2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Justin Henderson For as long as he can remember, Justin Henderson has lived and breathed sprint car racing. Since the time he first strapped into a race car, it was his goal to...
2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Justin Henderson
For as long as he can remember, Justin Henderson has lived and breathed sprint car racing. Since the time he first strapped into a race car, it was his goal to compete with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. He has had that opportunity the last two seasons and will again embark on the full campaign with the series in 2008, beginning with the 37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida.
Henderson began his season a couple of weeks ago by competing in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, followed up by a trip to Australia for two nights of racing at Tyrepower Parramatta City Raceway last weekend, where he competed against a number of fellow Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series drivers. He was sixth and eighth during time trials in the two events with a star-studded field of over 50 cars on-hand each night.
"It was a blast racing in Australia, getting to see things I had never seen before," Henderson said. "It was great being with the R19 team again. It had been a while since I had sat in one of their cars. The tracks there are different so it doesn't totally correlate to what we are doing in Florida, but it's definitely a good warm up."
The off-season has gone by fast for the former Huset's Speedway track champion as he has been busy not only working in the shop in Kansas, but also working on the business side of the team. With a schedule that stretches from February until early November, it takes full preparation on every level to be ready for the World of Outlaws season.
"We worked pretty hard over the winter, putting together the stuff that we had," said the native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "We've been working hard also at trying to find sponsors."
Henderson finished 16th in championship points last season on the strength of 14 Top-10 finishes. He led a number of laps at the famed Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona and also paced the field at Cedar Lake Speedway in Wisconsin, en route to a career-best third-place performance. With just as many cars expected this season to compete full-time with the series, Henderson expects every night to be just as competitive as last season.
"It will be just as tough this year, if not tougher," he noted. "We lost a couple of cars, but we have back some pretty strong cars. With all the people coming out, it may even be tougher this year than it was last."
Henderson now has two full years of experience with the World of Outlaws under his belt and has become accustomed to most of the tracks on the schedule, along with how much they can change over the course of a night. He will visit a handful of tracks this season that were not on the schedule last year, including Dacotah Speedway in Mandan, North Dakota, Billings Motorsports Complex in Billings, Montana, Gillette Thunder Speedway in Wyoming, Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica, Virginia and Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, California.
"I feel comfortable at most of the tracks," he stated. "At the end of last year, we started to figure out Williams Grove (Speedway, in Pennsylvania) which is one of the tracks that had given us fits. That alone will make a huge difference this year, going into Williams Grove with confidence. We figured out Eldora (Speedway, in Ohio) as well and got to the point where we can run up front and stay up there."
Henderson will have his dad Rod turning the wrenches again this season, as well as building the teams engines. His father also will drive the team's truck, making him one of the busiest people in the pit area. Last season Justin always had strong engines as he did during his rookie season of 2006 as well thanks to his dad, but was plagued with bad luck on other areas of the car, especially tires.
"We just have to keep our tires up this year," Henderson shared. "We had a problem with flat tires last year. I think we had 13 low or flat tires last year, and that gave us a lot of DNF's (did not finish). If we can take that out of the equation, we'll be a lot more consistent."
Henderson will get to race at two of his home tracks this season a couple of times each, as the series will visit the high-banked Huset's Speedway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in April and again in June, as well as making two separate trips to the famed Knoxville Raceway in Iowa for three nights of action.
"I love racing at Huset's (Speedway)," he said. "We have a lot of friends up there and a lot of people that I don't get to see all year long. In the winter I really don't spend that much time in Sioux Falls, so it's nice to see all of our friends and fans."
Henderson will continue to be one of the most hands-on drivers on the series, as he will help his dad maintain the cars throughout the season. With a very aggressive schedule planned this season for the World of Outlaws, Justin and his father Rod will stay busy, but being true racers, there is nothing they would rather be doing.
"You are out there working on the car anyway, so you might as well race," he said of the nearly 85 race schedule. "It won't be any tougher than it was last year."
With the experience he has gained over the course of the last two seasons, Henderson is ready to hit the road again this season. While he has a number of on-track goals for 2008, he is focused on the business side of the race team before they hit the road for Florida.
"The main goal this year is to come up with a budget to do it right," said the second generation driver. "If we do it right, I think we can be in the Top-12 or Top-10 in points."