J.J. Henes is a 17-year-old driver who calls LaGrange, Ohio home. He currently competes with the Maxima Oils Must See Racing Midwest Lights Series.
The MSR Lights series is a winged asphalt 602 crate series that presently competes in Michigan and Ohio. In fact, Henes was crowned the 2020 series champion.
Henes got his start racing quarter-midgets on the infield dirt track at Sandusky Speedway at the age of six. He continued to run quarter-midgets on the dirt for the next six years. He then ran some quarter-midget events on the outdoor asphalt track at Columbus Motor Speedway.
During his quarter-midget career, he garnered six championships at Sandusky Speedway and three Buckeye Speedway championships. In addition, he captured two North Coast Quarter Midget All-Stars championships.
By 2018, at the age of 14, Henes made his debut in a 602 winged asphalt sprint car at Lorain Raceway Park. Despite only having competed previously in the quarters, even Henes surprised himself in his sprint car debut.
“We started out at Lorain,” Henes noted. “I was pretty good right out of the gate; I ended up with quick time in qualifying.
“We had some issues with the battery that night and didn’t go out for the dash or heat race. I think I ended up fourth in the feature. I surprised myself. I was just hoping for a top five.”
Henes has been able to win feature events every year he has competed in sprint cars. But last season was his shining season thus far. He captured the MSR Lights championship in a tight point battle that wasn’t decided until the final race of the season at Lorain Raceway Park.
The chase was so tight that his father, Jon, was busy calculating and updating the point chase as the night progressed.
“I was behind Dylan (Watson) going into the final night. I remember I finished second in the feature. We were on the front straight and my dad did the math, but he did it wrong,“ the youngest Henes recalled. “He said we lost by two points. Afterwards, someone came and said we actually won. That was a pretty good feeling.”
Henes is a third-generation driver. His grandfather, Ron Henes, competed for years in supermodifieds in northern Ohio before handing over the reins of the family-owned super to son Jon. Jon competed for years, winning supermodified races all over the Midwest and earning the 2015 Midwest Supermodified Ass’n championship.
D.O.B: – January 14, 2004
HOMETOWN: – LaGrange, Ohio
SERIES: – Maxima Racing Oils Must See Racing Midwest Lights Series
SPONSORS: – Perfection Fabricators, Greber Machine Tool Inc., Sips & Such, Ronda Jedrzejek at Howard Hannah Reality
The Henes family has always run neon red cars – it is a tradition that began with grandfather Ron, then was carried on by Jon, and now J.J.
Henes carried on another family tradition last August when he raced the family supermodified for the first time at Lorain Raceway Park, becoming the third generation Henes to drive the same car that was built in 1990.
The teenager is in the midst of a busy season in 2021. In addition to the Must See Racing Maxima Racing Oils Midwest Lights Series, Henes plans to race select MSR 410 and Midwest Supermodified Series events.
“We’ll be running the crate car fulltime, hit a few 410 shows, and run the super a little bit,” Henes explained.
Asked if there is a notable difference between the three cars, he added, “The crate and 410 are similar, but the 410 is a little faster. The super is completely different. With the crate car, if you get a little loose its fine and you just drive out of it. You definitely don’t wanna get loose with the super. As far as what we do in the future, I feel like we’ll end up going up to the 410 and supermodified more. We’ll split it up between the two of them. We might run the crate car some.
I think at some point we’ll probably end up doing the whole 410 MSR schedule. I just wanna get better in the 410 and supermodified and see where it goes.”