While it’s time for most Midwest racers to tuck their cars and gear into garages until the weather warms again, racecar driver John Heinricy will slide back behind the wheel of one of his racing vehicles next month in Florida.
He’s looking forward to improve on his race results from last season.
Heinricy, the 2015 B Spec champion, had a challenging 2016, he says, coming home with a bronze (third-place) in races with his Matick Chevy-sponsored Sonic and also with his 2002 Camaro in the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at the Mid-Ohio Raceway in September.
Heinricy, the hard-working Clarkston, Mich. resident, drove his Matick Chevy-sponsored Sonic, winning several races during the season, including two in June and two in New Jersey in July.
Because he was the 2015 Spec B champ, he had an automatic invitation to the 2016 national runoffs in his Sonic.
But, he notes, officials required that he have a restrictor placed on his engine this season. That was done, he says, to ensure one car doesn’t dominate the field.
In the September championship runoffs, Heinricy attempted a pass, but had “significant contact” with another driver during the first lap — a situation that delayed him for several seconds.
The leader driving a Honda Fit then gained a considerable lead on Heinricy.
“Although I was able to pass four other cars to get to second place, I was never able to recover that time and was penalized one spot back to third due to the first-lap contact,” he says.
“I had a chance of winning had it not been for that contact.”
Heinricy has relived the contact moment in his dreams.
“One incident like that can ruin your chances,” he says.
Matick Chevy mechanics handled repairs on his Sonic and he praises the team for its work.
Meanwhile, in Class A Sedan competition, some challenges arose from mechanical problems that cropped up at the beginning and end of the season with his Firebird and Camaro.
Heinricy won the May 14 race in his Class A Sedan Pontiac Firebird at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex, but during the second race, his throttle stuck open and he hit a tire wall.
“That took that car out of contention for the rest of the year,” he says.
Heinricy, who was driving for Tom Aquilante Racing of Pennsylvania, says the team built a 2002 Camaro to replace the Firebird.
Heinricy then focused on gaining points during the rest of the season to quality for the national runoffs.
“If we had waited for (the Firebird to be repaired), we wouldn't have had enough points to qualify,” he explains.
Starting over brings on its own set of trials.
“The changes often don’t come out of the way you want,” says Heinricy, “so you have to fix issues.”
He praises Aquilante’s daughters, Amy and Beth, for the work they put into the Camaro.
“Working with the two daughters is interesting,” says Heinricy.
The women, in their late 20s, are “such hard workers. They know what to do and they know what needs to be done.”
Beth even loaned Heinricy a car to run at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Mich.
“It was great she did that,” Heinricy says.
In New Jersey races in July, he finished second and fourth. In Pittsburgh, he wrecked on a final lap but still received points.
Then at Mid-Ohio in the A Sedan runoffs in September, he was thwarted halfway through the 23-lap race by electrical problems that reduced RPM capacity. The end result was the third-place finish.
HEINRICY OFF THE TRACK
We tossed a few questions Heinricy’s way as he gears up for his Florida competition next month.
• Describe your personality.
I’m pretty driven; a Type A. It’s hard to relax.
• Do you think about the dangers of racing?
I do think about it in a pragmatic way in that I make sure my safety equipment is good and that the car construction is proper for the type of racing that I am doing. Once I am in the car racing, though, it rarely comes too mind.
• Who is your favorite race car driver, among all types of racing?
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. because he was a very aggressive driver but he was a racer from the time he was little. He did the work on his cars. Some younger people in racing have been helped by family and have had the road paved for them. Dale was working in the shop when he was a kid. (Earnhardt died racing in the Daytona 500 in 2001.)
• What's your 2016 proudest accomplishment?
Helping Alan Johnson, Matick Chevy Performance finance and sales manager, with his driving and C7 Corvette. He had had problems with his car’s handling. We were together at several high performance driving events and were able to figure out what was wrong, and together we improved his driving. He has gotten a lot better and he is the September Corvette Club of Michigan competition points champion.
• What do you do when not racing in the off-season?
I spend time with my wife and seven grandkids, who are all boys. The oldest is 9. They all know I race and they come into my shop and want to climb into the racecars.
• You talked about doing some traveling. Where do you want to go?
My wife and I are looking at the northeast — Maine, New Hampshire and Newfoundland. We might be going to Europe to see areas we haven’t seen yet.
• We hear you enjoy remodeling houses. What’s going on?
We have three houses (in Clarkston) and they require a fair amount of maintenance because they are older homes from the 1950s. So I’ve spent a lot of spare time doing that work.
• What racing do you watch others do?
I am an avid Formula One fan, and watch most NASCAR and IndyCar racing, and sports car racing. It was great to see driver Nico Rosberg receive the F1 championship trophy last weekend.
• How do you keep fit?
I try hard to make up for getting older by keeping in shape. I’m usually racing against much younger drivers. I work out riding my bike several times a week, and I ride hard. I’ll ride until there is snow alongside the trail. When the weather turns, I switch to working in the gym at home. I look at the exercise as a different kind of challenge and I go do it and I look forward to it.