Finding your way to Victory Lane is no easy task with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models. Sometimes it’s a break in your favor that puts you in a position to win. Sometimes it’s a present.
Frank Heckenast Jr. got a birthday present he’ll never forget Friday at Jackson Motorplex. The Illinois driver claimed his second career World of Outlaws win after the center of Cade Dillard’s right rear wheel broke with 13 laps to go.
The victory was also Heckenast’s first trip to Victory Lane with the Series since 2015.
He expressed relief in Victory Lane, afraid bad luck would bite him before the race was over.
“I feel like when everything’s going right, something’s bound to happen,” Heckenast said. “I was just out there the last couple of laps just hoping nothing happened. You don’t get these all the time so we’re definitely going to enjoy this for sure.”
Before Dillard’s misfortune, Heckenast was locked in a battle with Brandon Sheppard for second place. That battle taught him what he was doing wrong and how to fix it, setting him up for the $10,000 prize.
“I was getting passed by [Sheppard] running the line I thought we should’ve been in, but then I totally changed up my driving style,” Heckenast said. “I changed the way I entered and came off the corner and changed my throttle position and the car just started taking off.”
The celebration for Heckenast comes at a time of heartbreak for Dillard. The Robeline, LA driver looked like he was destined for his second win of 2021, but it wasn’t meant to be.
While “The Thriller” was disappointed about what happened, his team is still pushing forward.
“We had a really good car,” Dillard said. “We’ve had a tough go of it this year and I felt like we had stuff turning around for us and then [the center of the wheel breaking] happened. We’ll just fix it again and go on.”
Three-time and defending Series champion Brandon Sheppard crossed the line second—extending his points lead to 62 points over Chris Madden.
The New Berlin, IL driver stated Heckenast had the better car in the closing stages of the race.
“It looked like [Heckenast] could come off the corner a little better than I was,” Sheppard said. “I was relying on the brown a little bit coming off the corner.”
Ryan Gustin, the top Rookie of the race, finished third in a brand-new Rocket chassis. “The Reaper” was thrilled with his results for the car’s first time out.
“Everything stayed together, everyone did their job, and we actually learned a couple of things here so hopefully we can carry that over to [Saturday] and maybe get ourselves a win,” Gustin said.
Gustin also made-up ground in the chase for Rookie of the Year. Gustin is now 108 points behind Tyler Bruening, who finished 17th after breaking a left rear shock early in the race.
Madden was the race’s hard charger, finishing fourth after starting 12th.
Lake Elmo, MN driver Brent Larson crossed the line fifth, scoring his second top-five of the season in front of fans in his home state.
Heckenast has the chance to add $20,000 more to his bank account if he can sweep the weekend at Jackson Motorplex. Another Victory would make an even brighter start to his next trip around the sun.
Around the Turn: The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet return to Jackson Motorplex on Saturday, July 10 for a 50-lap, $20,000-to-win event.
Morton Buildings Feature (40 Laps)-1. 99JR-Frank Heckenast [$10,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$6,000]; 3. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$3,500]; 4. 44-Chris Madden [$2,800]; 5. B1-Brent Larson [$2,500]; 6. 28-Dennis Erb [$2,300]; 7. 99B-Boom Briggs [$2,200]; 8. 77-Jordan Yaggy [$2,100]; 9. 25-Chad Simpson [$2,050]; 10. 10-Paul Parker [$2,000]; 11. 7-Ricky Weiss [$1,600]; 12. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,400]; 13. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck [$1,200]; 14. 55C-Chad Mahder [$1,100]; 15. 28M-Jimmy Mars [$1,050]; 16. 76-Blair Nothdurft [$1,000]; 17. 16-Tyler Bruening [$1,000]; 18. 10C-A.J. Diemel [$1,000] Hard Charger: 44-Chris Madden[+8]
Qualifying – 1-Brandon Sheppard, 14.337; 2. 25-Chad Simpson, 14.418; 3. 19R-Ryan Gustin, 14.481; 4. 28M-Jimmy Mars, 14.561; 5. 99JR-Frank Heckenast, 14.568; 6. 97-Cade Dillard, 14.576; 7. B1-Brent Larson, 14.634; 8. 44-Chris Madden, 14.664; 9. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck, 14.712; 10. 76-Blair Nothdurft, 14.774; 11. 7-Ricky Weiss, 14.881; 12. 16-Tyler Bruening, 14.906; 13. 28-Dennis Erb, 14.92; 14. 10-Paul Parker, 15.06; 15. 99B-Boom Briggs, 15.088; 16. 77-Jordan Yaggy, 15.093; 17. 55C-Chad Mahder, 15.322; 18. 10C-A.J. Diemel, 15.589