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What Might Austin Do? Hubbard looks for home-turf win @ VMS


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What Might Austin Do? Hubbard Would Love To Celebrate Home-Turf Win In Commonwealth 100 At Virginia Motor Speedway

 

JAMAICA, VA - April 3, 2010 - Austin Hubbard has already delighted fans by celebrating his two milestone victories this season with an uninhibited Ricky Bobby "I'm on fire!" run down the homestretch wearing nothing but his fireproof socks and long underwear.

 

So just imagine what the 18-year-old World of Outlaws of Late Model Series sensation from Seaford, Del., might do if he wins the national tour's inaugural Commonwealth 100, a blockbuster $120,000-plus event scheduled for April 16-17 at Bill Sawyer's Virginia Motor Speedway.

 

Cashing a $25,000 check for capturing the biggest dirt Late Model program in the history of the gorgeous half-mile oval where Hubbard launched his racing career – that would absolutely, positively send the talented teenager into a show-stopping emotional state.

 

"Oh, man, the Commonwealth 100 is definitely at the top of the races I'd love to win this year," said Hubbard, a high-profile WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contender who won his first-ever tour A-Main on March 20 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. "Virginia Motor Speedway is where I started racing, I know all the guys who work there real well and it's always been my favorite track. Winning an inaugural event there would be so exciting."

 

But how exciting would it be for Hubbard? Does he have a post-race celebratory routine planned that will get the crowd roaring at his hometrack?

 

"Honestly, I haven't really thought it through to that extent yet," conceded Hubbard. "We have to worry about doing what we need to do to win it first – but I'm still hoping for some (celebration) suggestions from anybody who has an idea."

 

A victory in the Commonwealth 100 would put a perfect cap on a rapid rise to dirt Late Model fame for Hubbard, who just five years ago made his competitive debut in VMS's steel-head Late Model division as a short, skinny 13-year-old. Alterations actually had to be made to Hubbard's car so he could reach the pedals and see over the hood.

 

"I was like four-feet-10 (inches tall)," recalled Hubbard. "I had, like, a crate under my seat to get me up higher, and we welded rods in front of the brake and gas pedals to make them longer so I could work 'em. We even had to build the (front) deck down like three inches so I could see better.

 

"Going out and racing at Virginia Motor kind of scared the crap out of me at first," he continued. "It's such a big, wide-open track. It can be pretty intimidating for a young kid starting out, but it gets all the fear out of you and definitely teaches you how to be in the gas."

 

Hubbard has certainly learned the art of mashing the throttle well. No one will dispute that he now ranks as one of the circuit's hardest chargers – although it's a different type of aggressiveness than he displayed while cutting his teeth at VMS.

 

"You might not believe this, but I've calmed down a lot," smiled Hubbard. "I used to be wild, just in the gas. I just trashed race cars for two years straight. I mean, there's no spot on the walls of that track (Virginia Motor Speedway) that I haven't hit – including the pit gate. I hit that thing head-on once.

 

"About a year-and-a-half in (to his racing career), everybody was down and out about me. Everybody was ready to quit. My dad (Mike) was like, 'I can't do this anymore,' and I can't blame him. It seemed like I was trashing a car every week. Any sane person would be like, 'This is ridiculous. You do not belong doing this. This is not what you should be doing.'"

 

Finally, midway through the 2006 season, Hubbard's father parked him for two weeks of action at VMS. It was an experience that Hubbard took to heart.

 

"They put me out of the car for two weeks and I hated it," said Hubbard. "I had kind of taken everything for granted before that – you know, thinking, I'm gonna wreck the car, they're gonna fix it and we'll just go back again the next week. But I realized that's not the way it was gonna work.

 

"I just buckled down after that. I told myself, 'I'm gonna make this work.'"

 

After showing marked improvement in several starts late in the 2006 campaign – in one race he went from dead-last to second place until spinning while bidding for the lead – Hubbard became a serious contender in '07. He won his first feature at VMS in a runaway in just his third outing of the season.

 

"That first win was definitely a surreal moment in my racing career," said Hubbard. "I got out of the car, stood up on the roof and me and my dad hugged. We had raced three years and had so many bad races, had so much bad luck, and I had made so many dumb mistakes – it was just so great to finally get that first win."

 

Hubbard went on to capture four more races and the track's Late Model points championship in 2007. He spent the next two seasons expanding his horizons with more travels to special events along the Eastern seaboard and turned plenty of heads – maybe none more than veteran team owner Dale Beitler of West Friendship, Md., who decided to buck conventional wisdom by hiring the fast-rising youngster this year to replace 2007 WoO LMS champion Steve Francis behind the wheel of his familiar white-and-blue No. 19 machines.

 

Hubbard has quickly provided Beitler a payback for his confidence. Through six WoO LMS A-Mains he has three top-three finishes and ranks a solid fourth in the points standings, making it clear that he deserves to be in the discussion about drivers capable of winning the Commonwealth 100. He'll be inexperienced in long-distance events compared to the star-studded array of racers who are expected to produce the most talented dirt Late Model field ever assembled at VMS, but he's precocious enough to pull off a huge triumph.

 

"I ran four 100-lap races last year," said Hubbard, whose century-grind starts included the prestigious World 100 (he's the second-youngest driver to qualify for the event), the Dirt Track World Championship, the Colossal 100 and the Buckeye 100 at K-C Raceway. "I have a lot to learn about running them, but I know the most important thing is that you gotta be good with your tires. I struggle with that a little bit, but I guess that's part of being young and learning."

 

"Hopefully we'll be able to put everything together (in the Commonwealth 100)," he continued. "There definitely should be some good racing all the way through it. I think the track will be real racy for a 100-lapper because it's usually so heavy at the beginning of the night, and by the end of the night there's a good cushion up top and a nice groove down bottom. It could be one of the best races of the year."

 

And it could perhaps be Hubbard's best race of 2010 if he reaches the checkered flag first.

 

"We've lost some races at Virginia because of bad luck," said Hubbard, particularly thinking about a Fall Classic event that saw him blow a motor while leading by a commanding margin. "So maybe the place owes us a couple and we can get paid back in the Commonwealth."

 

More than 60 drivers have already entered or made plans to compete in the Commonwealth 100, which kicks off with time trials and qualifying heats on Fri., April 16. B-Mains, a 30-lap Non-Qualifiers' Race paying and the headline 100-lapper take center stage on Sat., April 17. A raindate of Sun., April 18, has been established for the event.

 

Competitor gates will open each day at 3 p.m. and spectator gates will be unlocked at 4 p.m. There will be a BB&T 'Meet and Greet' autograph session with the WoO LMS drivers from 5-6 p.m. on Saturday, and on-track activities will begin both days at about 6:30 p.m. with hot laps.

 

Boasting the third-largest first-place check of the season on the WoO LMS, the Commonwealth 100 offers $2,000 just to take the green flag. Add in the Non-Qualifiers’ Race that pays $3,000 to win from a purse of nearly $16,000, and the weekend's payout will be in the neighborhood of $125,000.

 

The Commonwealth 100 winner will also receive a unique prize in addition to the $25,000 booty and race trophy: a Civil War general's hat. The headgear will be put on the victor in Victory Lane by a group of costumed Civil War reenactors, who will recall the area's rich history by participating in pre- and post-race activities that include multiple ear-splitting cannon and pistol shots.

 

Fans from 19 states and Canada have ordered tickets for the weekend. Two-day tickets are $50 (adults) and $20 (children 7-12), while Saturday-only general admission is $40 (adults) and $15 (children 7-12). Kids 6-and-under will be admitted free for the weekend, and two-day pit passes will cost $50.

 

Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway is a half-mile dirt oval located on U.S. Route 17 in Jamaica, Va., eight miles north of Saluda and 25 miles south of Tappahannock. The speedway, which boasts spacious 8,000-seat aluminum grandstand, beautiful sponsor suites, MUSCO lighting, a pit area treated with a tar-and-gravel mixture and over 20 acres of parking, is just a short drive from the Richmond, Fredericksburg, southern Maryland and Hampton Roads areas.

 

For more information about the Commonwealth 100, visit www.vamotorspeedway.com or call the speedway office at 804-758-1VMS.

 

Info on the WoO LMS is available by logging on to www.worldofoutlaws.com.

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