RPW Column: For Lebanon Valley Racer Brett Haas, Racing’s Huge, But Priorities In Life Are Key
Column By: DYLAN FRIEBEL / RPW – PITTSFIELD, MA – When it comes to the Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, NY, you have household names in Big Block Modified racing.
The ‘King’ of the Valley in Kenny Tremont Jr, Andy Bachetti and even Brett Hearn up until 2019.
With those stars either aging out or going to run elsewhere it has become a real question as to who would step up and accept the “Torch Passing” as continuing the legacy of great races at the high banks.
Over the last few years, one name has been from just over the hill into Pittsfield, MA.
That name…Brett Haas.
Haas finished second to Bachetti in 2022’s point chase by a mere 16 points during only his third full season in a big block modified and looks to cement his name as a Lebanon Valley regular you should be scared of.
The only difference between his 2022 campaign and Andy’s is the win column.
“It boils down to we need to go out and win,” Haas said. “The past two years it has been that win. What gives Andy a leg up on everyone? He’s comes out of the box in the first month the past two to three years and gets a gap on everyone else. Where we fire is more the middle of the season. At that point we are playing catch up. We need to come out of the box a little stronger and start clicking off wins to get over him.”
The jump from small block to big block competition can be tough for anyone at any track, it’s no different at the Valley of Speed, however Haas has found immediate speed in the car but you need some luck sometimes on the high banks.
“We have the speed, do not get me wrong,” he said. “However, when we are always starting 11th to 15th and it is not being a redraw early in the season it’s tough. You need some things to fall your way and some luck here. We have speed in the car, just not the extra that we need.”
With the new found success in the big block class, it seems that Haas has kind of just burst onto the top division spotlight, but that is far from the truth.
“The competitor in me said it would happen this fast and wanted it this fast because of how hard I work and how much it consumes my life,” he said. “I spend so much time researching and thinking and preparing, everything in my power to make this happen. I also look at it and say nothing is guaranteed.”
With legends such as Tremont, Bachetti and Eddie Marshall, to have your name in that conversation week in and week out is humbling to say the least.
“Running with those guys is a totally different league,” he said. “It’s a totally different preparedness to run competitively. It puts stress and pressure on your team, crew, family, marketing partners because it takes so much to win. Our first year in 2020 we got a win but we just did not have the equipment to do it. We broke and only had four top 10s. We were not fully prepared for it.”
For those who are with Haas on a normal basis, it does not come as a surprise his success on the track.
“If you were to ask my wife this same question, my parents or anyone who spends a lot of time with me, they would have the same answer,” he said. “Sure it’s a ‘shock’ to have someone new come into the big blocks and run with those guys. In the same breath with how much time I spend thinking about this stuff and working to make it better. I spend a lot of time talking to the right people, getting knowledge.”
It is not just one thing that makes for a successful race, let alone a successful season and the newcomer to the big dogs at the top of the track never loses sight of that.
“We chased Andy in the small blocks,” he said. “I know what it takes to beat him and be competitive. It’s not just the setup. It’s being prepared in the shop, being organized in the trailer, having crew members that are willing to bend over backwards for you. Having marketing partners like Dave Prime that love the sport and want to help you out.”
In recent years Haas has ventured out onto Brett Deyo’s Short Track Super Series. While they do not run any tracks like Lebanon or even the same tires, there are always lessons to be learned when it comes to getting more and more seat time.
“There’s no magic setup,” he said. “You see these guys running weekly tracks or all over and you think there is some magic setup, There isn’t. Once you start racing with these guys, you realize there’s none of that.”
Has Haas been able to use his Valley experience to his advantage on the road?
“Our Valley setup won’t necessarily transfer to any of these tracks,” he said. “It will get you close but close will get you 15th place. You’re racing against such good guys, you need a good car to win on a weekly basis. You learn to attack a corner differently, how to not get into guys as much.”
Racing on the Short Track Super Series is not for the weak, It’s cutthroat and the best of the best that the northeast has to offer. Haas knows it.
“We were looking at the sign up sheet from Orange County last year,” he said. “Half, if not more, of the guys signed in were champions at their weekly tracks, whether small or big block. You may roll into these places thinking you are hot stuff at your local track but you’re not when 35 out of the 60 guys also think that as well.”
One thing that has changed as well in the last few years for Brett & his wife, Abby, is that they welcomed their son, Brody, to the world. When you have a kid, it can change a lot.
“The time I spend in the shop is different,” he said. “If I was spending five nights a week there getting the car ready and obsessing over it, it’s only two now as I want to spend the time with Brody and Abby. If i had an hour to research things for the race car now i only have half an hour so i can have that time. It puts things in perspective as to what’s important. Racing is still high up there but I also want to set a legacy for Brody of ‘That’s my dad, wow.’ something he can be proud of.”
They say you always want better for your kids then what you had growing up. Well, in the Haas family, that’s some big shoes to fill.
“I want Brody to start his own racing career and have his program set,” he said. “I want one that he can go into and is better then what my parents gave me and what they gave me was unbelievable.”
Haas would love to say he’s got the next driver in the family growing up right now before his eyes.
“I want to keep that generational thing going,” he said. “Having him growing up at the track and hearing him say race car all the time he sees one is awesome. You may have a bad night at the track, feeling like you’re letting people down. However, at the end of the day, Brody doesn’t care. Seeing how excited he is to be there it makes everything a little easier.”
With the changes being done to Lebanon Valley this off-season, including the removal of the berm on the inside and more room added to the bottom of the track, Haas was a fan. However, he wasn’t able to use all of the rework in last Saturday’s practice session.
“I was a fan of the work they’ve done,” he said. “With how fast we go, the corner get narrow really quick and you don’t have a lot of room. You can’t run the wall like you can at Port Royal because the top of the wall tapers off a little bit. That’s why I was a fan of widening it out.”
Impressions after the maiden voyage?
“Saturday, they just didn’t have the time beforehand to prep the bottom so we didn’t go down there,” he said. “It felt more like a regular Lebanon Valley. I look forward to seeing what they do with it this Saturday and the season.”
Everything looks up for Pittsfield, MA driver Brett Haas to take the spot as Lebanon Valley’s King of the Hill for a year in what is one of the toughest tracks in the Northeast. He’s quietly putting the pieces in place to make that push for the big end of the year trophy.