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MSA 2015 Champ Jon Henes

As seen in the January Champions issue of Flat Out Magazine


Todd Ridgeway
Flat Out Magazine
November 2015

The high tech world of Supermodified racing is made up of very sophisticated, very expensive race cars, with very big budgets to compete. Like all other racing divisions, it has seen the cost to compete and be competitive sky rocket. So, when a local fan favorite can when a Championship it is a very big deal, especially when that racer is the driver, owner, mechanic, fabricator and race day do everything else type of person all while still representing his chosen division as an ambassador to the Supermodified world. The Midwest Supermodified Association (MSA) has such a person, and that person just happened to capture the 2015 MSA Championship in grand style. The name Henes is well known for their years of support and dedication to the Supermodified race car and the Ohio northern bullring of Sandusky speedway.

Veteran driver Jon Henes, son of Ohio racing great Ron Henes, is a do all, does all in the shop and on race day with a supporting cast of long time racing family members. Henes nailed down the 2015 MSA Championship for the first time in his long career by winning the final event of the season at Sandusky (OH) Speedway. Henes would hold the point lead going into that final event at a track he was very familiar with. However, a rare slip up in qualifying by Henes gave young gun AJ Lesiecki the fast qualifying time and a new one point lead in MSA points. But, when show down time came Henes drove to the front on a mission on lap three of the final MSA feature race of 2015 and never looked back taking his first career Championship in MSA competition.

The 39 year-old Lagrange Ohio native driver has raced in MSA every single year of its existence (2001-2015), and is one of only three drivers to have accrued points in every season. Jon is second all-time in MSA Points. His best finish in final year end points tally up to this point was third in 2004 with his Supermodified checkered flag resume showing career victories at Sandusky, Mansfield, Toledo, and Kil Kare Speedway’s.

The Supermodified Champion has seen a lot and came a long way since that first race at the age of nine on the old Fremont Speedway road course in a Go Kart where he sailed to a fifth place finish. His first Super race came at Sandusky Speedway in 1993 where he took seventh finishing position. “The boys love it, the women hate it, and mom has a kind of love hate relationship with it, but she’s been doing it for a long time,” said Henes. On the Supermodified race car, “you are three inches off the ground going 120/160mph who wouldn't want to drive one, they are awesome when they work and a hand full when they don't. My car was first raced at Volusia county speedway in 1990 built by my dad, Larry harper, Dale Henes and Bob Lapp. The engines are Chevy big blocks built by my dad with the machining being done at P.C. Automotive I started running number 63 because they wouldn't let me run 36jr, but once my dad retired from driving we went to the family number 36.”

The key to the 2015 MSA Championship came down to the last venue of the season at Henes best, well known track at Sandusky. “We couldn't really do anything that different except worry about everything and you can forget about a good night’s sleep,” explains Henes. “Thinking about all the things you could have done differently through the year to be in a better position like not hitting the kill switch and losing a spot to A.J. Lesiecki two races before. Old race notes seem to be less important as the years go by, the tires and cars have changed so much we really have found that the old notes don’t help that much. Nothing ever goes as anticipated, you just have to adapt and overcome to what’s happening around you. So, a clear head, you can’t be worried about whom did what last week, you have to be in the moment and always aware of what’s happening around you and what’s going to be happening in front of you. Just race, that’s how we approached it, and it worked out for us as a team,” finished the new MSA Champion.

“My son motivates me, I want to show him if you work hard enough, and want something bad enough, you can obtain it. I will always remember that when our backs were against the wall during the 2015 season we made the right decisions as a team and got to the front and never looked back, we couldn’t lose the championship if we won the race. Money is the most challenging aspect to gaining this Championship. The analogy seems to be the more you’re willing to spend the faster you can go. Some people get a lot out of a little but I’d hate to think of what we could have done over the last 20 some years if we didn't have to worry about how many tires we were going to buy. The biggest thing that motivates and always has motivated me is being told I can’t do something I love proving people wrong,” finished Henes.

“The last few years we really have been sticking to the same baseline set up everywhere except Toledo. Toledo always needs a little more to keep the car off of the track because there is so much down force. Every race is different but it’s hard to make a plan because everything changes so fast, it’s nice to be out front then you’re in a little more control but you can’t burn your stuff up, I also learned to always listen to Jack Smith. My biggest personal win would be Kil Kare Speedway (OH) in 2010 I couldn't figure out how to drive the track so I sat in the stands and watched every other division as much as I could to figure out what I needed to do to get around the place better, and we won, the first and last time the MSA has ever been there. I often think about what we could have done if we knew then what we know now,” says Henes.

Jon not only leads the MSA way with a Championship, but also helps to promote the next generation of racers through countless hours of time and energy spent with the younger racers. Explains Henes, “I have a lot of fun racing with my son. It’s made me fall in love with racing again. J.J. has been racing quarter midgets for about 6 years and winning 6 championships over the last 4 years. It’s also a nice way to get the younger generation involved in racing making them understand what it’s about. We also try and do that with the big car as well there is always something they can help with at the big track,” finished Henes. A true racer and ambassador too not just Supermodifieds, but oval track racing in general. Something the sport could use more of these days. You have just been introduced to the 2015 MSA Championship driver Jon Henes.


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