Sanborn has reason to be confident, too.
“Race 101 has really stepped my game up and taught me a lot,” said Sanborn, a native of Parsonsfield, Maine. “If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here.”
Sanborn accepted a position at Race 101 back in January, working full-time on race cars in the shop during the week and piloting Race 101 house cars on the track on select weekends during the season. After winning some 15 Super Late Model features in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway over the past nine years, as well as competing regularly on the PASS North Series and PASS South Series, Sanborn was looking to improve.
Chas Howe of Howe Racing Enterprises first introduced Sanborn to Blanchard in 2010. Sanborn ran the Race 101 house car in a 400-lap event at historic North Wilkesboro Speedway last April, and the two hit on a working relationship that ended up with Sanborn full-time at Race 101.
Sanborn is committed to driving at least a half-dozen races in the No. 101 Pave-Tek/SaveSpeed4TheTrack Chevrolet in 2012, beginning Saturday at Hickory.
“The last few years have been about helping young racers learn," said Blanchard. "We created the RACE 101 school, and I'm very proud of what we have accomplished.
"It's time to go and contend to win races again, and we plan on starting (this) weekend."
“Tony teaches. That's what he does so well,” Sanborn said. “And he knows so much about race cars, it's unbelievable.
Sanborn, who has two career PASS South victories, believes a third could be in the cards as early as this weekend. The team has tested several times at Hickory over the last couple of months, and the car is better than the one Sanborn drove to a second-place finish at the track in his one and only appearance there back in 2007.
But working on the cars and testing them himself, Sanborn said, does carry some amount of pressure.
“It's great to go to the track and test at different tracks once a week. It's awesome. You get paid to work on the car, and we've been preparing for Hickory for months,” Sanborn said. “There's some pressure, but I don't think Tony doubts me at all... I think we have a really good car. I want to get the win for myself and for everyone involved, but I really want to get it for (Tony). He deserves the recognition, and Race 101 deserves it, too.”
Hickory is unlike Sanborn's home track at Beech Ridge back in Scarborough, Maine, but it's one that he has a particular affinity for. He believes the layout suits his driving style.
“I like that it's a drivers' track. It's not like a Beech Ridge, where you can't overdrive it there,” he said. “Hickory, you can be up on the wheel and go. There are some tracks like that – Unity Raceway in Maine is like that. I love to race at placs like that. It reminds me of that. It's rough. It's tight on one end. It's a driver's track.”
And a driver with some confidence, like Sanborn, and the backing of Race 101 could prove a tough combination to beat this weekend.
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