Though he may only be 16 years old, Corey Heim’s list of accomplishments in racing is already an impressive one. And this weekend the Marietta, Georgia driver will be looking to improve upon his third place finish from a year ago in the Super Late Model portion of the Short Track Nationals at the famed Bristol Motor Speedway. The young driver has spent the early portion of the 2019 season splitting his time between Super Late Models and the ARCA Menards Series.
Like so many of today’s developing drivers, Heim’s beginning in the sport came at a very early age. He was surprised on Christmas Day at the age of 5 by his racing father with a gift that would put the youngster in the driver’s seat.
“Me and my dad were always into racing,” Heim recalled in an interview with InsideCircleTrack.com. “We would watch NASCAR and go to races week in and week out when we could. Basically, we were up in Pittsburgh visiting family for Christmas and my dad showed me a picture of my present and it was a picture of a quarter-midget. It wasn’t with us, it was back at home and I was kind of confused that I didn’t get the gift then but when we traveled back home after the holiday he took me back to our garage and showed me the quarter-midget and explained how everything worked and what we’d be doing. From there we went to our little local track and got started there in Cumming, GA. We raced there for almost eight years so we’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Now a student at Kennesaw Mountain High School in Cobb County, the driver remembers that pavement racing was the logical choice for him and his family in his formative years.
“We were just so into NASCAR at the time and at that time NASCAR didn’t go to dirt tracks so I guess we were more into pavement,” Heim explained. “And at my age, I was five-years-old when I started, quarter-midgets were just so much more convenient for us and a lot of the people we knew in the racing community were into quarter-midgets. There were outlaw karts I could have started with but I think the closest track was two-and-a-half hours away while we had a quarter-midget track about thirty minutes from our house. We knew people from that track and we wanted to try it out. As soon as I sat in that car I really enjoyed it so we decided to roll with it there.”
Heim has advanced well beyond quarter-midget racing now. With the move to full-bodied stock cars, the teenager is garnering plenty of attention in the racing world due to the strong finishes he has recorded. In four starts on the ARCA Menards Series driving for Chad Bryant Racing he has scored two top-5 and three top-10 results in 2019 with his best effort having been a pair of fifth places at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway and Indiana’s Salem Speedway.
Apart from those runs in ARCA, however, Heim has been every bit as impressive in Late Model competition. The No. 78 Fury Race Car pulled into victory in the 2018 season finale on the highly competitive CARS Tour for Super Late Models at South Boston Speedway in Virginia. That victory, along with three top-5 and six top-10 efforts, secured a runner-up finish in the final series standings for the up-and-coming racer.
The rising star has also posted top-5 finishes in the 2018 Rattler 250 -his Super Late Model debut- as well as in his lone CARS Tour start of 2019 at the Hickory(NC) Motor Speedway. He has also fared well in Pro Late Model competition with a top-5 in the 2018 Myrtle Beach 400 and a second place result in the ValleyStar 300 at Martinsville Speedway – a race marked by a highly controversial finish which saw Heim cross the finish line first only to have the trophy awarded to another driver because of positioning at the time of a late-race caution flag.
Heim points out that there are significant differences in driving a Super Late Model versus an ARCA machine.
“You have bigger fields in the Super Late Model and there’s probably a little more beating and banging in the Super Late Model and it’s more like short-track racing,” he pointed out. “You show up and you’ve got people there with really good equipment and there’s people there who just kind of throw a car together so it’s a very diverse field as far as equipment. In ARCA it seems like there’s not as many wrecks and cautions and it seems like there’s more respect given in ARCA.”
The difference in the cars presents challenges.
“The tires wear different as well because the weight of the cars is a huge deal since the ARCA weighs a lot more than a Super Late Model but it also has more power so it’s kind of a trade off,” the racer stated. “They definitely handle a lot different. I’ve raced the Super Late Model at Pensacola(Five Flags Speedway) and I’ve also raced the ARCA car at Pensacola and it could not be more different. There’s not really one thing specific but the feeling in general from the ARCA car to the Super is very different.”
With his third place finish in last year’s Short Track Nationals still fresh in his memory, Heim’s focus will be laser sharp this weekend at the Bristol Motor Speedway. And the driver says that will be essential considering that this high-banked half-mile track with its concrete surface is unlike anything else these competitors will face.
“It’s extremely fast,” he declared. “Everything comes up way faster than any other track that I’ve been to. We raced the Pro and the Super race last year and the closing rate at that track if someone has wrecked is really fast. We actually wrecked the Pro Late Model because a guy who was running like a second off the pace ended up wrecking and you just can’t see anything in the middle of the corner because you’re on such high banking. My spotter saw him at the last second but it completely destroyed that Pro Late Model. The closing rate is insane at Bristol, the speeds are insane at Bristol, you barely use any brake around that track.”
Only a couple of other tracks on which he has competed even come close to comparison with the track regarded as one of the favorites among NASCAR fans.
“The only thing I could maybe compare it to is possibly Winchester or Salem because of such high banks,” Heim said. “But Bristol is so much smoother than those tracks and you’re going to go much faster because of the pavement and it’s got so much more grip than those tracks. Plus you’ve got that VHT rubber on the bottom groove of the track at Bristol and that has so much grip too. I’m sure if they don’t put that down on the track we’re going to be running multiple grooves on the race track but I’m sure it’s going to be there so we’ll be on the bottom again where at Salem and Winchester you pretty much run up against the outside wall.”
Heim and his team will not enter their Pro Late Model car at Bristol. All of their energy will be given to the Super Late Model in hopes of visiting the elevated victory lane at the track billed as ‘The Last Great Colosseum’.
“It would mean a ton to me,” Heim says of winning at BMS. “That track is one of my favorite tracks that I’ve been to because of the high speeds and all the history that’s behind it. To win there, I’d never forget it, and it would be a memory for me and my family forever. It would mean a lot to me.”
So what is the ultimate goal for this talented young racer?
“For now, I really just want to have fun with it. As long as I’m having fun I think we’re pretty much doing what we need to do. I feel like NASCAR would be the goal for me because of the route that I’m taking with Super Late Models and ARCA but if I just one day went road racing and I really enjoy that then I could just go there. There’s not a lot of profit you can make off of this sport these days so we’re just out there to have fun. If we get sponsorship behind us we’ll go the NASCAR route, but as far as we know right now, we’re just going out there to have fun so if that means just staying in Super Late Models we enjoy that and we’ll just do that. But if we get the right sponsorship to go NASCAR racing we’ll do that too.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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