Rollie Helmling of Vincennes, Ind., who provided top-flight race cars in the early careers of drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and John Andretti, among others, is returning to the ranks of USAC car owners this year with Campbell, Calif.
Rollie Helmling of Vincennes, Ind., who provided top-flight race cars in the early careers of drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and John Andretti, among others, is returning to the ranks of USAC car owners this year with Campbell, Calif. driver Bud Kaeding. Kaeding, the 20-year-old son of legendary racer Brent Kaeding, will drive the #44 CarQuest Auto Parts for Helmling and co-owner John Andretti in the April 7-8 Coors Light Silver Bullet Series event at the Nazareth (PA) Speedway. The two car owners also co-own several CarQuest Auto Parts outlets. "I missed it too much," commented Helmling, whose last outing as a car owner was with Stewart in the 1993 USAC Midget Car ranks. "I think Bud has tremendous potential, having won seven races on his way to last year's USAC Western Sprint Car championship, plus his success on the dirt. He's well qualified for the Silver Bullet series." Andretti, whose roots obviously lie in Nazareth, is assisting the Helmling effort in 2000 and drove Rollie's Midget Car to a runner-up finish in the 1985 USAC National points. Five years later, Jeff Gordon won the USAC title in the Helmling machine, although they lost the car owner's championship by two points! "I want a USAC champion's ring," says Helmling, who got the Silver Bullet bug working on J.J. Yeley's car last after having been heavily involved with Donnie Beechler's runner-up point finish in the 1997 series. "Nazareth presents a unique challenge for all of us," adds Helmling. "The uphill, downhill nature of the course, with different corners and a very long straightaway presents interesting setup and race strategy situations. We have two new Beast Chassis and our Chevrolet engines were built by Jones Engineering in Washington (the same engine builder involved in the Gordon and Stewart Midget campaigns). "I'm always looking for promising young talent," says Helmling. "I take tremendous satisfaction in helping them build and expand their careers and look forward to working with Bud, who contacted me late last year." Having provided winning cars for the likes of Gordon, Stewart, Andretti and Kenny Schrader speaks volumes for the Helmling operation. During Rollie's Midget Car career, his cars won two "Night Before the 500" classics, 2 "Hut Hundreds," plus a Belleville (Kans.) Midget Nationals and a "4-Crown Nationals," all recognized as "major" events on the USAC Midget Car calendar. An interesting side note is the fact that Kaeding will compete in all three of USAC's National series in the year 2000 and has moved his Sprint car oepration into the shop formerly occupied by none other than Jeff Gordon during his USAC career! "I like the Silver Bullet series," concludes Helmling. With that statement, one probably ought to keep an eye on car #44 at Nazareth April 7-8, as well as the remaining events on the Coors Light Silver Bullet schedule.