2009 Season Review: Brian Ellenberger

From Tony Veneziano, image courtesy of Jim Fisher

Concord, NC — For years and years, Brian Ellenberger had read about, seen pictures of and heard stories about tracks like Silver Dollar Speedway in California and I-55 Raceway in Missouri as well as many others from coast-to-coast, and this past season he finally had the opportunity to race at these storied facilities, along with a whole lot more as he took to the road full-time with the World of Outlaws for the first time in his career.

The native of Butler, Pennsylvania visited countless tracks for the first time and gained priceless experience each and every time he and his team rolled through the pit gate. After the nearly 10-month and 70-race season he was awarded the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award, named after the late driver who also hailed from the state of Pennsylvania. Ellenberger wrapped up the season a solid 11th in the championship standings.

“It’s a real honor for me and my sponsor Ti-22 Performance,” shared Ellenberger of receiving the coveted rookie title. “It is a great honor. Knowing Kevin Gobrecht and what a great young man he was and having the opportunity to have raced against him, I have great respect for him and this honor.”

Of the 42 tracks that Ellenberger competed at this past season with the World of Outlaws, 32 were new to him and he had to quickly get up to speed with just a handful of hot laps at most, prior to time trials on most nights. He had visited a few of the tracks on the schedule in the past with the All Star Circuit of Champions as well as when he was competing weekly at his home track of Lernerville Speedway in Western Pennsylvania.

“We knew it would be a learning experience coming into it,” he noted. “Coming in and running against these guys is not an easy deal for anybody who has never done it before. Hitting all of the new tracks was extremely exciting. We certainly learned a lot that will help us prepare for next year as well.”

Each time he visited a track for the first time, Ellenberger would use his experience that he gained over the last 12 years racing sprint cars to find characteristics of tracks that he had competed at in the past that were similar to the one that he was visiting for the first time.

“What we tried to do was size the track up to some of the tracks that we had already raced at, things like the look, the sizes, and the banking,” he explained. “As we got to know the guys, the first thing we would do would be to go down and talk to some of the other drivers and crew chiefs. Gaining those relationships certainly helped and these guys look after each other. It was never a problem walking down to a trailer and asking a question or getting some advice, so that was always a very big help.”

While most of the drivers that Ellenberger competed with on a nightly basis had been to most of the track on the circuit countless times, while he was making his debut at a majority of the tracks, he never looked at this as a disadvantage. He was able to learn from the veteran drivers by observing them both on the track and in the pit area as he continued to learn the ropes of life on the road with the most grueling series in motorsports.

“I don’t know if it was intimidating, I suppose it was a little bit, but it was always exciting getting to a new place and a new track and getting the opportunity to run on it and we knew we had a pretty tall order to get in there and get in front of these guys,” he stated.

Ellenberger scored a career-best third-place finish at Dodge City Raceway Park in Kansas in June in his first visit to the pristine 3/8-mile aboard the Ti-22 Performance J&J. He won the third heat race that night to earn a spot in the Crane Cams Dash where he finished third to earn a second row starting spot in the 30-lap main event. He moved into second early in the race, getting around front row start Lucas Wolfe and ran there for a few laps before eventual winner Joey Saldana took that spot in his march to the front.

“It’s nights like that, that make you feel good about your program and make a driver feel good and know that you can run up there with them,” said Ellenberger with a smile. “It was one of those nights where felt like we possibly had a shot at winning. That was a good run and definitely provides you with some confidence going into the races after that.”

Ellenberger was awaiting a trip all season to his home track of Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania which is just a few miles from his shop. He was able to race twice in one night at the facility in July, as the annual Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup was “Twin Features” for the first time ever. The series was slated to return to the four-tenths-mile in September for the Commonwealth Clash, but Mother Nature was the winner that day.

“It was no doubt one of the races I was looking forward to most and it was a shame we only got there one time,” he said. “We were running good and had a few problems that night, and we were anxious to get back there that second time, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate with us. We know that’s part of the deal with the weather and we look forward to getting back there next year.”

With his shop in the Western Pennsylvania area, Ellenberger only made it home a few times over the course of the nearly 10-month season. Following the third annual World Finals at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway he was excited to head back north and spend some time with his family while beginning to prepare for the 2010 racing season, which is less than three months away.

“You get back home and hang out at the shop for a couple of weeks getting things ready and you always look forward to that break, but it’s not long before you anxious to get back out there doing it again,” he noted. “It sure does come around soon.”

The 2010 World of Outlaws season kicks off on February 5-7 with the 39th annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UHON at Volusia Speedway Park.

By the Numbers Brian Ellenberger 2009:
1- Penske Power Positions earned by Ellenberger this season, which goes to the third-place finisher in the feature event each night
2 Countries that the rookie driver competed in this past season- United States & Canada
3rd- Place finish at Dodge City Raceway Park to earn Ellenberger his career-best finish with the World of Outlaws
4- Top-10 finishes for the native of Butler, Pennsylvania this season; Drivers from the state of Pennsylvania that have earned the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award including Ellenberger
6- Times that Ellenberger raced in his home state of Pennsylvania this past season
10- Tracks on the 2009 schedule that he had visited prior to 2009
16.5- Average finishing position for Ellenberger in 2009
22- Car number for Ellenberger this season after switching from his traditional No. 20 in the past
24- States that he raced in this past season
29- Drivers that have earned the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award including Ellenberger
32- Tracks that Ellenberger visited for the first time in his career this season
6699- Points earned by Ellenberger this season to finish 11th in the standings
46,990- Dollars earned by Ellenberger this season