Hafertepe Jr. Returns to Victory Lane on Night One at Tulsa

Hafertepe Jr win at Tulsa David Smith Photo

By Spence Smithback

TULSA, OK (June 28, 2024) – For the second race in a row, Sam Hafertepe Jr. led all but one lap in an American Sprint Car Series National Tour Feature. He led the one that counted Friday at Tulsa Speedway though, taking the victory on the opening night of the Dirt Down in T-Town.

“Hats off to my guys, they work hard every week,” Hafertepe said following his fourth Series win of 2024. “We want to win, and it takes hard work and dedication. These guys are dedicated, and we really appreciate it.”

After setting a new track record in Qualifying and finishing second in the Dash, Hafertepe started on the outside of Dash winner Matt Covington in the Feature. A strong launch for Covington allowed him to move up in front of Hafertepe before the pair made it to Turn 1 on the opening lap, and he rode the top lane through the opening set of corners to lead the first circuit.

Covington’s time out front did not last long, as the No. 95 car slipped up and out of the groove exiting Turn 2 on Lap 2, allowing Hafertepe to sneak past on the bottom. The five-time National Tour champion made the most of the opportunity, as he built a lead of more than half a second by the end of the lap.

Just as Hafertepe caught the tail end of the field for the first time, Landon Britt got upside down in Turn 2 to rerack the field nine laps into the 30-lap event.

Covington looked to Hafertepe’s outside on the restart, but Hafertepe was quick to drive away once more and extend his lead to more than two seconds at the midway point.

Hafertepe quickly caught slower traffic once again at the quarter-mile bullring, which allowed Covington to get within striking distance of the leader with less than 10 to go. But before he had a chance to pounce, Hafertepe found another gear and powered away to a three-second gap at the checkers.

“The longer the race, the better,” Hafertepe said. “I feel like we stay going pretty solid in a long race and a lot of guys fade. I think that’s just one of our strengths.”

The 69th win of Hafertepe’s National Tour career came in his debut at the new facility. With more than 20 years of experience as a traveling Sprint Car racer, he had plenty of laps around similar venues to lean on entering the night.

“We’ve raced so many different racetracks in my career, a lot of times you just have a package that you start at with certain types of shapes of racetracks,” Hafertepe said. “Even if you haven’t been there, it usually gives you a good baseline. I felt like tonight, we had a good baseline to start, obviously we broke the track record. Yeah, there’s places to compare it to, but it’s usually a conglomeration of three or four racetracks into one.”

A key reason why the margin at the finish was so large was the battle for second taking place behind Hafertepe. Hank Davis made his way up from seventh and wrestled away the second spot from Covington in the closing laps for his fourth podium finish of the season.

Davis was a regular at Tulsa in the track’s 305 Sprint Car division before making his way into the 360 ranks, and he credited that experience as a key reason behind his strong run.

“I’ve probably got more laps than most everyone here,” Davis said. “Tried to use that to my advantage tonight. If we had started a little further forward, I think we would have been alright. Just had to work really hard to get past guys, and I think that hurt us.”

Covington raced through an illness to come home in the third spot. While he lost the second position in the standings to Hafertepe, he gained 10 points on leader Seth Bergman, who finished fifth.

“I’m not disappointed with a top five at Tulsa Speedway,” Covington said. “It’s not one of my best tracks. If we can pull off podiums at our not-good tracks, our season’s going good.”

The race was a co-sanctioned event with the ASCS Sooner Region, and they were well-represented at the front of the pack by Sean McClelland, who finished fourth for his best finish at the track with any series.

The Hard Charger Award went to Oklahoma’s own Blake Hahn, who used a Last Chance Showdown win to secure his spot in the Feature before driving from 16th to sixth in the main event.

UP NEXT: The Series returns to Tulsa on Saturday for the $6,000-to-win Dirt Down in T-Town finale. Fans will be admitted for $25 per carload, while those unable to make it to the track can catch every lap live on DIRTVision.

Feature (30 Laps): 1. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[2]; 2. 2C-Hank Davis[7]; 3. 95-Matt Covington[1]; 4. 1-Sean McClelland[5]; 5. 23-Seth Bergman[4]; 6. 52-Blake Hahn[16]; 7. 15D-Andrew Deal[9]; 8. 36-Jason Martin[3]; 9. 91-Michael Day[12]; 10. 5H-Harli White[6]; 11. 88-Terry Easum[13]; 12. 8-Alex Sewell[8]; 13. 2J-Zach Blurton[10]; 14. 16G-Austyn Gossel[18]; 15. 31-Casey Wills[11]; 16. 55-Johnny Kent[21]; 17. 45X-Kyler Johnson[15]; 18. 55B-Jordon Mallett[20]; 19. 26M-Fred Mattox[14]; 20. 20-Noah Harris[19]; 21. 938-Bradley Fezard[22]; 22. 10-Landon Britt[17]

The American Sprint Car Series was founded in 1992, comprised of regional races primarily in the Southwest region. It then went national in 1993 and has become the premier 360 Sprint Car Series in the country, while still sanctioning nine regional series that include 360 Sprint Cars, 410 Sprint Cars and Non-Wing Sprint Cars. ASCS is supported by DIRTVision, Hoosier Racing Tire, Racing Electronics and VP Racing.