By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
ROUND ROCK, Texas — Rarely does a driver make his initial entrance in any division, especially one as filled with talent as today's Factory Stock class has become, and outgun seasoned veterans for the points championship. I mean, natural talent and good equipment or not, the odds say it can't be done.
Just don't tell that to 31-year-old Adam Haugh, the 2020 Gunslinger Factory Stock champion at Cotton Bowl Speedway. The second-generation asphalt racer from Round Rock somehow managed to beat veterans Tim Homeyer and Steve Sims for the coveted crown, impressive for his first season on dirt.
“I think the reasons we did so well this year were having a great car, and paying attention to the details during the week,” Haugh said. “My career had been kind of stagnant for a while. When we made the decision to go dirt racing, we wanted to do it right. It's mostly my Dad and I, he is a huge part of this.”
Haugh is one of those rare cases where the transition from pavement to dirt has been seamless. For most, the different driving style and constantly changing track conditions extend the learning curve.
“I was really nervous at first when I realized how many heavy hitters run this division,” Haugh added. “But I think we finished fifth in our first race, so that gave me a ton of motivation. It showed me I can run with these guys, and we worked hard enough in a short, 10-race season to secure that points title.”
In 10 starts this year, Haugh earned one victory, eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He bagged that crown by a mere three points, yet the records will still show him as champion. It was a dream season.
“To be very honest, we had no intention of running for points this year,” Haugh explained. “I think we finished third our second time out, and I said to my Dad we may actually have something for them here. We do this for fun, but we also try to get the best results possible. This year was very satisfying.”
Having good equipment has become essential for success in today's ultra-competitive Factory Stock division. When Haugh and his Dad got ready to have a car built, the decision was not taken lightly.
“Once the decision was made to compete in Factory Stock, we looked at all of our options,” Haugh explained. “On asphalt, I always had the best luck with fresh, new equipment. So I made up a sheet with four or five companies, and listed what drivers were winning big races in what brands of cars.
“The more research I did, the more I saw how Justin Whitehead's Outlaw Race Cars were doing very well around the state every week. So I found an old 1985 Olds Cutlass in nice, street-legal shape. My Dad and I stripped it all down, took it to Justin's shop and two months later, picked it up as a roller.”
The acquisition of that new car was about to transform the former asphalt driver into a dirt champion.
“It is a really nice, well-built car,” Haugh added as he described the horse that carried him to fame. “It was like a Masterpiece when we first got it home. My first thought was, I sure hope I can drive this thing, or I'm going to look pretty stupid. We put our engine and transmission in it and got it wired up.
“It was really cool how it all came together. When I first took it out, my Dad said to go easy so I just shook it down a little and tried to get a feel for it. I brought it in, we checked it all over, and he told me to step it up a little the second time out. So I got after it, and the thing was very fast and handled well.”
That confidence in his equipment was evident from the moment the season began, and lasted all year.
“I just wish we could have earned a few more wins,” Haugh said. “With all that talent showing up at Cotton Bowl, from veterans like Homeyer, Sims and Don Painter, to invaders like Dalton Faulkner, it is very tough to land in Victory Lane. We finished second more than I'd like, but it was behind top guys.”
Once he rolled out onto the dirt oval, he quickly found out how drastically different it is from asphalt.
“It's always a challenge to read the ever-changing track conditions,” Haugh explained. “We always wonder if the surface is going to dry out, or if it's going to stay tacky. We look at when our division goes out to predict what conditions will be when it's our turn. We always go in with some type of plan.
“We know if the car behaves in a certain way what we're going to change to improve our performance. Our lack of experience on dirt hurt us, as did only having 10 points races this year. The pandemic hit our sport hard, yet Mary Ann did a super job at getting Cotton Bowl up and running. I'm truly grateful.”
Along with his immense natural talent behind the wheel, Haugh has a few key people working hard behind the scenes to keep his racing program on track.
“My family is about as supportive as I could ever ask,” Haugh explained. “I need to thank my parents, Brian and Lucy, for all they do for me. I could never do this, nor would I want to, without them involved. The quality time we spend together is beyond priceless. It's what we all love to do.
“I also want to thank my girlfriend, Amanda Tarpley. She puts up with a lot from me all season long. I have a couple of other racers who help out when they can, and I sure appreciate the help they provide. No driver can win races or a championship alone, it takes devoted people. I'm blessed to have them.”
Haugh also has a few valued sponsors that contributed to his amazing title run at Cotton Bowl in 2020.
“I want to thank Justin Whitehead at Outlaw Race Cars, Cedar Park Lock & Key, and Wicked Fast Transmissions. Without them, we would not have enjoyed this level of success. They made it happen.”
With that title in his resume and a desire to learn more about dirt racing, Haugh will travel in 2021.
“Next year, we'll probably do a little traveling around so I can learn new tracks and work to find more speed in the car,” Haugh concluded. “When you race for points, it limits you on what can do with your chassis setup. Once you get dialed in for one track, you don't waver much since points are so crucial.
“I don't really enjoy points racing, it's pretty stressful and can really take the fun out of hobby-level racing. So in 2021, we'll venture out a bit and have some more fun while we learn. This dirt racing thing isn't half bad after all.”