For the first time in her young career, Katie Hettinger will be venturing out west to compete in a major stock car event.
The 15-year-old Dryden, Michigan, native is set to close out a busy but productive 2022 campaign by competing in the final two ARCA Menards Series West races of the year with Young’s Motorsports. That starts this weekend with the Star Nursery 150 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hettinger is expecting a physical demanding race out in the Las Vegas heat but is confident that she can successfully adapt to the heavier cars and enjoy a successful West Series debut with Young’s Motorsports.
“I’m really excited and I think this is going to be a lot of fun,” Hettinger said. “[Las] Vegas is a smaller track compared to what I’m used to with Late Models. Preparation-wise, I’ve been doing some sim-training and watching a bunch of film with my crew chief, but I’m going there to get seat time and hopefully I’ll get a Top 5.”
Hettinger’s family roots are deeply embedded into ARCA history, as her grandfather Jim was the winningest driver the ARCA Midget Series history with 38 victories. He also tallied two series championships in 1984 and ’90.
The past couple of years have seen Hettinger proudly carry on the tradition passed down to her by Jim and her father, Chris. She became the winningest female driver at Hickory Motor Speedway this year before and was recently announced as part of the upcoming Advance Auto Parts Drive for Diversity Combine.
One goal Hettinger had for 2022 was to compete in as many big races as possible around the country. She believes going up against talented fields on a regular basis has provided her with valuable experience that will prepare her for Friday’s West Series race at The Bullring.
Hettinger credits her father, Rev Racing and Lorin Ranier for helping make the opportunity with Young’s Motorsports happen. She plans to stay focused so she can continue a solid ARCA season for the operation.
“[Tyler Young] had some good stuff with Leland Honeyman Jr. this year,” Hettinger said. “They had a car they were willing to let us drive, and we took the chance. Even though there is more preparation for [Las Vegas] since it’s an ARCA race, I’m going to stay focused and give it the best I can.”
In their first full-time ARCA Menards Series East season, Young’s Motorsports recorded three top-five finishes with Honeyman behind the wheel. Their best performance came at Five Flags Speedway in March, where Honeyman finished second to Sammy Smith after earning the pole and leading 27 laps.
The Star Nursery 150 will be the first time team owner Tyler Young will take his ARCA operation to the West Coast. Despite this, Young is confident another solid weekend is ahead for the team with Hettinger behind the wheel.
“The ARCA program has really been going in the right direction,” Young said. “Leland Honeyman Jr. did a great job and was very competitive each week. Overall, we’re satisfied with the progress, and I think Katie is going to show her true talent with us this weekend.”
RACING REFERENCE: Career NASCAR stats for Tyler Young
Young’s main goal for Hettinger at The Bullring is to ensure she gets a solid understanding on how to properly drive an ARCA car before they head to Phoenix Raceway in November. Phoenix is a much faster and more technical track compared to the Bullring.
Excited to make my #ARCA debut in the West Series race Oct. 14 at the #LasVegasBullring with @youngsmtrsports. Thanks to @TeamChevy, Wheeler Trucking and bradCM Incorporated. Will be at @PhoenixRaceway Nov. 4 for @ARCA_Racing West Series finale too! pic.twitter.com/MTogRsdjoa
— Katie Hettinger (@katiehettracing) September 15, 2022
After watching Hettinger find success in a Late Model Stock Car, Young is confident in her ability to quickly get acclimated with his equipment. He has been impressed with the maturity Hettinger has shown in their brief time together, which Young attributes to the support system surrounding her.
“[Katie’s] feedback is really good,” Young said. “She’s been racing a lot here lately and there are a lot of good people helping her like Matt Piercy and Lorin Ranier. They’ve been training her the right way, and nothing has been rushed, so I think she’s really going to succeed.”
Hettinger and Young will be going up against a stout 26-car field for the Star Nursery 150, which is the largest field in a West Series event at The Bullring since 2012.
With track position expected to be imperative around the three-eighths-mile oval, Young plans to get Hettinger’s car dialed in for qualifying so she can start near the front. Young expects his car to be fast, but he is more concerned with Hettinger completing all 150 laps.
For Hettinger, accomplishing that goal will come down to being patient against an unfamiliar field and constantly communicating with her Young’s Motorsports crew so she has everything she needs to come away from The Bullring with a solid performance.
“I need to give great feedback on the car,” Hettinger said. “We’ve already tested the car [with Young’s Motorsports] and everybody is great. I’m going to give everything I have on Friday night and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
While Hettinger knows it will take time to match the resume put together by Jim, she considers the opportunity with Young’s Motorsports to be another positive development towards one day competing at the top levels of NASCAR and intends to make the most of her two planned races with the team.
Friday’s ARCA Menards Series West Star Nursery 150 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. PT and will be available to watch live exclusively on FloRacing.