Rubber meets the highway as Kenny Heintz returns to the observe – Saskatoon

A cool breeze drifting through Wyant Group Raceway on a Friday night in August was filled with the scent of gasoline and rubber.

The sounds were at times deafening, as engines roar and tires screech at the racetrack located just minutes north of Saskatoon.

These sights and sounds are welcome to driver Kenny Heintz, who smiles as he looks around his second home, his happy place since he was a teenager.

“It’s in my blood, and it’s a great time,” Heintz explains. “It’s a great family, I love it out here.”

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The 28-year-old driver has spent nearly half of his life behind the wheel of a vehicle, having raced for 13 years.

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Nearly three years ago, however, a terrible crash during a race nearly ended his promising career as a driver.

“I don’t remember a whole lot of it, we were racing, and the next thing I know I woke up Sunday night in the hospital,” Heintz said.

His recollection of the crash is comprised of bits and pieces of information he’s received from the many family and friends that were present that Saturday night, in July of 2018.

“I remember seeing the incident,” fellow Super Late Model driver Matthew Shirley recalled. “There was a wreck in corners one and two, then all of the sudden we see Kenny’s car up into the wall going into four.

“When the ambulance came we were all kind of in shock, because those driver side hits are pretty scary, you never know what to expect.”

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“They were telling me I got loose off of turn two, and hit the wall drivers side, and pancaked it really hard,” he explained. “I was knocked out, I bruised some ribs, fractured my collar bone and bruised my lungs.”

Heintz suffered much more than physical damage. He also sustained memory loss due to a major concussion.

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“That’s when it really dawned on me just how bad it was,” Shirley said. “At that time I’d known Kenny for about five, six years, and when his dad told me where he thought he was, I was like, he won’t even know who I am.”

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“It was rough,” Heintz admitted. “(The doctors) came in and asked me what year it was, I said 2009. So, I went nine years in the past, it was really rough there for a little bit.”

“We make a joke that Matt (Shirley) never shows up to anything, ever,” Heintz said. “He was there at my bedside, so, I knew something was pretty bad if he was there.”

The rehabilitation process was long and grueling for Heintz, who not only needed to put in physical work, but mental as well.

“I’d do a lot of puzzles,” Heintz said. “The doctors said (it) was to work my brain back up. (But), to get (my) memory back fully, it probably took a few months.”

While recovering racing was completely out of the equation for Heintz, but that couldn’t stop him from getting back to the track.

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He found a new way to stay involved, helping out other pit crews and even joining the track clean up crew.

“I give Kenny a lot of credit too,” Shirley said. “Having him on the sidelines, he took a little bit of a beating, but you know what, he recouped great.”

But this summer, after a three-year hiatus, the number 62 Camaro super sport of Kenny Heintz returned to compete at Wyant Group Raceway.

Even though there were a few nerves experienced by the longtime driver, he was able to compose himself, and enjoy the moment.

“I was pretty cool calm and collected there, I was a little nervous for the feature, to get back into it,” he admitted. “But, once you get going it’s like walking, once you do it once, you can do it forever.”

The same can’t be said for his family and friends who experienced their own set of nerves when Heintz gets behind the wheel.

“(I’m) so nervous for him, all through hot laps, through the heat races,” Heintz’ girlfriend and pit crew member Christine Hay admitted. ” I think somewhere through the middle of the feature race is when my heart rate went down a little bit more.”

As for his fellow drivers, they’re just happy to have his infectious smile roaming around the pit, prepping for the next race.

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“Oh darn rights,” Shirley laughed. “Whenever you see Kenny Heintz in that cowboy hat you know you’re in for a good time,” he continued.

“And as well, when you’re out there racing, he’s probably one of the fiercest competitors you’re going to get. (During) practice today, I’m looking on his right side, (he) took me right to the wall the son-of-a-gun.”

Even though that competitive fire still burns inside Heintz, he’s using the remainder of this racing season to re-familiarize himself with his car, as he sets his sights at the tops of the standings next season.

“(I’m) just excited to be back, and show them who’s boss I guess,” he laughed.

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