RPW Column: In 2020, Brett Haas Knocked On The Door; In 2021, He Kicked It In; What Does 2022 Hold?

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – GAFFNEY, SC – The 2021 racing season was a changing point in the career of second-generation driver Brett Haas.

Before last season, Haas was an upstart looking to make his mark on the Modified world. By the time the year was over, he had cemented that mark.

In his second full-time season running a Big Block Modified at the Lebanon Valley Speedway, Haas and the Dave Prime-owned #55 team had a career year. While they didn’t make their way to victory lane at the Valley of Speed, the team was a consistent frontrunner and came within a mere 24 points of taking the division championship.

That’s not to say he didn’t win during the season, however. The #55 did visit one of the most hallowed victory lanes in all of Modified racing when Haas won the Underdog 33 at Fonda Speedway. That event was part of the Short Track Super Series’ Fonda 200 Weekend and was a big moment in their development as a team.

Even without a checkered flag at the Valley, however, did Haas believe it was a successful season?

“Without a doubt in the world it was successful,” Haas said. “I had the confidence to run and compete with these guys. My team believes that if we don’t run well, we digs deeper and work harder to pinpoint why. I’ve got the best crew in the business.”

After a rookie 2020 season that saw his team reach victory lane, did the Pittsfield, MA native have any expectations for this past year?

“It was still only our second year in the class, but our initial plan was to finish top 10 in points,” he said. “We had quite a few misfortunes in 2020. Broken motors, a broken rear end, tires exploding during features and all kinds of dumb luck stuff. We won, but weren’t in the hunt. We wanted to change that.”

Did things change?

“We started to have consistency,” he said. “Then, instead of just the top 10, our goal quickly focused on a top 5 spot in points. About ¾ of the way into the season, we set our sights on the top 3 and, heading into the last night, we were in position to capitalize. With the great year we had, we had the chance to potentially take home our first Big Block points title. It was amazing.”

Finishing third in points was a major accomplishment for this young team, but one that has left Haas wondering what could have been.

“We had a little too big of a point deficit to cover unless the two guys (champion Andy Bachetti and second-place Marc Johnson) had really bad final nights,” he said. “We didn’t really start firing until a quarter of the way into the season. By that point, Andy already had four wins. However, we never gave up and kept plugging away.”

Believing you can run well is one thing. Actually going out and performing is another, and that’s what the 55 team did in 2021.

“I knew we were capable of doing something like that,” he said. “We wanted to have the success, and hopefully do so quickly, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I think once we get our first Big Block title, I might be able to step off the gas pedal for a second and maybe take a quick breath. Until then, my drive won’t stop and neither will my team’s.”

This season, the Haas team will start with two brand new racecars in their shop. Does he think doing that will help add to his career win total and achieve the crown at the Valley?

“I think we will be even stronger,” he said. “We learned a lot running the Short Track Super Series in 2021 that’ll translate into speed at the Valley. Last year’s car for Lebanon was a 2018. With a new car this season, we should be in good shape.”

The Dave Prime Mac Tools #55 will once again run the West Lebanon, NY oval this year while also following the Short Track Super Series again. The team will chase the North Region championship and hit some of the early season South Region shows.

They will also chase the entire ‘Elite’ Series that promoter Brett Deyo has put together for 2022. How does Brett feel heading into the new year, knowing he’ll be starting his third year in Big Blocks running an event that pays well but is at a track he’s never seen before.

”It’s the ultimate motivation to make sure you come out of the box firing on all eight cylinders,” he said. “I put the same amount of pressure on myself no matter what track we run. Whether I race there weekly or have never been there in my life, we give it 110%.”

Is he ready?

“I’m excited for this season,” he said. “I can’t wait for it to finally begin this weekend at Cherokee and continue to build our program. I want this to be one of the strongest teams in Dirt Modified racing.”

Brett Haas has his foot on the gas, no matter what he does. In life or in racing, he’s ‘on’ all the time. For 2022, the next phase of his driving career begins this weekend in Gaffney, SC at Cherokee Speedway.

If the last two seasons are any indication, I doubt anyone will be surprised if they see the 55 pull into victory lane after the Rebel 50 on Saturday night, set to cash the big $25K check.

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