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Holtgraver hits road in search of continue success

Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Sprint car driver (D4) Danny Holtgraver charges forward during heat laps at Lernerville Speedway in Buffalo Township during the 2012 season.

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The Holtgraver file

Age: 23

The skinny: Holtgraver lives in the North Hills and drives the No. 45 Sprint Car in the All-Star Circuit of Champions, which race around the country and Canada. He is joining a prestigious group of Lernerville Speedway Sprint Car champions Dale Blaney, Brad Doty, Rod George, Ed Lynch Jr. and Timmy Shaffer, who have ventured out and toured the nation with the best of the best.

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By Thomas Zuck
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

Danny Holtgraver got a taste of the road last season. Now, it's about to get serious.

Holtgraver, the 2010 Lernerville Speedway Sprint Car champion, opened his career as a full-time touring member of the All Star Circuit of Champions this past weekend. Wednesday night, with the start of the 42nd DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, not far from Daytona International Speedway, he embarks on his dream.

“Last weekend before we left, I walked into the garage, and it was like, ‘wow',” Holtgraver said. “This is something my dad and I have been working on since we started this. It's been 18 years in the making. We have everything we need to be successful, but now it is up to me. This is my eighth year in a Sprint now, and I just have to work as hard as I can.”

Holtgraver is in Bryan Grove and Rob Hunter's No. 45 car that Paul McMahan drove to a fifth-place All Star finish in 2012. McMahan has moved on to the No. 51 car. The team is based out of Fremont, Ohio. A key piece of the puzzle for Holtgraver is crew chief Brian Kemenah. Kemenah and Holtgraver had a loose association last season, and now it is official. That pleases Holtgraver.

“We (Grove and Hunter) talked through the year, and then Paul got into the ‘51' car, so it worked out,” Holtgraver said. “Brian is with me, and he has been since Knoxville last season. He's one of the best there is. One nice thing is that Brian doesn't put pressure on me. We're able to communicate really well. He's been doing this for over 30 years, so he knows what he is doing.”

One danger of going on the road as a touring member of any series is being part of an ill-equipped or under-funded team. That is not the case for the ‘45' car.

“We have three cars, two are complete, and one is sitting ready,” Holtgraver said. “Hopefully, we will not need that one. In the hauler, we have everything we'll need when we are out on the road.”

Racing last week in Georgia was rained out, so the team headed south to Ocala, Fla., to Bubba Raceway Park for two nights. Donny Schatz won both races Friday and Saturday. Holtgraver made both features; he finished 12th on Friday and 15th on Saturday.

“The first night at Bubba we won the heat and finished 12th in the feature,” Holtgraver said. “It was an All Star show, but there were enough Outlaws there that it could have been one of their shows, too. This week we have the two shows at Volusia to really start things off, and if things go well, we'll maybe stick around for some more of Speedweek. We won't push the issue, though.

“Right now, the plan is to run the All Stars and to run 15 to 20 World of Outlaws shows, as long as they are close,” Holtgraver said. “Dad is working on our own car for some of those nights when we have nothing going, so I will be back home for some races. We also have a 360-Sprint and will run that a few times because I need as many laps as possible.”

Holtgraver won three All Star features last season, including Lernerville's All Star show Sept. 3, and finished third in Ohio Speedweek, so he knows he can win. It's just a matter of surviving the grind of the road.

“Of course I am going to go out there to try to win a championship, but if we win a couple All Star races, are consistent in points and not beat up our cars, I will be happy,” Holtgraver said. “I'd also like to get a World of Outlaws victory.”

In his career, Holtgraver has teamed with his dad, Big Dan, and the past few years, Danny has leaned on four-time defending All Star champion Timmy Shaffer. That dynamic has changed.

“Dad has been with us in Florida, but it is different now,” Holtgraver said. “He's happy that I'm with a great group of guys. I don't think with Tim that it will change that much. We hang around a lot and are good friends off the track. I know he is going to race me hard, and I will do the same. I think he is happy for me because he helped me so much the past few years and he has watched me from the beginning when I first got into a Sprint Car.”

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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