Date: April 20, 2008
About: Hank DeLonjay - Class of 1973
DeLonjay Racing Team Shifting Gears
To the untrained eye, nothing is different in the modified class at Quincy Raceways this spring.
The No. 35 modified machine is still circling around the quarter-mile track toward the front of the pack -- winning the April 6 trophy dash and finishing second in the heat race on opening night.
The differences are difficult to determine until the car stops. Then a noticeably younger figure emerges from the cockpit.
It's not modified mainstay Hank, who won 10 track titles, behind the wheel.
Rather, it's his 16-year-old son Steven DeLonjay. Hank hung up his helmet for the last time last season at age 53 after 30 seasons at Quincy Raceways.
After putting in two seasons of seat time in the now defunct hornet class, Steven has earned the keys to his father's modified.
It is a plan that has been in the works since Steven was six years old.
"I was trying to get him interested in helping me and getting more interested in racing," Hank said. "I kind of told him then, 'You come out here to the garage, help me and as the years go and you get old enough I'll put you in the car.' He held his end of the deal because he's been helping me all long."
Steven paid his dues in the hornet class for the past two seasons, winning a pair of track championships in his first two seasons as a driver.
With the DeLonjay family already owning a modified vehicle -- and Hank possessing years of experience and the parts for the car -- the modified class was the obvious next step for Steven.
The biggest difference this year is how Steven, a sophomore at Quincy High School, adjusts to driving a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Steven's hornet the last two years, like most four-cylinder cars, was front-wheel drive. Those vehicles push up the track, making them difficult to turn.
"You jump in a modified and it's quite a bit different," Steven said. "As soon as you tap the brake and get into the gas, the rear end just wants to swing around -- totally the opposite of pushing. The rear end wants to swing around on you. You really got to counter steer the other way. In the hornets you never did that. You were just turning left the whole time."
Besides the different steering habits, everything else is pretty much the same with the No. 35 car this season -- even with a different DeLonjay manning the modified.
"The only difference is when we go to the track, I'm the one out on the track and he's the one on top of the truck watching," Steven said.
"... Both of us are out there every night working on the car, just like normal -- just like it always was."
It should also come as no surprise that their driving styles are eerily similar, since Hank has been tutoring Steven since he started. Hank could only think of one major difference between the two.
"Steven is very level-headed," Hank said. "I'm kind of a hothead and I can blow up and lose my head out on the racetrack. (Steven's) totally the opposite of me when he can keep his head out there. ... I definitely see a big advantage there."
Hank is hoping Steven can concentrate on his own driving, rather than worrying about what the other cars on the track are doing in his rookie season in the modified class.
"I'm trying to stress to him to go out and race the track -- think of them cars as all of them are the same," Hank said. "... Do what I've been telling you to do and not think of racing individuals - just race the race track. If he can keep that in his head, he'll do all right."