2007 World of Outlaws Preview: Justin Henderson Concord, NC--Jan. 29, 2007 -- The off-season did not seem as long for Justin Henderson this year, nor did the winds feel as cold, or the snow appear as deep. The native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota...
2007 World of Outlaws Preview: Justin Henderson
Concord, NC--Jan. 29, 2007 -- The off-season did not seem as long for Justin Henderson this year, nor did the winds feel as cold, or the snow appear as deep. The native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has been busy preparing for the upcoming World of Outlaws season for the last three months, since the checkered flag flew on the 2006 season. On February 9, he will return to the track for the 36th Annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented By Mopar Speedshop at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida.
Henderson, finished eighth in the World of Outlaws championship standings last season, on the strength of 18 Top-10 finishes in his first full season with the series, including career best finishes of fifth at Dodge City Raceway Park in Kansas, and Wilmot (Wisc.) Speedway. In addition to this, he set fast time on three occasions as he finished runner-up in the battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award.
The team has made a couple of changes since they last took to the track in late October at Las Vegas. The most notable has been a switch in chassis manufacturers. This has Henderson confident he can continue to build upon the solid foundation that he established last season.
"We're really excited to get started," said Henderson. "We'll be running a Rocket Chassis this year. My dad (Rod) is still building the motors. RPM Race Engines will help us out a bit with some parts and pieces. We've changed a couple of things up this year, and we have a few new sponsors. I'm excited to get to Florida."
The former Huset's Speedway track champion visited over 25 tracks for the first time last season, and gained priceless experience and knowledge every time he turned a lap. He competed for the first time at the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania last May, and in his third trip of the season to the legendary half-mile went toe-to-toe with Fred Rahmer at the National Open and did not give an inch.
"I learned last year how to race hard every lap," he commented. "That is the biggest thing by far. Once you settle into position in a World of Outlaws race, and think, I'm in second, I'm doing good, and that is when you will get passed. You always have to be searching for a new line and a way to pass the next car."
With his father Rod back as crew chief again this season, as well as Chris Timmerman helping turn the wrenches, the always affable driver is confident they will have strong set-ups when they return to the tracks that were new to them last season.
"It will absolutely help having laps at tracks we are going back to this year," explained Henderson. "It also helps psychologically as well. You know how to run a race track. Ninety percent of these things is driver. You have to have set-up obviously to get close, but driver attitude makes a huge difference. Knowing the tracks and having a lot more confidence will make the biggest difference for us this year."
With an average car count of 41 machines per event last year, and nearly 30 cars starting out with the tour on a full-time basis this year, Henderson again knows the importance that time trials will play in determining how a night of racing will turn out. He is always quick to point out that a lot of the credit for his three fast time honors last season goes to his father Rod, who builds the teams engines.
"Setting fast time is big both mentally and also for starting position," he stated. "To be fast right off the truck means a lot as a driver to me."
The engines his dad builds are not only fast, but very reliable, as was evident by the team never having to change one on a race night last year. They showed though in the final round of the pit crew competition that if needed, they were ready to change an engine on a moment's notice, as they did in less than six and a half minutes with the clock ticking.
"We were the only team that did not have to change a motor on a race night last year, and we won the engine change competition, go figure," said a proud Henderson. "We were ready to changes motors if we had to. We just never had to. My dad builds a really reliable motor and we ran them for 20 nights before having to freshen them, so that helps on the budget side too."
Henderson is ready again this season to battle the toughest competition in the world night in and night out. Last year he got a taste of how tough it is every lap on the track, whether it's hot laps, time trials, a heat race, the dash, the B-Main, or ultimately the A-Feature. Having been a competitor at Knoxville Raceway and Huset's Speedway for a number of years before taking to the road with the World of Outlaws, he has been facing stiff competition for as long as he has strapped into the cockpit of a sprint car.
"We're going to have a lot of tough cars out there this year," shared Henderson. "The competition level will be very high."
After a very solid rookie season, that earned him plenty of respect from
the veteran drivers, Henderson is ready to embark on the nearly 90 race
schedule that awaits him this season beginning on February 9 at Volusia,
and wraps up with the inaugural Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track
Lowe's Motor Speedway, November 1-3. Also along the way, he will make stops at Knoxville as well as Huset's, and also at Dodge City Raceway Park and Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas, the home state of his car owner Dan Oswalt.
"Being able to finish in the Top-10 in points is our main goal," he said. "That will be a lot tougher this year than it was last year."