Drivers Ready to Embrace the Challenge of ASCS Speedweek

Story By: SPENCE SMITHBACK / ASCS – CONCORD, NC – The most grueling week in 360 Sprint Car racing lies ahead for the American Sprint Car Series National Tour, as ASCS Speedweek is back on the schedule for the first time in two years.

The week begins Tuesday, June 11 at Texarkana 67 Speedway in Arkansas, where the Series is returning after a one-year absence. A day off on Wednesday will allow teams to get refreshed for a three-night stretch to end the week at Creek County Speedway (June 13), Arrowhead Speedway (June 14) and Tri-State Speedway (June 15). Friday, June 21 will be used as a rain date in the event of any inclement weather during the week.

Racing four times in five days is a tough test for any race team, but especially those with a smaller budget and limited resources.

“It’s only me and one crew guy,” said 19-time National Tour winner Matt Covington. “So, even though I’ve got a lot of experience doing it, it’s still a challenge running that many races. A guy gets worn out from the late nights and being out in the sun so many days straight.”

With more than a decade of experience on the National Tour, this year’s Speedweek certainly won’t be Covington’s first rodeo, a factor that could give the No. 95 team an advantage over their less-experienced opponents.

“There’s things that I’m more fluent at now,” Covington said. “Things don’t take as long, I know where the car washes are, I know things run smoother because I’ve got 10 years of experience going up and down the road. So, that may make it a little bit easier. But we’re still a little undermanned with only one crew guy and trying to run all those races. There’s no question it’s going to be tough.”

Another driver with plenty of experience to lean on is five-time ASCS National Tour champion and two-time Speedweek champion Sam Hafertepe Jr. Fresh off a win at Dodge City Raceway Park, Hafertepe will have four opportunities to gain ground on points-leader Seth Bergman next week.

“The heat usually gets the guys pretty bad, because usually that time of year down south it’s pretty warm,” Hafertepe said. “As long as you keep all the guys hydrated and don’t have any big wrecks, motor blow-ups or anything like that, it’s not too tough of a week. But if you start having problems, it can make for a long week for sure.”

Of the full-time ASCS National Tour drivers set to compete in the Speedweek, Hafertepe is the only one who would be a repeat champion. For every other driver, it would be their first.

There have been five different champions in the last five editions of ASCS Speedweek – Tim Crawley (2022), Ryan Timms (2021), Hafertepe Jr. (2019), Sammy Swindell (2018) and Aaron Reutzel (2017).

All drivers agreed that the key to success during the week is being as prepared as possible before it begins. One driver currently learning that is Terry Easum, who will tackle Speedweek for the first time in 2024 amidst his run for the National Tour Rookie of the Year Award.

“Lots of preparation, tire work, having people ready to work is our big thing,” Easum said.

Easum calls Broken Arrow, OK home, located close to several tracks he will visit during the week. Easum said he has the finale at Tri-State Speedway circled on his calendar, and for good reason – he’s a two-time podium finisher there with the Oil Capital Racing Series.

“We’ve raced there quite a bit,” Easum said. “It’s usually pretty slick and wide like we like. It should be fun. But all of them are pretty racey.”

Next week will also mark 17-year-old Ryder Laplante’s first crack at Speedweek. While nothing can fully prepare a team for racing a Sprint Car night after night other than doing just that, Laplante does have similar experience in other divisions he can lean on.

“I’ve done it with NOW600 a few times, we’ve been out to California once or twice,” Laplante said. “Race your butt off every night, it’s a lot of work, but it takes a lot of motivation too.”

The final three races of the week at Creek County, Arrowhead and Tri-State will be co-sanctioned events with the ASCS Sooner Region.