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Heckenlaible top finisher at IHRA Super Series race

Hutchinson Herald of Menno, South Dakota

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A local drag racer and Menno High School graduate was at the top of his game recently when he took first place in the International Hot Rod Association Summit SuperSeries World Championship Finals at the Memphis International Speedway in Memphis, Tenn.

Cory Heckenlaible, who calls Utica home and is a 2009 graduate of Menno High School, defeated Dean Smith, Warren, MB, to take the championship when he clocked a time of 5.678 in the final race. Smith posted a time of 5.797 and a reaction time of 0.011 compared to 0.007 for Heckenlaible, who was racing in his 1970 Ford Mustang fast-back.

The event was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday Oct. 9, 10 and 11.

Heckenlaible, who races regularly at Thunder Valley Dragways outside Marion, said the exciting win was made extra sweet due to the fact that despite a strong season of races, he did not expect to qualify for the national competition.

"I honestly never worried about it too much. First you have to win it, the second part is getting chosen to go. It's just not a very good chance, so I never really worried about it," Heckenlaible said. "Then I won the first couple of races and looking at the state I started thinking it would be cool. Then I got the phone call from IHRA."

The process of just making it into the SuperSeries World Championship Finals is an arduous one. Points for the series are based on the record of each driver after their first 25 races. Heckenlaible posted a record of 22-3 among the IHRA Mod drag racers at Thunder Valley, which qualified him as a contestant for the big event.

Heckenlaible said Thunder Valley Dragways is a track that is not part of the IHRA division races, but instead known as a wild-card track. Because of that, a combination of points, records and a random drawing all had to combine to get Heckenlaible to Memphis.

"And I was the lucky one," Heckenlaible said.

While luck may have proven a part of what got him to Memphis, his ability to perform behind the wheel comes from hard work and skill.

Heckenlaible, 24, has been racing since he was a youngster hanging around with his uncle Robert Heckenlaible, who took his nephew along with him to the track in Marion. He started racing competitively when he was 16.

"I started with my uncle. He used to race and still does in Marion where I race most of the time. Ever since I was a little kid I went with him. That's why I'm addicted like I am," Heckenlaible said.

His uncle started him out with a stock 1989 Mustang, eventually purchasing his own 1970 Mustang fast-back, the car he races with today. The division in which he races is fairly straightforward racing, he said. Some of the requirements for cars in the division include slick tires and no use of aides such as a delay box.

Heckenlaible is technically his own team, doing most of the work on his own car himself, but his uncle and other family members are supportive and will help out whenever they can.

"We're not really a team, but we help each other out as much as possible. He's kind of the brains and I do most of my own work," Heckenlaible said. "If I have a question, I'm calling him. Him and my dad both equally help me out."

Heckenlaible enjoyed great success at Thunder Valley in 2015. Despite missing the first few races, he compiled a 22-3 record and took home the IHRA Ironman Trophy during the race season. When he was finally selected for the SuperSeries event, he was more concerned about representing well instead of winning.

It didn't start out well in Memphis. The first day of racing, he qualified dead last.

"We all had to qualify and it went on reaction time. I ended up not doing well, and qualified last," Heckenlaible said. "I wheelied. I didn't qualify well at all."

After acclimating to the new surroundings and working the jitters out, Heckenlaible was able to focus on the challenge at hand.

"I was more worried about the first round. I was a wreck that first round. My biggest fear was that I would lose in the first round and go home," Heckenlaible said. "After that, the nerves went away."

Coming in as a wild card racer, Heckenlaible was not seen as a threat by many competitors. And after a weak qualifying round, their suspicions seemed to be confirmed. But Heckenlaible kept moving up by posting good reaction times and driving a car that even fellow racers said was one of the most consistent-performing vehicles they had seen.

"It was running crazy-consistent. Literally it ran the same every pass, and my reaction was probably the best it had been all year. It was stupid good," Heckenlaible said.

It got him to the finals, where friends and family, along with thousands around the world in 80 countries, watched via live webcast.

"It was tight," Heckenlaible said of that final race, which he won by 11 thousands of a second.

It was a moment of celebration for not only Heckenlaible, but his support crew. He said over a dozen family members and friends came to Memphis to watch him race. That included his father and uncle, both of whom delayed their harvest schedule so as not to miss out on the big event.

"(The races) actually got rain delayed on Saturday so it ended up going into Sunday, which it wasn't supposed to do. Then we drove all night to get home at 9 a.m. so they could combine," Heckenlaible said.

Heckenlaible will take a few nice prizes home with him, as well. Included in the package is a new 26-foot enclosed Performax trailer and a $ 10,000 winner's check from Summit Racing Equipment. There is even a trip for two to Aruba included that Heckenlaible thinks he may have a use for: a honeymoon trip for him and his fiance, Cindy Syrovatka.

Heckenlaible said he plans to continue his racing career at Thunder Valley and wherever else the sport takes him. After all, this latest season ended up pretty successful, he said.

"It worked out pretty good," Heckenlaible said.

Copyright 2015 Hutchinson Herald, Menno, South Dakota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: October 22, 2015

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