Never before the start of this season had Adam Hilton stepped onto the property of Freedom Motorsports Park. That did not stop the Buffalo-based driver from making some local racing history as Hilton emerged as Freedom's first-ever Outlaw Modified champion.
While Freedom has existed for many years, the Outlaw Modified class never competed there until current Freedom owner/promoter Bob Reis organized it this past offseason as his new weekly headlining class. It replaced the Crate Late Models that banished from Freedom's lineup due to ailing car counts.
Hilton moved up from the Sportsman class, where he spent the six previous years, to the Outlaw Modifieds for the division's inaugural season.
"The first time I ever saw the place (Freedom) was the first week out down there this year," Hilton said. "I'd never been there before in my life. I never even got down there with my Sportsman car that I had been running the last few years. Bob was bugging me to come down and finally this year I made the jump to the Outlaw Modifieds and we made that our home.
"But I've enjoyed racing all over the place in Sportsman. I think it makes a driver who he is and visiting all these different places sets you up for almost anything. Anything that you've seen before you're prepared for now. I've traveled quite a bit. This year I kind of wanted to take it a little bit easier and stick closer to home. I could go from Buffalo 45 minutes south to Freedom and see what we could do. My expectations were to finish top five in points and get at least one win and we did that but we were able to finish top five almost every single night. I think we missed the top five twice. So that goes to show you that our prep work in the garage goes a long way, along with having good sponsors, and a good crew behind me helps out a ton."
Hilton earned one feature win this season on his way to the Freedom title. Hilton is the son of soon-to-be retired driver Fran Hilton.
"It's my first championship that I ever won," Hilton said. "This is the first time we focused all of our effort on one single track and points championship. With Bob starting the new class it basically gave us the idea that 'Hey, let's try for this.' We started planning for Friday nights and doing what we needed to do to go for a points championship."
Hilton found that the relative affordability of the class was to his liking. In the Outlaw Modified class, teams can basically run either a big-block- or small-bloc- type engine and any brand of racing tires. Optional rear body sail panels can also be utilized for added downforce.
For this season, Hilton's team chose to go with a smal- block engine, sail panels, a Teo-brand chassis and American Racer tires.
"I got a Teo chassis with a Chevy small-block engine," Hilton said. "It's an open Modified motor. With the rules package that Bob built, there's lots of different motors you can run. We just got a small block that we can run against the big blocks."
Big blocks generally produce more horsepower but Hilton says that Freedom's smaller one-third-mile layout and tighter track configuration tended to put the small block power plants on equal footing.
"With the smaller size of the Freedom track I don't think motors matter too much," Hilton said. "The layout and design of the track I think its very comparable whether you have a big block or a small block. So we went the most cost-effective route, which was a small block but it's a bigger small block. The cost of rebuilding a small block was way cheaper then building a new big block. As far as tires, the American Racers didn't wear out all that much either.
"With the rules package Bob has, we had to run a harder American Racer and that allowed us to basically run one left rear tire the whole season. We changed the right rear tire once, that was it in the eight races we ran at Freedom this year. I think the Outlaw Modified rules at Freedom works for lower-budget teams because of the tire hardness and the track surface isn't abrasive at all. I love it.
"Also with the combination of the sail panels and the American Racer tires that have the harder compound and the softer sidewall construction I think it made the cars work better on that track."
Hilton's team also has a family connection to Buffalo News Sports Reporter Jay Skurski. Skurski's father and cousin, Dan and Jerry Skurski, are part of the pit crew. Also on the team are Hilton's brother and girlfriend, Aaron Hilton and Amber Demmin. Sponsorship comes from Roar Logistics and MVP Network Consulting.
One part of Freedom's season that Hilton did not enjoy: 50 percent rain outs. In an effort to make some of it up, Freedom will run a special Outlaw Modified/ULMS Super Late Model doubleheader at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We had about a month off straight this year because of rain and Super Late Model nights that we weren't scheduled to run so between the rain and the scheduled days off we had a month where we didn't hit the track once," Hilton said. "I don't want to complain about that and it did work out in our favor toward the points. The rain was tough just from the point of the fan support. We're there for the fans and when the fans aren't in the grandstands then Bob's not making any money. I know all the local tracks had rain issues this season."
One thing is for sure. Hilton is relishing his new championship and nothing will rain on that parade.
More champions crowned
Street Stocks: Jake Stefanski
SST Modified: Daniel Majchrzak
Super Stocks: Dave Krawczyk
4-Cylinders: Paul Flye