Not only did Katie Hettinger add herself to that list, she also started a list of her own – becoming the first to win a championship. The 14 year old won the CRA Junior Late Model championship in 2020 after winning races at Indianapolis Speedrome and the 1/5th mile at Toledo Speedway.
WATCH LIVE: JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour at Birch Run
“Last year was kind of weird, we only had five races due to COVID. We won two out of those five races and that put us ahead in points but the last championship race was just a mess,” Hettinger told Speed51. “We had to go into the pits twice and we almost didn’t win the championship until the last lap; they wrecked coming to the finish line.”
Nearly ten months since picking up that championship at Anderson Speedway, Hettinger returns home to Michigan to make her JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour debut this Saturday at Birch Run Speedway, reuniting with three-time Super Series champion Johnny VanDoorn for the race.
Her first start with the series comes with the Junior LM title still fresh in her mind.
It was very big. It was my second year in the Junior Late Models and that’s what we were working for in those two years. We had finished fourth in points my first year of Junior Late Models, to win the championship last year was a very big deal.
“A lot of my friends and family and Michigan sponsors are coming. I’m very excited to see them.”
Hettinger has spent the majority of the 2021 racing season racing away from home, racing in the Carolinas for former Hickory Motor Speedway track champion Matt Piercy. While she has mainly been seen in a Limited Late Model at Hickory and Tri-County, she has also been in a handful of Late Model Stock races and has also made starts with the Carolina Pro Late Model Series.
“It’s been nice to get to race down in Charlotte, North Carolina’s the heart of NASCAR, which is where I want to go. I’ve been racing down there, we finished sixth this last weekend in South Carolina with the Pro Late Models. It’s been going good.”
Her five Carolina Pro Late Model Series starts have yielded respectable results, posting a career-best fifth at Hickory in May and back-to-back sixths at Franklin County Speedway and Dillon Motor Speedway.
She believes that her previous Pro Late Model experience in the Carolinas will help her back home with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour.
“There are a lot of experienced drivers with the JEGS (Tour) and down in North Carolina. I haven’t raced with the older guys from the JEGS because I was with the Juniors but I’m excited because I know they race well.”
She has her eyes set on a good run Saturday night when she returns to her home state for the Shoot Out at the Dixie.
“Finish the race, that’s the first one. Hopefully we come home top-five or top-ten, that would be really nice because I’ve never raced the big track. Hopefully we can come home with at least a top-ten.”
Saturday’s JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race at Birch Run Speedway will be broadcasted live on Speed51.TV. Click here to subscribe today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: John Lund