ABINGDON, Va. – Josh Reeves and his Highlands Motorsports racing team are coming off a year to remember.
In the debut season for the Abingdon-based operation, Reeves and team founder Wade Lopez fielded short track cars for Zane Smith, Josh Berry and Grant Enfinger.
Each of those drivers has full-time rides in a NASCAR touring series this season, with Berry running for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the JR Motorsports Xfinity Series team.
“Working with three high-caliber racers like that was a really good experience,” Reeves said. “They helped me more than I could ever help them.”
There are now two new drivers in the Highlands fold.
Katie Hettinger, 14, is a third-generation racer from Dryden, Michigan. Luke Fenhaus, is a 17-year-old prodigy from Wausau, Wisconsin, who has drawn rave reviews from three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart.
Both teens are part of the famed development program led by longtime motorsports powerbroker Lorin Ranier. Reeves said that Chevrolet is also providing heavy support.
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“The picture is looking good,” Reeves said. “We’ve got two hungry and talented young drivers, and we will have three cars.”
The 2022 actually began last Saturday for the Highlands Motorsport team as Hettinger finished ninth in the Red Eye 50/50 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida.
“That race was kind of a last-minute deal for us, but we pulled it together,” Reeves said. “Katie was very methodical in practice and checked every box we had for her. We struggled a little with our motor during the race, but Katie was fantastic overall.”
The 5-foot-1, 108-pound Hettinger created a stir last September by becoming the youngest female race winner in Hickory Motor Speedway history with her triumph in a 50-lap Limited Late Model feature.
Hettinger began her racing adventure at age five in a quarter midget.
“When Katie gets behind the wheel, she turns into a monster. She’s as good as any guy on the track,” Reeves said.
The 2022 plan for Hettinger is to compete in around 14 races with the Carolina Pro Late Model Series. Opening night will be March 5 at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina. The series, which features three events at Hickory, will stop at Kingsport Speedway on Aug. 20.
Fenhaus is scheduled to run the entire 12-race season with the CARS Tour, with the opener set for March 12 at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina.
“Luke is one of the most impressive young racers I’ve seen come up in a while,” Reeves said. “I can’t wait to see what he does with us.”
The short track racing world took note of Fenhaus last year when he finished second to IndyCar Series veteran Marco Andretti in a nationally-televised SRX Series event at Slinger Super Speedway in Wisconsin. Stewart followed in third.
“Luke probably could have won that night if he had forced the issue,” Reeves said.
Fenhaus did earn a signature victory in July, holding off the likes of short track aces Ty Majeski and Derek Kraus to claim the prestigious Slinger Nationals.
The Highlands team is building a new car for Fenhaus.
“Racing last week in Florida turned out to be a good thing because now we can focus on getting the new car ready for Luke,” said Reeves, who also serves as the crew chief for his drivers.
The other new addition is versatile tire specialist Sal Accardo, a Roanoke native who graduated from the broad-based Motorsports Technology program at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville. Reeves is a product of that same two-year program.
“To make it in racing now, you need experience and education,” Reeves said. “About every position now is engineering based.”
Reeves is eager to build off last season. Smith, Berry and Enfinger all competed in one race for the Highlands team, with each driver a leading a lap in their respective event.
Berry won the role for CARS tour stop at Jennerstown Speedway in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania.
Smith, now with Front Row Motor Sports NASCAR Truck series team, ran the Highlands car at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Smith won the last year’s Truck Series event at Martinsville Speedway to qualify for the playoff championship race in Phoenix.
Enfinger, who has a new two-year deal with the GMS Racing Truck team, competed with the Highlands team at Motor Mile Raceway in Radford, Virginia.
“We had issues in each race last season, but we led in every time out and learned important lessons with some really great guys,” Reeves said.
Reeves said the long-range goal at Highlands Motorsports is to advance into a big-three NASCAR touring series.
“Absolutely, we want to expand. And considering what we accomplished in just one year, anything is attainable.”
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