By MANDEE PAUCH
The Heinke-Baldwin race team produced a strong season in 2018. Together, the team earned nine wins, 51 top-fives and 87 top-10s in 121 races.
Their consistency shined bright with six top-10 point finishes, two of which were two top-five point finishes on the Super DIRTcar Series.
Jimmy Phelps and the no.98h team had a successful season at their weekly home tracks.
“We got off to a good start at Brewerton,” he said. “The track started off heavy then it seemed like as the season went on the track changed and we were consistently coming from the back to the front which helped us maintain a point lead. Towards the end the track had changed some and we were searching the last couple of races. That tightened things up points wise, and it ended up coming down to the wire.”
Phelps and the team were able to run away with two victories and the 2018 Brewerton Speedway Track Championship.
“We didn’t have any major malfunctions, for the most part we were very competitive,” Phelps added. “There’s not much more we could ask for. We’re proud of our championship. Brewerton championships are hard to come by, so we were excited about it.”
Max McLaughlin and the no.6h team struggled Friday nights at Brewerton early on in the season but were able to keep digging and climb their way into the hunt.
“We had speed but struggled at the beginning of the year,” he said. “It seemed like as the race went on, we kind of faded. It took until halfway through the year to get really good. Jimmy and I together won four out of the last five races there. It was cool to go out like that. If we started the year like we ended, we could have had a chance at the championship.”
McLaughlin and the team collected two victories throughout the season at Brewerton and were able to finish the season with a strong third-place in the point standings.
After missing one race at Land of Legends Raceway due to prior commitments, Phelps and the team were able to come home with one victory and a podium finish in the point standings.
“We hadn’t been there as a regular for several years,” he said. “We were good right out of the box. Land of legends allowed us to work on our program, which is what we had hoped for.”
After Fulton Speedway made the switch to 358-Modifieds, the HBR team elected to change direction and race weekly at Land of Legends Raceway.
“It was tough leaving Fulton because it’s close to home, but Land of Legends seemed like the best fit,” noted Phelps. “We took one night off for a big event at Weedsport and were still in the hunt for points and ended up third in points. We came out of it clean, without any major issues, and learned a lot.”
With prior racing commitments, McLaughlin missed a few Saturday night events at Land of Legends Raceway but was still able to put the no.6h machine in the top-ten point standings.
“I love racing there,” McLaughlin added. “I learned a ton there. I think racing there made me an all-around better driver. It was really cool to get a win at the track where my dad had his first career victory at.”
The no.98h team showed strong contention for the points battle all season with the Super DIRTcar Series.
“It was a rollercoaster,” he said. “I thought we were more competitive than we’ve been in several years. Our car and motor program were really rolling. Everything was clicking. However, it seemed like we were taking one step forward and one step back when it came to finishes.”
Phelps and the team were close to several victories on the tour but were unfortunately struck with bad luck more times than not.
“We won a couple big races then there were nights where we were good enough to win and had bad luck strike us,” Phelps added. “We had a lot of uncharacteristic DNF’s that we haven’t been plagued with in the last couple of years. While we had some disappointments, we ran really well. Points wise, the DNF’s killed us.”
Despite the misfortunes, Phelps and the team were able to collect two series victories and finish fifth in the Super DIRTcar Series point standings.
“We won a couple races on the tour which isn’t an easy thing to do,” he said. “We had a shot at a few more wins and good finishes, but we showed speed and consistency for the most part, and I think that’s been the biggest thing that has us excited about 2019.”
McLaughlin was a strong force knocking on the door all season to pick up his first Super DIRTcar Series victory.
“It was a good season,” he said. “We started off the year on the right foot by getting second opening night. We had a lot of podium finishes, three seconds on the tour. We were strong all year, it just seemed like whenever we had a chance to win on the tour it didn’t play out in our favor. That’s what happens. Overall, it was awesome to be able to continuously run up front all year. The first two years on the tour I wasn’t in contention to be in the top five but this year, to be third in the points is cool knowing the competition level in the series. To get third in points my third year is really awesome.”
Both teams will be kicking off the off season by celebrating their top-five point finishes with the Super DIRTcar Series at their annual awards banquet this weekend and will be back into the shop to put their nose to the grind.
“We plan on doing some homework over the winter and try to learn why some of the stuff that we did worked and figure out what our weak links were and work on them,” Phelps said. “We can learn from what was good and focus on where we struggled which will help us big time going into next year.”
Both drivers would like to give a special thanks to Al and Judy Heinke, HBR, Mohawk Northeast and all of their sponsors for their efforts, faith and continued support to help make everything possible.
HBR SEASON STATS –
62 races – 6 wins, 32 top 5’s, 46 top 10’s
59 races – 3 wins, 19 top 5’s, 41 top 10’s
MEDIA LINKS –