Column By: BRETT HAAS / SPECIAL FOR RPW – PITTSFIELD, MA – Teamwork, dedication, sacrifice, a constant study of the competition, and an undying drive to win, that’s what it takes to end a four-year winless drought at Lebanon Valley Speedway.
My name is Brett Haas and I have been racing 358-Modifieds at Lebanon Valley Speedway since the 2013 season when the class re-formed after a several year hiatus.
As a former track champion in the Open Sportsman class, I was actually the first to take the checkers in the newly-formed division. Our racing program seemed to be right where it needed to be to be crowned a track champion again.
After a few more wins in 2014, with the biggest being on World of Outlaw night, I was beginning to think that winning at least a few times a year was the normal in our seemingly short season at Lebanon Valley. However, it wasn’t.
Now, fast forward to our 2018 season, when just a few weeks ago, I was able to wheel the Mildred Elley #55 to victory lane…four long years after my last win…the biggest of my career.
To say racing can be one of the most humbling sports is an understatement, and if anyone tells you differently, they’re flat-out lying!
As the 2015 racing season came to a close and we unloaded for the last night of racing, I had it drilled into my mind that we were going to win that night. I thought to myself “How can our team possibly go a season without a win? It’s never happened before.”
That night, at the drop of the green, the rear end in our car blew apart and my worst fear came alive. We had officially ended our season winless. I was devastated, but as any driver can relate, I felt I had let my team down.
The following season, 2016, brought us a second place points finish in the class. While second is no small feat, we again found ourselves missing the thrill of victory lane. It was at this point I could notice that this winless streak was taking a toll on my team, my marketing partners, and myself.
As the 2017 season came, we regrouped, made some changes to the program and set out to end that winless streak once and for all. Yet again, we came close to winning that season, but a lap car collision ended those hopes after leading ¾ of the race.
The frustration in our camp was at a boiling point, and we had to do something different. Racing simply wasn’t fun anymore. The routine of going to the track, working tirelessly on the car, and still not being able to close the deal started to become draining for myself and my team.
Don’t get me wrong, finishing on the podium year after year showcases the quality of my team. However, nothing can top the excitement of standing in victory lane, knowing you just beat a field of other drivers that spent hundreds of hours working on their cars to beat you and everyone else.
When the 2018 season rolled around, we geared up for a major change, with hopes for a fresh start. We switched to a new Bicknell chassis, and we aren’t looking back.
Since day one, this car has been quick, consistently setting fast times and placing in the top five each race. However, after destroying the front end of the car halfway through the season, we were unsure if we could pull it together to make it back for the following week.
It had seemed as if our bad luck streak was following us into the new year. However, my team and marketing partners came together, spending that entire next week working late in the garage and doing whatever it took to get the car rolling again. The #55 rolled out of the garage on Friday, ready to battle again on the high banks.
Deciding to come back was inevitably our best decision. We swept the next race night, winning our heat race, and then, finally, after four years, breaking our winless streak at Lebanon Valley.
I can’t even really describe the feeling as I crossed the finish line first after so many years. The best way I could possibly explain it would be like any drivers first big win…irreplaceable.
With so many factors that go into winning a race, I will be the first to admit, I took winning for granted and never thought I would be the one with a winless drought.
So one might ask what it took to get back to victory lane, especially after four years. I wish I could pinpoint the exact answer. However, I do know that after all the ups and downs, frustration, heartache, thousands of hours in the garage, researching, no one in my camp ever gave up or doubted we could do it. All of my marketing partners stuck by my side, and we eventually prevailed.
I don’t have any better advice for a driver going through a winless period in their racing career, other than to say nothing will get you back to victory lane other than hard work, dedication, support, and grit.
As racers we never know when our next win will come. They’re not guaranteed, but isn’t that what makes racing exciting?
I have to take the time to thank the backbone of the entire racing operation; my parents, fiancé, crew and marketing partners: Mildred Elley, MJI Transport, County Auto Wrecking, Bushey’s Pool City, Pittsfield Lawn & Tractor, RC Concrete, Munson Satellite, Dwyer Funeral Home, Bicknell Racing Products, Fast Axle, Gelinas Real Estate, Mac Tools – David Prime Jr. , Elm St. Barber Shop, Sanitary Septic & Sewer, Mezzie’s Variety, Brooks Lawncare, PTW Lawn Services, Boyd’s Motorworks,