on a fairly hard tire and the string of restarts that followed were not what Hafertepe needed as it took a couple of laps for the car to settle in and go which resulted in Sam dropping to 6th.
Hafertepe appeared to be on his way to a strong 6th place showing but late in the race the motor started go away from Sam and with just a few laps remaining he brought out the final caution when he came to a stop on the front straightaway.
“We had a problem with a valve,” said the dejected Sunnyvale, Texas native. “It’s really unfortunate, we were having another really solid run and I really liked the way this motor runs. It’s just been like this all year, we seem to be really fast but we just don’t finish races and it’s getting really frustrating for me, the guys and my parents but we are going to keep at it and hopefully our hard work will pay off eventually.”
Sam and The Plumbfast Racing Team are now preparing for a mid-week show Wednesday night in Sedalia, Mo and hopefully with a little luck things may just turn around for the team.
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