Texas driver arrives in Somerton on verge of ASCS National Tour title
By:Randy Hoeft @YumaSunSports
A racing event is scheduled this weekend at Cocopah Speedway.
A coronation is also in the works.
The Somerton oval will host the final two races of the 2016 Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series National Tour for 360 winged sprint cars Friday and Saturday nights, and in the process crown a first-time series champion.
Heading into the show, Sam Hafertepe Jr., from Sunnyvale, Texas, is in position to win the 2016 title, his first in the series. He will hit the track on Friday night with a more than comfortable, 240-point lead over Albuquerque, N.M., driver Johnny Herrera.
“As long as we show up and get into the show we’ve pretty much got it locked down,” Hafertepe said from his home in Texas on Tuesday before he and his team hit the road for Somerton.
“Cocopah is one of those places that I think that our car will be really strong,” Hafertepe continued. “The kind of surface like Cocopah has, we’ve been really good on those surfaces throughout the year, so I feel that going in there we definitely have the advantage.
“It’s a place we look forward to because a lot of people struggle on sandier surfaces, so we feel like if we can get there and do what we’ve been doing all year, if we focus on just trying to get a lot of grip built into the race car, if you get it prepped correctly, I feel like it’s one of those places that could play into our hands.”
The Friday-Saturday show marks the first appearance of the ASCS National Tour at Cocopah Speedway since November 2014.
The program will also feature the Carlyle Tools ASCS Southwest Region contingency.
The first race both nights begins at 7:30.
The last time the ASCS National Tour was in town, Jason Johnson, from Eunice, La., came from 67 points out of first place to win an unprecedented fifth series championship. He arrived in fourth place, without having won a feature all season long, and won the Friday night show and finished second on Saturday night to lock up the title.
It is unlikely that anyone will surge to the top and catch Hafertepe, however, because quite frankly the Texan is on a roll, having won twice and finished second once in his last five outings.
And for the season, Hafertepe has certainly strung together championship caliber credentials, including a National Tour-leading eight feature event wins, 26 top five finishes and 31 top-10s in 35 feature event starts.
“We’ve had a better year before, when we used to run 410s,” Hafertepe, 31, said, “but as far as what we’ve been able to accomplish, as far as the championship and the wins and everything like that, overall I’d say it’s one of my better years for sure.”
Following the 2016 campaign Hafertepe said he figures on running for another National Tour title in 2017.
“That’s our game plane, to continue on with the ASCS, keep on doing more of the same we did this year,” Hafertepe said, “and where we lacked this year, trying to improve on those, and hopefully we can have an even better season next year. We want to have a more dominate car next year.
“This year we saw some scenarios where we could be better, and we feel like if we can get better in those certain areas we could have a more dominate car next year.”
Hafertepe is not the only driver gunning for a championship trophy this weekend, however.
Rick Ziehl, from Las Cruces, N.M., comes to Cocopah Speedway as the leader in the race to the 2016 ASCS Southwest Region championship. He arrives with a slim, 17-point edge over Colton Hardy, from Phoenix.
After racing at Cocopah Speedway the ASCS Southwest Region will wrap up its season Nov. 25 and 26 at Arizona Speedway.
Ziehl, it should be noted, has won every ASCS Southwest Region championship since the region’s inception in 2008.
SPARE PARTS: Cocopah Speedway is located at U.S. 95 and County 15th Street; the general admission gate opens at 5 p.m; first race is at 7 p.m. Tickets are: adults (13 and older) – $16; adult military with ID – $14; senior (55 and over) – $14; children 12 years old and under – free (main grandstand); family pass (two adults, four children) – $30; Skybox – $30; pit pass – $30 (per person). Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.cocopahspeedway.com or at Cocopah Wild River or at the main gate on race day. Fans can get live racing lineups during the races and results afterward by going to www.cocopahlive.com. Fans can also access live in-race scoring and lap times by going to mylaps.com. For more information call 344-1563 or go to www.cocopahspeedway.com.