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Sam Hafertepe Jr. – Beware the Cone!

Sam was a little tight to start practice at the Chili Bowl (Hein Brothers Action Photo)

Sam was a little tight to start practice at the Chili Bowl (Hein Brothers Action Photo)

From Bill Wright

January 17, 2017 – Things were going great for Sam Hafertepe Jr. in Thursday’s preliminary action at the Chili Bowl at the Tulsa Expo Center. After coming out of the heats and Qualifiers as the high-point driver, he led early in that night’s feature. Unfortunately, he would hit the cone on a restart and be relegated to the back. Still, the Sunnyvale, Texas driver was fast all week and is already looking forward to the 2018 edition of the Chili Bowl.

Sam was thankful for those who helped him get to the Chili Bowl this year. “I’m extremely grateful for 21R Productions and Youth Racing League,” he says. “They gave us the opportunity to be able to race last week. Without them, we wouldn’t have even been able to be there.”

He started Thursday night by running from eighth to second in his heat race. “Every year, we’ve gotten a little bit better,” says Sam. “We were really quick out of the gate. We had a caution about three laps in. We were still running in the back. Those heats early in the night are just stacked two by two back there. It’s really hard to move through there. We had a caution and that made everything single-file. We were able to drive around some cars and get to second. We just kind of had to wait for out spot.”

As the high-point man coming out of the heats, Sam would line up sixth in his Qualifier. “We jumped up to fourth right away,” he says. “(Ryan) Bernal actually blew up in front of us, and that gave us a charity spot. We restarted third, and two laps later, we were in the lead. We were able to take off and win by a considerable margin. We had a really good car, but you need luck as well. Things have to go your way. Things went our way in the heat and Qualifier.”

The run put him on the pole of the feature. “Early on, we felt really good,” says Sam. “The first few laps, I think we were actually pulling away from (Christopher) Bell. We had that caution and I was second-guessing myself. They rework the track and you have to be on the bottom the first several laps. You’re waiting for the top coming in, and when you’re leading, you don’t want to be a sitting duck waiting for that to happen. I probably went up there too early, and Bell got by us. The caution came out a lap after that.”

That’s when Sam would hit the cone. “I just predicted wrong where the cone was going to be coming off of four,” he says. “These cars drive a little different than what I’m used to. I just couldn’t miss the cone. I was committed to my line. It was a really big mistake that cost us pretty bad. (Bell) had a four second lead on the field when he lapped us and a caution came out. I think we had the second fastest car there…it was just unfortunate.”

A 19th place finish put him inside row two for Saturday’s D. “We took the lead five or six laps in,” says Sam. “We were good up on the top. We were trying some new things with the car since we were buried. They were working really well. We really got going good there. We realized we were going in the right direction, and we can use that for next year.”

Sam would line up 15th for a C main next. “We got going on the bottom and got up to tenth early,” he says. “I started trying to run the top and I lost a couple spots. I’d go to the bottom and it would clog back up. I’d go back to the top and lose a couple more spots. A caution came out, and I decided to stick to the bottom. I was able to get up to seventh (one spot short of a transfer to the B). I wish we’d committed to the bottom the whole time…but sometimes you have to take some chances.”

It looks like Sam’s next event will be the Ronald Laney Memorial King of the 360’s at East Bay Raceway Park in Florida February 23-25. “We’re going to try and shoot for East Bay,” he says. “If our motor stuff gets here in time, that looks like the next racing for us.”