One piece of advice about racing will always stick with Johnathan Haburcsak.
Haburcsak, an 18-year-old competing in the Somerset Trust Fast N’ Furious 4’s at Pennsylvania’s Jennerstown Speedway, never finished better than fourth in his first season of racing last year. One day he was talking with Jennerstown late model driver Garry Wiltrout, who told Haburcsak, “The first one is always hard to get, but the rest of them are easy.”
It took a full year, but Haburcsak was able to get that first one on June 25, when he visited Victory Lane at Jennerstown in the ninth race of the season.
“I did it. It was amazing,” Haburcsak said of the first win. “I just kept saying, ‘I did it, I really did do it.’”
Wiltrout’s advice seems to have had some truth to it. Jennerstown – a NASCAR-sanctioned half-mile oval track in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania – hosted a doubleheader on July 2-3. Haburcsak finished sixth on July 2 and won on July 3.
He picked up his third victory of the season July 16.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” Haburcsak said. “I still can’t believe it.
“From a driver’s standpoint, no they were not easy to win, but I kind of see what he meant though, once I got my first one.”
Getting that first win helped get the monkey off of Haburcsak’s back, and now he’s working towards his other goal this season. He came into the year hoping to finish in the top-three in Jennerstown’s Somerset Trust Fast N’ Furious 4’s division points standings. As of July 16, he’s in first by 29 points.
In the latest NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division V National standings, Haburcsak is in third place.
“I think it’s going pretty good,” Haburcsak said of his season. “It’s definitely more than what I expected out of this season… I’m doing pretty good for what I have.”
Now in his second season of racing, Haburcsak said he’s gotten much more familiar with the car and how it drives at his home track.
“I feel a lot more knowledgeable, a lot more mature in my car than I was my old car,” he said. “Keeping a line and sticking to it, not being all over the race track and staying consistent… Just knowing how to keep a steady wheel.”
Haburcsak’s dad, John, also raced, and helped other drivers when his son was younger. Haburcsak said he learned from his dad, “Definitely just how to stay calm and don’t drive over your head,” he said.
“Be a chaser. Don’t let everyone chase you or you’ll mess up,” he added of advice from his dad.
Racing is a full family event for the Haburcsaks. The young driver also receives help from his mom and girlfriend, and other friends and racing families he’s grown up with.
“It’s an honor, really,” he said. “I’m really blessed to have all of them.”
He races with sponsors Oshea’s Candies, Tony’s Subs, Shane Shaffer Heating and Air, The Wicked Googly, Down Home Kitchen, Glade’s Pike Winery, Habits Beer and Tobacco, GJCTC, and Roman’s Pizzeria.
“It’s really nice. If it wasn’t for them we definitely wouldn’t be able to race this year,” he said.
He also races in honor his cousin, Sgt. Bryan Haas, who died while serving in Afghanistan, and Libby, a 3-year-old cancer survivor and friend to the Haburcsak family.
Since Haburcsak has been able to find success this season, his goals have grown slightly. He started the year hoping for one win. Now midway through the year, he said, “I’m going to try and get five wins now,” while making sure to keep the top-three – or better – in the Jennerstown championship in reach.
Jennerstown Speedway, which became a NASCAR-sanctioned track again this year, took the $50,000 prize as the winner of the Advance Auto Parts Advance My Track Challenge earlier this summer. NASCAR racing will return to Jennerstown on July 30, with Late Models, Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Street Stocks, Chargers, Fast 4s and Enduros.