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Sherri Heckenast


 

 

 

Turning heads on and off track nothing new to Sherri Heckenast…

By Darin Stewart

     As a parent, when your daughter starts asking to drive your car, you worry about her safety, and her abilities behind the wheel. Now imagine the feelings of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Heckenast when their young daughter wanted to drive. Instead of the old family car, Miss Heckenast had her eyes on a racecar, and has been driving one ever since. Sherri Heckenast, an Orland Park Illinois resident, has been drawing attention in the past couple of years, as she has shown both her racing talent, and her good looks.

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     As a second-generation driver, Sherri began her racing career by driving in the 4-cylinder division at the Santa Fe Speedway, and has since progressed through three years of limited late models at LaSalle Speedway, before making the jump to Late Models for 2000. Sherri also managed to participate in a few late model shows in 1999, including a Florida Speedweeks visit, but is in essence a true rookie in the Late Model division. “ I just felt it was time to get into the late-models, and start my learning curve, because this is where I want to be for a long time” said Sherri. Heckenast, who has been traveling to the Northern All-Stars races if possible, enjoys the travel, and feels the learning is better when racing against the competition level in the series. “ The drivers in this series are excellent drivers, and I am learning a lot every night, and I am just trying to learn as much as possible from them. I know that we have the equipment we need, and the people to get the job done. Right now, the area we are lacking is in the driver area, just due to lack of experience, and I am working on that. I just want to be the best racer I can be, and it’s just takes time to gather the experience and knowledge necessary” said the 25-year old Heckenast. “ Dad is able to help me on a lot, but I still have to learn something myself as well.” Frank Heckenast, Sherri’s dad, is himself a late-model driver and has been able to help his daughter along with knowledge, and is able to occasionally hop into her car, to give her feedback on set-up’s. “ She is really learning quickly, and hopefully I can speed that up even more. She also really has taking a liking to these hard tire deals(Northern All-Stars feature a Hoosier D-55 tire rule on both rear tires of the cars) and that really takes finesse to do those deals, but she is picking things up. I am having as much fun going and helping her, as I have driving, and it makes me proud that she is doing as well as she is” said her proud father.

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One of the major struggles that she has struggled with is finding a “mentor” in which to really learn from that is outside the family. “ Steve Barnett helped me a bunch in Florida and that meant a lot, but I really haven’t found someone who can teach me some of the tricks to this deal. I think that is one area I need to concentrate on is finding that driver who can be part of the program in assisting me. When I race around home, Tom Pauley is a big help, along with Garrett Slager, but out here on the Northern All-Stars, I need to get aligned with someone who can translate what I am feeling in the car to the crew, and to me” explained Heckenast.
     She has the support of her fellow racer, if not the relationships. “She has really learned well, and she is definitely improving as she goes along. As long as she just stays patient, and keeps it up, there will be a future for her in this sport. I also think that it’s good for the sport for her to be involved.” said Doug McCammon, the Northern All-Star Point Leader. That sentiment was echoed by Steve Hillard, “As a female in the sport she is not intimated by the male dominance in the sport, and seems to be running better every time I see her, and as with any driver seat time will only help her, and it will only be a matter of time until she gets to victory lane.”
     Sponsorship for Sherri comes from the family’s businesses; A-Reliable Auto Parts, Speedway Auto Parts & Wreckers, and product sponsors such as Carrera Shocks, Behling, Earl’s, K&N, and Hoosier Racing Tire, along with a Special Thanks to Mom and Dad. The always sharp looking cars, also feature a few things rarely seen on late models, such as flowers and other little graphics. One unique item is the big U GO GIRL across the rear spoiler, which is definitely a rare sight in dirt late-models. Also a big BARBIE sticker on the hood of the racecar is a trademark as is a tribute to a fallen friend; Kevin Roderick whose life was tragically cut short in the spring of 1996. Barb Roderick, the wife of the late Kevin Roderick, can still be found at the races quite frequently, and is normally somewhere near the Heckenast family’s race-car hauler. The close ties of that friendship are part of the reason that the Heckenast family assists in the promoting of the annual Kevin Roderick Memorial Race at LaSalle Speedway every year also. “ We just miss him so much, that it’s our way of sharing some of our memories with the racing community. We also take great pride in the fact that the memorial race is 200 laps, just like the biggest race Kevin won” said Sherri.
     Sherri, who is in the management of the family’s A-Reliable Auto Parts has managed to become a fan favorite at many places, and is obviously someone that most of the female segment is cheering for, but also many of the men are watching both on and off the track, either for the good looking car, or it’s good looking driver. With no plans to make the transition to asphalt, Sherri has dug her heals in to fight for her spot in the dirt late model spectrum, and intends on winning the battle. Also Sherri has just launched her own internet site for her fans at www.girlracer99.com. Sherri who is currently 2nd in the Northern All-Stars points standings, and in the top 35 overall is definitely on the right pace to accomplish the goals set out.

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