Sam Hafertepe Jr. – King of Spring at Devil’s Bowl!

Sam crosses the finish line to sweep the weekend at Devil's Bowl (Carey Akin/ Photo)

Sam crosses the finish line to sweep the weekend at Devil’s Bowl (Carey Akin/ Photo)
From Bill Wright

March 20, 2017 – Sam Hafertepe Jr. and the Keith Dobbs #15H team took all the hardware last weekend at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway Springnationals in Mesquite, Texas. The defending ASCS National champ picked up where he left off in 2016, leading every lap of Friday’s prelim, before putting on a show to win Satruday’s finale. The series next heads to Randolph County Raceway near Moberly, Missouri Sunday.

The Sunnyvale, Texas driver drew a starting spot outside row four of his heat race. “We had a little bit of a break in the heat,” says Sam. “Sammy (Swindell) hit the infield tire, and that gave us another row. We really weren’t that good in the heat though. We came back after that and changed some stuff for the Qualifier.”

The fourth place finish meant starting outside row two of the Qualifier. “We were really good at that point,” says Sam. “We were able to get up to second, and that put us on the front row for the feature. I felt really confident about us winning at that point, as long as nothing stupid happened.”

Starting up front was a big factor for Sam on Friday. “The track was really heavy,” he says. “It really would have taken a miracle to be able to pass. It wasn’t very wide on Friday. We took the lead at the start and we were able to cruise. It was nice to get that first win of the year under our belts.”

The win meant being locked into Saturday’s finale, but Sam kept himself occupied with double duty. “Mike Melton was nice enough to give me a ride in the 305 car there, so we kept pretty busy on Saturday,” he says. “I’d like to thank him for that. We ended up winning that feature by quite a bit after starting seventh, but we were light at the scales.”

He would draw a three to start inside row two for the ASCS finale. “We were fastest in the hot lap session with the four guys that were locked in,” says Sam. “We felt really good about that. We got out of the 305 and had five minutes to get ready. We made a quarter turn of adjustment for the feature.”

Sam dropped back when the green fell. “We were definitely too tight early on,” he says. “I fell back to about sixth early. About lap four or five, I was able to get by Wayne (Johnson) for fifth. The caution came out, and I was able to get by (Seth) Bergman and (John) Carney on the restart. I shoved my wing as far forward as I could to try to get the car settled down. Carney got back by us and I rode behind them for a while.”

He started to hit his groove at that point. “We were able to follow Carney by (Justin) Henderson, and our car got better and better as the race went on,” says Sam. “It was still heavy, but it was a lot wider than Saturday. We had a long green flag run there and we got into traffic. Johnny (Herrera) had been running the bottom of one and two and he was making it work a lot better than some other guys were.”

Sam decided on a different route. “I stayed on top, because I knew that’s where we were going to need to be, and that’s where Carney was too,” he says. “I knew the bottom would eventually go away. We got to traffic and Johnny made a wrong move. Carney got by him on the outside to take the lead. I followed Carney around there and messed Johnny up in turn four. I slid him in one and two and got to second.”

All that was left in front of him was Carney. “We were still in traffic and I reeled him in,” says Sam. “He made the same mistake Johnny did trying to run the bottom in traffic. I stayed on the top and drove around him off of two. Two laps later, I think he blew a right rear and that took him out of contention. I think we had a restart with six to go and ended up winning by over three seconds. It was a lot of fun, and gives us some confidence heading into the next race.”