2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: Justin Henderson Concord, NC--Nov. 22, 2006 -- Since he was a young boy, sitting in the stands watching his father Rod wheel sprint cars, Justin Henderson dreamed of one day being able to race with the World...
2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: Justin Henderson
Concord, NC--Nov. 22, 2006 -- Since he was a young boy, sitting in the stands watching his father Rod wheel sprint cars, Justin Henderson dreamed of one day being able to race with the World of Outlaws. That dream became a reality this season, as he took to the road full-time to compete with the series.
The native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, wrapped up the season in the eighth spot in the championship standings, on the strength of 18 Top-10 finishes. He also finished as the runner-up in the battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by Maxim Racing and ButlerBuilt.
"We were really happy with the year," said Henderson, driver of the Jolt Energy Gum/Protected By Data Dots powered by Hollywood Racing Engines Schnee. "I am proud of my crew. We're happy to have the sponsors that we have. I'm totally ecstatic to race for a great owner like Dan Dan The Sonic Man (Oswalt)."
Henderson visited many tracks for the first time over the course of the season, and quickly adapted to them. His team led by his father/crew chief Rod, along with Chris Timmerman, as well as Geoff Dodge who joined the team down the stretch, made sure Justin had a fast car every time they unloaded. They also made sure he had a reliable car, as was evident by the team never having to change an engine on a race night.
A highlight for the team was capturing the final round of the Snap-on® Pit Crew Challenge at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They changed an engine in an amazing 6 minutes and 23 seconds. They also finished second in the first round of the competition at Princeton (Minn.) Speedway, after completing a front end change, and were third at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway, where they had to change components on the rear of the car. When the finals numbers were tallied, the trio of Justin, his father, and Timmerman were just four seconds short of claiming the overall title. They settled for the second spot and a $1,500 pay day, which brought their total winnings for the three-round challenge to just over $2,400.
"We accomplished almost all of our goals this season," Justin Henderson stated. "We achieved everything we wanted to except for winning a race and getting the rookie of the year. We ended up in the Top-10 in points like we wanted to, and we were competitive. We had a great season."
Henderson scored a Top-10 finish in just the fourth race of the season, in his initial trip to USA Race Park in Tucson, Arizona, coming home sixth. He carried that momentum to The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he turned in a solid ninth-place performance the following weekend
As the season continued, Henderson's confidence was on the rise, as he got more laps under his belt. In his first ever trip to Sharon (Ohio) Speedway, the always optimistic driver charged to a sixth-place finish in the $50,000 Challenge. Showing he would be a contender on all types of tracks, he came home ninth at Orange County Fair Speedway n New York, the largest track on the circuit, a sprawling 5/8-mile oval.
Henderson, who was used to racing against very strong fields every time he strapped in the car, due to the experience he gained the last couple years racing at the famed Knoxville Raceway in weekly competition, as well as his home track Huset's Speedway, just outside of his hometown, was well prepared for the intensity that he faced night in and night out racing with the World of Outlaws.
"The competition was extremely tough, especially with the Top-Five guys in points," he explained. "They are extremely tough cars, and everyone out here is tough. We learned a lot of lessons this year and we learned how to be competitive and how to be tough ourselves."
Henderson was very pleased with his on-track results, but knew the season was also about gaining experience and knowledge. After visiting over 25 tracks he had never seen, including racing at the storied Williams Grove Speedway, where he battled Pennsylvania Posse legend Fred Rahmer side-by-side during the National Open and did not give an inch, Henderson had the confidence to race with anyone on any track on any day and compete for wins.
"Learning was absolutely what it was all about this year," admitted Henderson. "By getting to be out here meeting new people and doing the whole series, we were able to gain as much experience and learn as much as we could."
The middle of June saw Henderson and his team hit their stride. He reeled off four straight Top-10 finishes starting at The Raceway @ Powercom Park in Wisconsin, followed by Red River Valley Speedway in North Dakota, and finally Knoxville Raceway.
Henderson opened up the month of July by scoring his first Top-Five finish of the year at Dodge City Raceway Park in Kansas, the home state of his car owner Dan Oswalt. He followed that up two days later with another Top-10 finish at Huset's Speedway, where he is a former track champion.
While he visited many tracks for the first time and only had a handful of laps to get up to speed, the always affable driver became very adept at getting the most out of his car while the clock was ticking in time trials. He stopped the clocks first on three occasions, including at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway, with a very stout 51-car field on-hand, as well in his first trip to Fulton Speedway in New York.
"Setting fast time had a lot to do with the engines, and not as much driver at that point," Henderson modestly said. "We're really happy with the motor program and we're going to keep it going that way for next year."
In his first every trip to the Pacific Northwest in August, he turned in two very solid runs at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway. Henderson was seventh in the preliminary feature, and backed that up with a ninth-place finish in the finale of the two-day event.
Seven was a lucky number for the well-spoken driver in his first trip to the Golden State in early September. In the finale of the Harvest Classic at Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway he was seventh. On the first night of the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway, he also was seventh, with a very solid field of cars on-hand. In the finale of the famed three-day event he finished seventh in a very tough 40-lap race on the quarter-mile.
After starting on the inside of the second row in the A-Feature at Wilmot (Wisc.) Speedway, and running in the Top-Five all night, Henderson picked up his second Top-Five finish of the year, coming home fifth, on a very chilly October night.
"It makes you feel real good when you run up front," a confident Henderson said. "Then you know that everyone is human and you can beat them. On your given day, you can beat anyone out here. That's important to remember anywhere. If you are confident, you can beat anybody out here."
With an eye on next season, Henderson hopes to get a few extra laps of racing in after the holiday season, as he looks to keep the momentum going that he built in 2006.
"As soon as my wife gets back from Iraq, I will spend as much time with her as possible, and celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then go to the Chili Bowl," he enthusiastically said.
Next Up: The series of season reviews for the Top-15 in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series continues with Chad Kemenah.