Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – EAST GREENBUSH, NY – Six months. It’s been six months since fourth-generation pilot Bobby Hackel accomplished a lifelong dream.
That dream helped to validate every single hour of work and every bead of sweat he and his team has put into their racing program since day one.
At the end of August last year, Hackel powered his Lance & Jill Sharpe Motorsports #97 to victory lane in the DIRTcar Big Block Modified season finale at Lebanon Valley.
While he’s won plenty of times at tracks all over the northeast, capturing a victory in the Modified division at the Valley was an accomplishment which had eluded him for several seasons.
Now, he was able to finally check it off his bucket list.
While it has taken several months for it to finally sink in, Hackel now knows the task at hand for the new season ahead.
“Now that I’ve finally got one, it’s time to get another,” Hackel said. “We’ve got to build on where we left off, especially late in the season last year. From the point we got that win, through all of the late season events we attended, we were on the right track. We have to keep that momentum rolling.”
Obviously, momentum is key in this sport. However, so is knowing your equipment. Hackel understands the cars he races quite well as he’s employed by his chassis builder, PMC Race Cars.
How does building the cars he actually races help with his own program?
“Working at PMC has been huge for my racing career,” he said. “You never stop learning with your own cars and also working with your customers. My mind is on racecars all day and all night. Just being in that mindset always seems to help.”
It also must help Hackel’s frame of mind when his team is running well.
“It’s definitely pretty cool,” he said. “When you know you bent and cut and built every piece on your racecar, especially when you’re having success, it makes it that much sweeter.”
Over the years, Hackel and his teams have traveled to several events in states all up and down the East Coast. Recently, the East Greenbush, NY native had a lot of success during the inaugural Elite Series race for the Short Track Super Series held at Cherokee Speedway in South Carolina. He ran strong on qualifying night and was in the top 10 for most of the main event on Saturday before a flat tire late ended his good run.
Does the traveling that Hackel’s been doing help PMC’s brand as a whole?
“I don’t think it’s necessarily due to my traveling or anything,” he said. “The way I’ve always looked at that, in regards to the Modified world, is simply about geography.”
What does he mean by that?
“If you look at the Middletown and Accord region, you see a lot of Jerry Higbie’s HFC cars,” he said. “In states like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you see several Teo’s. For us at PMC, we’re 10 minutes from Lebanon Valley. Of course most of our customer base is around there. However, it’s awesome to see our customers running outside that area, and at different tracks. That can only help all of us improve.”
This season will see Hackel return to the high banks of Lebanon Valley Speedway on Saturday nights while also chasing the Short Track Super Series. He’ll follow the entire North region again as well as the six-race Elite Series.
His Friday night plans, however, are still undecided.
“That night is up in the air right now,” he said. “Racing on Friday’s is dependent on quite a few different factors. We will race Friday’s, but we’re not sure where or how much right now.”
Along with his family, two of Hackel’s biggest supporters are the husband & wife team of Lance and Jill Sharpe as well as Bob Godgart, owner of Killer Crate. What does it mean to have people like the Sharpe’s and Godgart behind his racing program as much as they are?
“Lance and Jill are a huge part of the team and basically the reason I’m back full-time at Lebanon Valley,” he said. “I’m lucky to have people like them and Bob supporting my dreams. Having the partners I do, a loyal crew and a family that donates so much into our programs is truly what makes us successful.”
Last season, Hackel finished a solid seventh in Short Track Super Series North region points while placing 12th at the Valley. He also finished 13th in points at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
While he had a win at the West Lebanon, NY oval, Bobby feels like there was still more they could have accomplished.
In his eyes, where does the Hackel team need to improve to get even better finishes?
“We have to be a bit more consistent on track and get rid of our DNF’s (did not finish),” he said. “If we keep our heads down and work hard, we can be a contender week in and out this season.”
Based on his performance during the opening round of Brett Deyo’s new Elite Series, Bobby Hackel and his team are pointed in the right direction to make 2022 a great year. With their continued hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck, the sky’s the limit for the young man this season.