Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – PITTSFIELD, MA – What a way to celebrate a birthday. Turing 26 years old on Tuesday, Brett Haas is on the verge of being able to live out a dream he’s had since watching his father race Street Stocks at Lebanon Valley.
In 2020, Haas will get to a Big Block Modified, of his own, with his own name on the roof. He’ll have the opportunity to chase Rookie of the Year honors, and checkered flags, at the Lebanon Valley Speedway, barely 20 minutes from his home.
Haas has tested the power of a Big Block on a couple of occasions, first in 2012 during practice in Paul Gilardi’s car and most recently in 2018 behind the wheel of Kolby Schroder’s back-up Teo. However, those instances weren’t in his own piece. Now, he’ll get that chance.
Haas and his family-owned team will have the new Lebanon Valley engine that carried Matt Pupello to victory last season on the High Banks at their disposal. The engine was built by “Motor Mike” Petrucci, and the young racer is excited for his chance to run a Big Block full-time.
“I can’t wait for next season,” Haas said. “This has been a long time coming.”
Haas won’t be utilizing the car he ran at Lebanon Valley last season with the engine, however. That car, the one he drove to three wins and a second place points finish in the Small Block Modified division, will remain race-ready with a Small Block bolted between the framerails.
“JR Heffner was selling his Bicknell that was almost identical to ours,” he said. “It had limited time on it so we decided to buy it and will use it as our Big Block car.”
The young driver knows that this coming season is going to be a tough one, for sure, but feels it was time to see if the Big Block class was in his future.
“It’s going to be an expensive year, but being able to put together a motor deal like this helps,” he said. “This was our chance to finally test the waters.”
Being that this engine is still in its infancy, does Haas have any expectations for the motor program?
“I know Mike Petrucci takes pride in whatever he does,” he said. “I’m expecting the motor to be a very solid piece. I look forward to giving both Mike and Howard (Commander, owner of Lebanon Valley Speedway) feedback and hopefully help show how this motor can be affordable, and competitive, at the Valley.”
Now, as stated, Haas will keep his car from last year as a Small Block. He and his team have plans to compete with both cars each week in 2020. Even with all of the excitement brewing around his run at the Big Block class, his focus will remain the same as this past season.
“We know it’s going to be a lot more work this year, both during the week and at the track,” he said. “However, our absolute first priority is the Small Block. We had a team meeting and everyone is on board with that plan.”
What’s it going to be like for Haas and company to run two cars a night?
“Preparation will be key,” he said. “No matter what, we will be fully prepared each week. However, we need to find a rhythm at the track with working on both cars. We don’t want to have any oversights.”
Even while he knows his 2020 season will be busy, Brett is keeping things in perspective.
“Our objective is to be competitive, but also have fun,” he said. “Nobody on the team wants to lose sight of that.”
Based on his record the last few seasons, and his statement that his primary focus will be the Small Block program, getting as many wins as possible and competing for the Lebanon Valley championship is obviously Brett’s goal for that car. However, what does he see as goals for the Big Block?
“I would be ecstatic with a win, for sure,” he said. “However, I also want to be realistic. If we don’t get to victory lane, I’d be happy with a few top 5’s or top 10’s.”
2020 has the makings of a breakout year for Brett Haas. He came just a handful of points shy of his first Small Block Modified title this past year, so that objective is within reach.
Could he also add his name to the list of Big Block victors? We’ll have to wait and see, but I wouldn’t count it out.