For the Potomac News
& Manassas Journal Messenger
David Quackenbush showed considerable improvement in points in Late Models at Old Dominion Speedway this season. Quackenbush, a 19-year old Lorton resident, cracked the top 10 in points for the first time with an eighth-place standing for the year. He finished 14th last season.
“I feel real good [about it],” said Quackenbush, who came up with four top fives and 10 top 10s this season. “I would’ve liked to have done a little bit better. But it was an improvement from last year.”
Quackenbush, in his third year in Late Models, would’ve done even better in points if bad luck hadn’t come his way early in the season. He started the year with a new Hedgecock car but finished a disappointing 20th, 23rd and 14th. He was 19th in points after three races.
In the first race, Quackenbush qualified well with a seventh and was running in fifth when he had a flat and went two laps down. The next week, the brakes went out on Quackenbush in qualifying and he hit the fence and the team never quite got the car right for the race. In the following race, Quackenbush spun and the battery went dead and he had to get a push to re-fire the engine as he went five laps down.
“We had a pretty bad couple of weeks,” he said.
Then, Quackenbush turned his season around with a fifth-place finish in a 75-lap race the first of May. He started on the pole and took the lead for 35 laps but then bad luck returned when a red flag came out and the bleeders on Quackenbush’s tires malfunctioned.
“When the bleeders in the tires get to a certain pressure, the tire will bleed down,” Quackenbush said. “But during the red flag, they hung open and let all of the air out of the right-side tires. The car was pretty awful after that.”
Quackenbush still got a fifth out of the race. He also led for the first time in Late Models and the night gave him some momentum for the next 10 races. In fact, he collected three top fives and six top 10s in those contests.
“We kind of turned things around,” said Quackenbush, who captured the Virginia state championship in go-karts in ’98 and won nearly 100 races during his five years in go-karts. “I was happy about leading the race and running good that night.”
Quackenbush ran decent for the remaining races, with only one bad race, a 21st. He still had some problems. He got caught up in wrecks a couple of nights. Once, his motor overheated in a 200-lapper and he had to pull in. And in another race, he had yet another flat tire.
Quackenbush, however, did accomplish one of his two goals for the year by collecting a top 10 in points. He also wanted a win and although he came close in the early May race, the car was never quite strong enough to cross the checkers first.
“We could just never get the car real good on a consistent basis,” Quackenbush said. “My dad does a real good job but we need another person to help us with the car’s set-ups.”
Quackenbush pointed out how every night in which he ran a top five this season, he and his dad had someone with expertise helping out. Several nights, they had Herman Gant, former crew chief for Frank Deiny Jr., on board. And Jay Hedgecock came up the night that Quackenbush almost won his first race.
“That kind of proves that another set of hands and eyes would make a big difference,” said Wayne Quackenbush, David’s father (and a former sprint car racer) who added that his son needed a better-handling car to win this year. “I think David’s good enough to win races at ODS and if I can get him a little better car and he gets a little more experience, I think he can [win there].”
Wayne Quackenbush said that his son’s strengths as a driver are that he doesn’t overdrive the car or make stupid mistakes. “He’s doesn’t get real excited,” Wayne said. “And he uses his head pretty well and doesn’t do anything stupid. In the three years that he’s been at ODS, he really hasn’t caused any stupid wrecks. Next year, I would certainly like to get more help with the car if I could get some sponsorship help in addition to what I’ve got.”
Running up front against strong drivers this season improved Quackenbush’s confidence. He also improved with his ability to give better feedback about what the car needed. Quackenbush figures he’s another season away from running really well.
“Most of the guys I’m racing with have been doing it for at least eight or nine years,” he said. “And it feels real good to run up front because a year or two ago, they were lapping me every night. Now, I’m racing up there with them.”
Quackenbush is hopeful he’ll not only get a win in 2003 but a top six in points. “We’ve got a good car,” he said. “And I think I’m capable of running up front.”
It’s October and Quackenbush is already looking forward to next season.