From Lonnie Wheatley
BEAUMONT, Texas (March 4, 2011) – Sam Hafertepe, Jr., returned to his roots by racing to victory lane in Friday night’s season-opening Smiley’s Racing Products ASCS Gulf South Prelude to the Gulf Coast Nationals at Golden Triangle Raceway Park.
Working his way forward from the eighth starting position in the $3,000-to-win affair, the 2003 ASCS Gulf South Rookie of the Year chased down Wayne Johnson in lapped traffic on the 25th of 30 laps en route to his fourth career Gulf South score and eighth overall ASCS triumph aboard the Fisher-powered PlumbFast Racing/Lone Star Speedway No. 15h Maxim.
“Lapped traffic kind of played into our favor, I got Wayne into a tough spot where he had to lift and I got the right of way through there,” Hafertepe explained of the race-winning move. “Without that, I don’t think we could of got him, Wayne had a little better car.”
After racking up the most passing points by rallying from seventh to second in the night’s first of five heat races for the stacked 37-car field, Hafertepe pulled the eight pill in the redraw to start fourth row outside with Sean McClelland and Kevin Ramey on the front row.
With five combined Regional titles in Sooner and Lone Star competition leading the way to the green flag, reigning ASCS Sooner Region champion McClelland gunned into the lead at the outset and paced the initial circuits with fourth-starting Johnson moving Travis Rilat’s Shark-powered F&J Construction/Murray & Sons/shoptheboss.com No. 29 Triple-X into second before the first of two red flags flew after four laps.
The first red flag appeared for a three-car tangle in turn two in which Bruce Crockett got upside down, with the second red flying another four laps later when two-time series champion Brandon Berryman took a turn one tumble.
Up to fifth behind McClelland, Johnson, Ramey and George White by the time the second red flag flew, Hafertepe had to gain the remaining positions without benefit of caution as the final 22 circuits ran off in non-stop fashion.
Johnson immediately went to work on McClelland for the lead when action resumed, snaring the point in turns one and two on the tenth round with Hafertepe surging past both White and Ramey to take third by the 12th round.
With traffic coming into play, Hafertepe took second away from McClelland on the 21st round and then began to reel in the leader. When Johnson slipped high into the turn three and four cushion on the 25th circuit in traffic, Hafertepe was there to pounce with a power move to the low side exiting turn four and raced into the lead.
The 25-year-old Hafertepe raced on to the checkered flag, with Johnson settling for runner-up honors aboard the familiar Rilat entry. “We just kinda lost the car at the end, a bleeder went bad in the left rear and we just couldn’t get any drive off the corners,” Johnson explained.
After pacing the early circuits, McClelland settled for the show position in the Maxwell Oil No. 1, explaining that, “I just drove the wrong lines, screwed up a little bit, just wasn’t good enough.”
Transferring from “B” Main action, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon worked from the 17th starting position and rallied in strong form over the final circuits, taking fourth from Ramey on the final round. “I could see all of them right there, I just needed a caution or a few more laps.”
Ramey rounded out the top five, with 13th-starter Michael Dupuy, George White, Michael McNeil, 19th-starter Aaron Reutzel and 20th-starter Chris Sweeney completing the top ten.
Berryman, White, Channin Tankersley, Jeffrey Newell and Ramey topped heat race action, with John Pate and Derek Hagar winning the “B” Main.
The Smiley’s Racing Products ASCS Gulf South Region moves on to Battleground Speedway in Highlands, TX, for Saturday night’s $3,000-to-win Fourth Annual Gulf Coast Nationals, with racing action set to go green at 7:00 p.m.
Smiley’s Racing Products ASCS Gulf South Results from Golden Triangle Raceway Park:
First Heat (8 Laps): 1. 31-Brandon Berryman, 2. 15h-Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 3. 25m-Michael McNeil, 4. 14e-Tommy Bryant, 5. 17c-Greg Coleman, 6. 96-Rod Craddock, 7. 17-Bruce Griffith, Jr., 8. 66-J.J. Simmons.
Second Heat (8 Laps): 1. 10-George White, 2. 29-Wayne Johnson, 3. 94-Derek Hagar, 4. 3x-Michael Dupuy, 5. 8x-John Carney II, 6. 21T-Ray Allen Kulhanek, 7. 51s-Beau Smith, 8. 49-Ty Johnson.
Third Heat (8 Laps): 1. 71-Channin Tankersley, 2. 2-Wes Miller, 3. 12b-Logan Bledsoe, 4. 36-John Pate, 5. 5c-Chris Coker, 6. 69-Larry Howery. DNS: 3-Gary Watson.
Fourth Heat (8 Laps): 1. 11-Jeffrey Newell, 2. 35-Greg Rilat, 3. 51-Jimmy Brooks, 4. 93-Chris Sweeney, 5. 99-Brady Bacon, 6. 15T-Travis Elliott, 7. 19-Klint Angelette.
Fifth Heat (8 Laps): 1. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 2. 1-Sean McClelland, 3. 8-Bruce Crockett, 4. 2$-Steve Hubbard, 5. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 6. 64j-Johnny Miller. DNS: 40-Junior Jenkins.
First “B” Main (12 Laps): 1. 36-John Pate, 2. 99-Brady Bacon, 3. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 4. 12b-Logan Bledsoe, 5. 5c-Chris Coker, 6. 15T-Travis Elliott, 7. 19-Klint Angelette, 8. 51s-Beau Smith, 9. 17c-Greg Coleman, 10. 96-Rod Craddock. DNS: 66-J.J. Simmons, 3-Gary Watson.
Second “B” Main (12 Laps): 1. 94-Derek Hagar, 2. 51-Jimmy Brooks, 3. 93-Chris Sweeney, 4. 21T-Ray Allen Kulhanek, 5. 8x-John Carney II, 6. 64j-Johnny Miller, 7. 2$-Steve Hubbard, 8. 40-Junior Jenkins, 9. 17-Bruce Griffith, Jr., 10. 49-Ty Johnson, 11. 69-Larry Howery.
“A” Feature (30 Laps): 1. 15h-Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 2. 29-Travis Rilat, 3. 1-Sean McClelland, 4. 99-Brady Bacon, 5. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 6. 3x-Michael Dupuy, 7. 10-George White, 8. 25m-Michael McNeil, 9. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 10. 93-Chris Sweeney, 11. 35-Greg Rilat, 12. 14e-Tommy Bryant, 13. 2-Wes Miller, 14. 94-Derek Hagar, 15. 11-Jeffrey Newell, 16. 36-John Pate, 17. 31-Brandon Berryman, 18. 8-Bruce Crockett, 19. 51-Jimmy Brooks, 20. 71-Channin Tankersley.
Smiley’s Racing Products ASCS Gulf South Region Points (Top Ten): 1. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 150, 2. Travis Rilat 142, 3. Sean McClelland 135, 4. Brady Bacon 130, 5. Kevin Ramey 125, 6. Michael Dupuy 122, 7. George White 119, 8. Michael McNeil 116, 9. Aaron Reutzel 113, 10. Chris Sweeney 110.