Winning a track championship is pretty tough, but defending your track from invaders and locals is a much harder job than that. Jacob Heafner will be looking to do that this weekend while honoring the NASCAR tough man.
Heafner will be running a tribute to Ricky Rudd and the #10 Tide sponsored car that he ran under his own Rudd Performance Motorsports Team from 1994-1999. He credits his grandfather and his childhood to the reason why he’ll run this scheme.
“Well, a couple of things inspired it,” Heafner told RACE22. “I’ve always been a really big fan of the Tide car for some reason. I really like the bright colors and I had a toy car of it when I was younger and it was one of my favorite ones. The thing that really brought the thought of running this scheme is actually my grandfather. He owns a lawn care business and Ricky just so happens to be one of his clients, so when the throwback race was brought up my dad brought up the idea of asking my grandpa about Ricky and seeing if maybe he had anything I could borrow to add to the “coolness” of the race and he loaned me one of his fire suits that I just so happen to fit pretty much perfect in. When asked by Heafner’s grandfather, Rudd simply replied in only the way the Rooster knows how to, “have fun and enjoy it, but I want it back when you’re done.”
Heafner the 2018 Hickory Motor Speedway Late Model Stock Car track Champion, used his knowledge and track IQ he learned from fellow teammate Justin Carroll to have a very strong podium and top five finishes to win the championship. Carroll alongside Jason Stanley who prepares both team cars has helped Heafner so much in his time at Hickory.
“Jason and Justin are pretty good at giving us both stout cars,” stated Heafner. “As for helping me, really not only has Justin helped but really the whole team has got me better at Hickory. From telling me on the radio when I’m doing good or when I’m driving not so good, they all have really helped me a ton. I like to hustle and overdrive the car a lot. Me and Justin have two totally different driving styles I’ve noticed. He’s really easy and smooth whereas I’m more aggressive with my wheel inputs, braking, throttle control, etc. So listening to his advice on how to back the corners up and carry tons of roll speed has helped.”
Heafner is hoping with his knowledge learned from Stanley and the man simply known as “Toast” he can hold off the best drivers in the region for what has become Hickory’s most popular race of the year, the CARS Tour Throwback 276. If he’s going to do it, he’ll have to try and do something that’s always eluded him and that’s qualifying up front.
“Qualifying has never been a strong suit of mine even all the way back to bandoleros,” Heafner continued. “I wish I could tell you why I struggle with it, but if I could tell you then I would’ve fixed it by now. All the people I’ve worked with over the years say I just put too much thought into qualifying. I get really nervous before qualifying probably more nervous than before the race. When I don’t get as nervous, I do qualify better though. An example would be at Motor Mile a few weeks back, I was pretty mad about how I was running and never even thought about running a fast time, I just went out and drove and qualified fourth with a pretty stout field.”
“I really wish I was better at qualifying, it would make the races a lot easier for me but it’s made me a better driver. I always seem to be able to outrace most of the guys that can out-qualify me and that just comes from starting mid-pack or so and having to outdrive people. I’ve always said if I qualify well then I have a really fast car that can probably win the race. Almost every time I’ve qualified towards the front since I started racing late models I’ve had a shot to win.”
In the previous two seasons of the Throwback event, the winners have started on the pole in 2018 and fifth in 2017. Heafner knows that it’s gonna take starting up front to be in prime position, but Jacob decided to offer his opinion on if he qualifies in the back, what it would take for him to get to the front to win.
“With it being a longer race I’d have to be much more methodical about it,” Heafner explained. “I can’t burn my stuff up early so I’d have to not spend much time racing side by side with people, especially on the bottom. Being pinched down there is really hard on the right rear and once you lose that tire your just along for the ride for the rest of the race.”
Considering this will be Jacob’s first time getting the full experience of the spectacle, he has so many people he wanted to thank for getting all of this stuff ready for this special event.
“I would like to thank the good Lord for keeping safe while I race, my parents for allowing me to race, Justin and John Carroll and Jason Stanley for the really fast race cars and my sponsor PowerHouse Recycling for helping me further my racing career.”
Cover photo by PitRow.tv