A florescent orange car is not easily overlooked; but when that car is the #15 driven by Jon Henry fans and drivers alike definitely take notice.
The mild-mannered Ada, Ohio farmer has amassed a multitude of victories and four-consecutive championships already in his green career; capturing the 2007 Waynesfield Modified Championship, the 2008 Limaland Motorsports Park Championship, the 2009 American Late Model Series (ALMS) series championship in conjunction with Rookie of the Year, and the 2010 Eldora Speedway Big E Modified championship.
Jon gained a passion for motorsports early on; his father Jim and grandfather Harold have a long history in racing which originated with mini-sprints at Ada Speedway. “My grandpa and dad have been in racing my whole life, and then at age 12 I started racing go-karts; but at about the same time my dad got an open wheel modified to run at Limaland Motorsports Park and I just couldn’t miss a race. I filmed every one of his races; I just HAD to be there. I didn’t care if I was racing as long as I could be there to watch him race. But by the time I was 15 I was really starting to push to race his modified and finally late in the season the summer I was 16 I got the opportunity to drive his #18. We went to Montpelier Speedway in Indiana and I actually turned some decent laps. That following year when I was 17 my dad stepped down a bit so that I could run a few more races and I actually went out and won the 4th time I was in the racecar at Waynesfield Motor Speedway”.
After Jon’s win at Waynesfield Jim decided to spend more time under the hood instead of in the seat and handed the ride over to Jon on a full-time basis 8-years-ago.
The young drivers’ raw talent was immediately evident and it earned him a seat in the Halcomb Racing #1 rocket chassis, a ride that he drove to the ALMS championship in 2009. For 2010 the Henry team decided to refocus their efforts and started JHR Ltd. with a part-time late model agenda and an extensive Modified schedule. Now in 2011 Jon Henry Racing is focused 100% on growing their Late Model program.
Even though Jon sold his own #15 Modified at the conclusion of 2010, he still has a passion for the class and was honored to drive the UNOH back-up car at the DirtCar nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Florida, “It was really exciting to jump in that car and make the show out of 80 cars and then finish 4th behind Ty Dillon, Ken Schrader, and Clint Bowyer”.
The UNOH ride was not the first one-time ride Jon has been given, for Jon not only is it an honor to be trusted with someone else’s car, it’s also a fun challenge and one he says has produced some of the best memories he has had behind the wheel, “When I can jump in someone else’s racecar, especially one that’s not really even thought to be capable of winning and I can just wheel it, that’s awesome! I was given the opportunity to drive a car at Limaland once that I had never even sat in and I won. Another opportunity came at Oakshade when I blew an engine and this great guy offered me his car to keep points. I started in the back of the heat and won it, then started 4th in the feature and won the feature. Things like that are fun, they make me feel good, and it’s good affirmation of my skills, especially while we’ve been building a new team and all the challenges and struggles that come with that!”
In addition to building his Dirt Late Model program, Jon has also been looking for opportunities to gain experience on the asphalt, as well as assisting in the growth of Wide Open Graphics (www.wographics.com) of Lima, Ohio where Jon has partnered up with his longtime friend and works as a graphics designer.
Always seeking a new challenge, Jon is not one to sit back and relax for too long. When he does get some free time he said he typically can be found chilling out at the lake or at the pond behind his house reflecting, “I just thank the Lord a lot for the opportunities I have been given and I am looking for new ways in which I can excel with Him”. This year Jon will be acting as a mentor for the kids racing at “Little E”, the .25 midget dirt track on the grounds of Eldora Speedway, “I just want to be able to help some kids, grow the sport, and as someone they look up to for racing at the big track I want to be a good role model to them on and off the track”.
Transitioning into the role of team owner and driver in the late model ranks is a new experience and challenge for Henry, but one that he is excited to conquer, “I now have to be more of a mechanic than a driver sometimes. I have to know what’s going on with the racecar, wrench on it, and learn what I need to do to the car in the pits and my driving on the track to make it all come together. Going late model racing on my own has been a whole new challenge, it’s a different car, a lot more expensive, and my competition consists of some of the best drivers in the nation. This is what they do for a living. When we can come down to places like Volusia we do so to educate ourselves because this is what I really want to do. When we go back home to Ohio hopefully I have taken some of these experiences with me and if I can just run with these guys I have accomplished what I set out to do”.
Starting a new team is not easy, the work is hard, the hours endless, and sometimes the rewards seem few; but from each week comes a lesson learned, another step towards to the ultimate goal, and a whole lot of wide-open fast fun. Because new racers and fans don’t often get a behind the scenes look at building a team for 2011 Jon has added a new feature to the www.jonhenryracing.com website called “Share The Experience”. The Share the Experience section is an awesome one with a video diary from Jon with the highs and sometimes lows associated with Late Model racing, it’s a combination of commentary, interviews, and in-car video. It is reality TV with no roses or off-key singing, and the prize at the end…well nobody knows yet what 2011 will bring, but it is sure to be an exciting ride!