The chaos that was the final laps at Wall Stadium Speedway last Saturday benefited at least one driver.
Ken Heagy, a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver who has been competing for 25 years, tied his second-best career finish with a seventh-place effort in the Jersey Shore 150.
Behind the wheel of the No. 18 Buoy One Seafood Chevrolet, Heagy started 22nd, but stayed on the lead lap at the end of the race, and when others ran into trouble, the veteran was able to sneak his way around without much damage en route to the strong finish.
“Riverhead Raceway can have some weekly shows like that, but that was probably the craziest race I have been in for a while,” Heagy said. “We were happy to be in that position, but we were really concerned because we were having some motor issues. I thought we had a carb issue, but as we came across the line at the finish, the car died and it wouldn’t fire back up. I locked it up not to run into Rob Summers and when I tried to start it back up, it wouldn’t start. So we were really lucky.”
Heagy’s history behind the wheel doesn’t just include Whelen Modified Tour races. The Calverton, New York driver has competed at Riverhead on Long Island on a weekly basis before — a bullring with tight corners and short straightaways that forces drivers to be up on the wheel and ready for anything. His sponsor, Buoy One Seafood, has been with him for more than 10 years supporting his efforts.
“We only ran a couple of full seasons, and we just basically ran when we could,” Heagy said. “It’s the same way for us now, we get through the week we are running, and then we worry about the next week.”
Heagy welcomed Buddy Loecher to the team recently and he feels like that could have been the move to put them in the position to make gains on the track.
“We’re always working on it,” Heagy said. “Buddy came on with us a few years ago and we started working on it more and he isn’t afraid to try some different things and neither am I. We spent the winter trying to think of something new to try, because I’m getting older and it isn’t getting any easier. It seems to be going better for us.”
The seventh-place finish at Wall was certainly a confidence builder for his entire team.
“It definitely felt good, I had been a little bit down on myself lately. Even in practice, we weren’t super fast, but the car was comfortable to drive,” Heagy said. “We aren’t able to throw a bunch of tires on and that is tough for us. Being really comfortable in the car is important, and my guys were really happy. That’s the main thing.”
For now, Heagy is looking forward to the next two races on the schedule. The Whelen Modified Tour will visit Seekonk Speedway on Saturday, June 1, before a stop at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park just four days later on June 5.
“I tell my guys, no matter what happens, we are going to race hard, and we all make mistakes, but when I get out of the car at the end of the day we are all going to go have a beer and laugh about it,” Heagy said. “At the end of the day, we have to go out there and have a good time.”
“You want to run as best as you can.”