32-year-old dirt racer Sam Hafertepe Jr feels he’s too old for NASCAR; Tony Stewart feels something is broken
At 32-years-old, Sam Hafertepe Jr is the defending Lucas Oil ASCS National Champion. He pilots fire-breathing dirt sprint cars, chasing dirt track all across the country.
He has 692 races under his belt. Of those, he’s made 55 trips to victory lane and 320 times he’s finished inside the top-10.
But, Hafertepe hasn’t spent his entire career on the dirt. Between 2004-05, he ran 4 pavement races. Of those, his best finish came at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville where he ran 13th. One of those races he was involved in a crash and another he suffered electrical mechanical issues.
Did you ever want to run NASCAR?
“I’m too old for that now,” Sam Hafertepe Jr stated at the Texas Motor Speedway media center.
“Obviously, when I started out younger, that was your goal. Everybody wants to do that.”
“Reality hits you pretty quick. I probably didn’t have the desire that I needed to have as a younger guy, like Bell and Larson did. Not to say that I have near the talent that they do. But, that’s what you need. Have have to have the desire and know what you want to do at that young of an age. I didn’t have that then. I probably didn’t reach that until I was 22-23-24.
“After I finally got serious about it, I became a lot better.”
Tony Stewart is sitting next to Sam behind the podium. He doesn’t like the sound of what he just heard.
“It’s kind of a shame that guys in their early 30’s feel like their too old to do this. It’s a shame that our sports got to a spot where you gotta be a teenage to even have an opportunity to drive in NASCAR anymore,” Tony Stewart jumps in on the topic.
“You got guys that actually put in the time and put in the work and effort like Sam has. And Sam — I’ve seen him first hand put that time and effort into it.”
“Then he gets the results that he’s worked for and can’t even get an opportunity because he’s technically too old. It’s crazy.”
This week at Texas Motor Speedway there’s a banner that highlights 4 rookie drivers. At the same time, the rookies aren’t doing shit right now in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The veteran drivers are dominating the sport in 2018.
“I don’t know that it matters to me because I’m not one of the dogs in the fight. The stats prove that you don’t have to be a teenager to win races. The guys that have experience are the guys that have won the races this year,” Tony Stewart continues.
“I think it’s absurd for anybody that’s under the age of 16 to be driving a full sized race car. When society doesn’t even trust you to drive your mom to the grocery store, two blocks away at 30 mph.”
“This is one of the guys that I know deserves an opportunity to try and see if he can do it at this level,” Stewart refers to Sam Haferepe Jr. “And there’s other guys I know in open wheel racing that I know deserve the opportunity. But, because their not a teenage, they’ll never get an opportunity.”
“We’re on some silly craze that you gotta be a teenager to do this. I’m not really sure why that is.”
Sam ran 4 races in the ARCA Racing Series.
Did you enjoy it?
“It’s nothing like a sprint car. But, I did enjoy it. It was good for me,” Sam Hafertepe Jr explains.
“We dabbled in it a little bit. The reality is, if you don’t have the money behind you to do it correctly, you’re probably not gunna go anywhere.”
Note: As you all read that I’m sure many asked, ‘Why doesn’t Tony give him a shot? He owns a four car MENCS team.’ That’s really not the way it works. A shot does not come with a top team right from the get go. A shot is defined as a back marker MENCS team, a truck series team, an Xfinity team or even an ARCA team that puts a new driver in a car. Stewart has an Xfinity team, that seat is filled by Cole Custer.