Honda Challenge welcomed Kevin Hennings and Zachary Heidenreich to wheel-to-wheel racing, fresh out of competition school on Friday at the second event on the NASA Southeast calendar. Heidenreich and his grandfather worked hard over the winter to fix their H4 Civic after blowing the engine on track in November. Heidenreich worked his way up the NASA HPDE system then straight to competition school after HPDE3. Hennings also worked his way up the NASA ladder system with a few extra steps along the way. From HPDE3, Hennings joined Time Trial for a few years, dialing in his Honda S2000. Hennings also was a NASA instructor, which kept him very busy at the track.
For Saturday’s race one, the H1 pole was set by Stephen Pearce, followed by Will Hunter, Shane Lovely and Rob Oxford then Michael Kramer in H2, and at the back of the wave were the two rookies, Heidenreich in H4 and Hennings H1.
The green flag waved and Pearce held onto the lead at Turn 1. Lovely got a great start, out-pulled Hunter and got door to door with Pearce going into Turn 1. Pearce, on the inside line, got back on the gas sooner and pulled ahead putting Lovely behind him. Hunter and Oxford went nose to tail through turns 1 and 2 with Kramer door to door with Oxford until turn three then they went single file from there. The two rookies lay back, watched and learned for their first few corners. Rookie Hennings made a pass on Kramer right before the kink and reeled in Oxford and Hunter in the brake zone for Turn 11.
Three laps in, Hennings took the inside line, trail-braking into Turn 12 and slipped past Oxford and started working on Hunter. Pearce and Lovely were out front by 6-7 seconds at this point, still in sight, but inching away. On lap five, Kevin Hennings out-braked Hunter at Turn 11 and slipped past on the inside, moving into third. The next lap Hunter developed a bad vibration in the rear of the car, ending his race early. Turns out both rear axles went bad. Up front, Lovely was still in second and Pearce continued to put distance between himself and the rest of the field. On lap nine, a Mustang flipped, the red flag came out and the race finished under double-yellow conditions. At the finish line Pearce took first, also with a new track record by .01 seconds. Lovely took second place and the rookie Hennings took third. Kramer finished first in H2 and the other rookie Heidenreich finished first in H4.
For Sunday’s race two, the H1 pole was set by Pearce, followed by Hennings, Hunter, Lovely and Oxford, then Michael Kramer in H2 and Zachary Heidenreich in H4.
The green flag waved and Lovely shot the gap between Pearce and Hennings, put his nose in the lead for a second, but he was on the outside so Pearce held on to the lead going into Turn 2. Quickly they went single file and stayed that way for five laps until Hennings out-braked Lovely at Turn 11 and made the pass. Pearce was still in the lead, now followed by Hennings and Lovely rounding out the top three. Hunter and Oxford were about 10 seconds behind the lead pack at this point and remained nose to tail the entire race.
Oxford was unable to show a wheel and Hunter did not make a single mistake. Heidenreich in H4 ran a consistent and safe race for his first weekend. He was watching his water temperature for overheating and hoping his alternator bolt did not back out again, so he will have some maintenance items to check on before next race. At the checkered flag, Pearce took first, rookie Hennings took second and Lovely took third in H1. Michael Kramer finished first in H2 and the other rookie Heidenreich finished first in H4.