|Date: 7/8/2015 10:40:04 PM|
Heinke To Be Honored At Hall Of Fame Ceremonies
By Betsy Angelone
Al Heinke of Southington, CT, will receive the Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing at the 2015 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies to be held on Wednesday, August 5 at the newly renovated Northeast Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum on the grounds of New Yorkıs Weedsport Speedway.
A longtime motorsports fan, Heinke has always had an interest in racing.
Over the years, he has personally raced in many different series -- including the dirt Modifieds, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) classes, and International Motorsports Association (IMSA) sports cars.
With a Masters of Science in Construction Management, and a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering, Heinke's passion and technical skills grew simultaneously and he became a crew chief and race engineer in the Northeast.
After being involved in so many aspects of racing, Heinke began to look into racetrack ownership. He partnered with Skip Barber and purchased the famous Lime Rock Park road course in Litchfield County, CT. Under their leadership and guidance, Lime Rock's 325 acres were transformed from a sand pit into a country club-style facility -- a breathtaking multi-track racing venue known as "The Road Racing Center of the East." For over a decade the two ran LRP and brought all aspects of racing at this track to the highest level. Al's engineering background lent itself well to his creation of the multi-track concept that introduced tremendous racing opportunities to the motorsports community.
If owning and managing a racetrack wasn't enough, in 2001 Heinke founded a dirt Modified team, H&H Racing, competing in the Super DIRTcar Series with Troyer-built cars. For several years, drivers for H&H enjoyed success under Heinke's banner. But in 2005, a rising star by the name of Jimmy Phelps impressed Al and the two formed a friendship and business relationship that pushed the name H&H across the Northeast.
H&H expanded and became Heinke-Baldwin Racing (HBR) in 2009, with Al holding an ownership position with the NASCAR Cup team of Tommy Baldwin Racing. One of Heinke's objectives in the creation of HBR was to help bring raw talent from dirt racing up to the NASCAR level. Heinke's driver development program has been successful in providing drivers with opportunities in other racing classes, as evidenced by their career paths. In 2010, HBR had three racers
-- Phelps, who drove in the Super DIRTcar Series; and Erick Rudolph and Bobby Santos, who both went on to drive on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
The HBR team added Matt Sheppard in the #9H to their roster in early 2014, bringing even more talent and intensity to the scene.
In 2011, the Cayuga County Fairgrounds and Speedway (formerly known as Weedsport Speedway) ceased weekly racing operations, and track action was limited to one event per year during Super DIRT Week. This historic venue had been headquarters of the successful DIRT (Drivers Independent Race
Tracks) offices, as well as the home of the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum. The grounds were not maintained, and this critical piece of dirt racing history -- where it all began -- sadly appeared to be destined for destitution.
But in 2013, Heinke bought this nationally known raceway and his vision and commitment to racing are evident in the renovations and improvements that continue to be made to the original home of DIRT Motorsports. Baldwinsville, NY's Andy and Jimmy Phelps now partner with Heinke to form a leadership team for daily operations. This team, along with Jim's racer perspective, has been a keystone to the race operations and track layout improvements to date.
Jim's words capture the essence of Al's commitment and vision: "There is no one more deserving of this award than Mr. Heinke. He truly puts the racers and fans first in everything he does, and works tirelessly to preserve the future of short-track racing. Al is one of the most inspiring people I have ever known. He has the ability to motivate and bring out the best in everyone around him. I am forever grateful for the opportunities Al has provided for myself and my family, and I am truly proud to get to work with a man who does so much for the sport we all love."
This fall, under the leadership of Heinke, Weedsport Speedway will host a free racing symposium, to serve as a springboard for kids interested in motorsports and racing. Panelists will share their experience in various racing roles -- from drivers to graphic artists to marketing and advertising representatives to mechanics, engineers and statisticians. The symposium will provide a meaningful platform to share best practices and experiences for all things racing, for the youngest of fans. (Parents welcome, too!)
Heinke and his innovative team have transformed the neglected Weedsport Speedway facility into a multi-use state-of-the-art motorsports complex, which houses three race teams, the Weedsport Speedway and track office, the headquarters for DIRTcar Northeast, and the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum.
Al's vision to create a destination motorsports complex in Weedsport is inching closer to a reality heading into the tail end of this season's racing schedule. To provide better parking for fans and more convenient hauler entrance into the speedway, the pit area was moved from Turn One to Turn Four. The brand new grandstands can accommodate over 4,000 spectators, allowing for reserved seating, and more growth is planned. The former go-kart track has been beautifully remodeled to house the modern "restaurant quality" concession area, which serves not only the famous fresh cut fries, but healthy food and beverage alternatives as well. And in order to create a family-friendly atmosphere, Heinke invested in a commercial playground for Weedsport's youngest visitors, putting the final touches on the facility's dream remodel.
At Weedsport Speedway, employees are fan and racer friendly, with the goal of creating a positive and memorable experience for all. Although weekly racing is not scheduled at Weedsport in 2015, special events for the year include shows with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, World of Outlaws Late-Models, IMCA and Mod Lite series, as well as the big-block Modifieds and 358s.
If you build it, they will come. With Al Heinke's ability to think outside the box and his exemplary commitment to doing things right, this sentiment is alive and well at Weedsport.
Besides racing, Heinke owns and manages Mohawk Northeast, Inc., a heavy construction and civil engineering firm, specializing in bridge construction and rehabilitation and marine contract work. Since 1967, under Heinke's ownership, Mohawk has grown exponentially, and today is one of the most respected heavy civil contractors in the Northeast for private, state and federal projects. Inside his offices in Plantsville, CT, Heinke works best when surrounded with the best people he can find -- including his two sons, Allan (Russ) Heinke III and Mike Heinke.