Headed West: Justin Henderson and Mean 15 Invade Black Hills Speedway Rapid City, S.D.--August 14, 2006-- Don't be alarmed to see Justin Henderson standing in a remote corner of the pit area pacing back and forth, or even standing on top of his...
Headed West: Justin Henderson and Mean 15 Invade Black Hills Speedway
Rapid City, S.D.--August 14, 2006-- Don't be alarmed to see Justin Henderson standing in a remote corner of the pit area pacing back and forth, or even standing on top of his pit box or under a tree with an arm raised in the air. He is not trying to get struck by lightning, but rather looking to get the best cell phone signal and reception that he can.
While Justin mixes it up on the track with the best sprint car drivers in the world, in his first full season with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series aboard the Jolt Energy Gum Schnee, his wife Heather is serving in the Air National Guard and recently was stationed in Alaska. Thus the couple takes every opportunity that they can to chat on the phone, no matter where they are at or how busy they are.
Justin and Heather have been married for almost three years, and just like most racing couples, know that they put in a lot of extra effort when they are on the road just to keep in touch.
This Thursday when the Mean 15 thunder into Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota, the Henderson's will not have to worry about cell phone signals or how many minutes they have left on their phones, because for the second weekend in a row, the couple will be together at the track. Even though they live about four hours east of Rapid City in Sioux Falls, S.D., this will be the first time that Justin and Heather have visited the racy 3/8-mile track. In fact, it will be the first time the series has raced at the facility since 1993.
"It's very tough with both us being on the road," Justin Henderson said. "Just getting the logistics right so we can talk on the phone is tough. It helps to be able to talk on the phone, but there is no substitute to getting to see each other in person."
Like most wives of racers, Heather has taken a great affinity to the sport thanks in large part to Justin. Though she is on the road a lot when she is serving in the Air National Guard, when she is home, Heather makes every effort to make it out to the track.
"She was kind of a race fan when we met," said Justin Henderson. "She was familiar with the racers, but she did not go to races every week. She went out there once in a while. She was not an avid race fan. Ever since we have been together, she has not missed a race."
This past weekend, Henderson took part in the 46th Annual Knoxville Nationals at the famed Knoxville Raceway with the rest of the Mean 15. He timed in seventh out of the 62 cars that took to the track on the first qualifying night. Though there was intense pressure on and off the track, he was able to relax just a little bit, since his wife was in attendance and cheering him on.
"She came to the (Knoxville) Nationals this past weekend and that was the first time we had seen each other in a while," he said. "We saw each other at Huset's Speedway back on July 3. Then she drove all the way to Princeton, Minnesota for one night (at the end of July), so she could watch. She definitely puts forward a ton of effort."
Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, even if Heather is in Alaska on her tour of duty and thousands of miles away from whatever track Justin is racing at, she can keep up-to-date with how he is doing.
"She keeps us with us online," said Justin Henderson. "She looks up the results when she can. Then she watches television broadcasts as well."
Heather puts in long hours when she is on duty in the Air National Guard, just as Justin and his team do when they are on the road. When the checkered flag falls on a night of racing, Justin and the crew begin preparing the car for the next night of racing by going over every inch of it with a fine tooth comb and making sure every nut and bolt is tight. Not to mention heading to the carwash often in the wee hours of the morning to make sure the car is clean for the next event. Heather has gotten to experience this first hand when she is home and takes to the road with the team.
"By her getting out on the road with me, she understands even more what we go through on the road and the maintenance that we have to do," Justin Henderson said. "When I call her up and tell her that I am doing maintenance on the car, sometimes she does not understand that washing it and doing the routine maintenance is an all day thing. The more often she can get out there to see what we do just to race, the more understanding she is."
After showing plenty of speed at the Knoxville Nationals, Henderson is very excited for the remainder of the World of Outlaws season. He currently is ninth in points and third in the battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by Maxim Racing and ButlerBuilt. He has 10 Top-10 finishes and has set fast time twice this season, including at the Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway in May, with a stout field of 51 cars on-hand.
"I feel like we are going in the right direction," he said. "We have a new car under us. The new Schnee (chassis) is working phenomenal. My dad's motors are always hitting hard. Having a new car under us will help us a lot. We raced with a bent racecar for 12 races, waiting for another car."
Ironically one of those races was July 3 at Huset's Speedway in his hometown of Sioux Falls, a race in which he finished 9th in the A-Feature. Henderson looks to improve upon that Thursday in front of his home state fans.
For ticket information about tickets the race Thursday at Black Hills Speedway visit www.fatboyzpromotions.com, or call 866-236-0966. Adult tickets will be $30 if purchased prior to the race. On race night, adult tickets will be $35. Tickets for children ages 9-12 will be just $15, while kids 8-under will be admitted free of charge with a paying adult.