Wayne Helliwell, Jr. Branches Out From His Domination at Lee
Racer Has Won Three Championships
in a Row, Now Looks to Hit the Road More Often
By Mike Twist

The term “One Track Jack” probably has its roots in short track racing at Concord Speedway (NC) back in the early 1990's.  That was when Jack Sprague won an ungodly number of Big 10 feature events at Concord, but still caught heat.  “He's can't run well anywhere else,” those critics cried.  “He's a one track Jack!”

Being so good at one racetrack actually seemed to hurt Sprague's reputation.  But Sprague got the last laugh and proved that he knew how to take his show on the road just as well.  He spent time in all of NASCAR's big three series over the next decade or so and came away with three NASCAR Truck Series championships - proving that the best drivers can win anywhere.

These days a similar story is being played out up North.  There's no question that Wayne Helliwell, Jr. is the master of Lee USA Speedway (NH) in recent seasons.  He's earned three championships in a row there - one in Late Model Sportsman in 2008 as well as the 2009 and 2010 Late Model titles.  All in all, he has seven career championships at Lee on his resume.

And he's hardly good at just that one track.  But while Sprague had the resources of Hendrick Motorsports on his side, Helliwell and his car owner have just one racecar at their disposal.  Still, Helliwell has posted some big numbers away from Lee when his schedule allows.  Helliwell finished a strong second in the recent ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he qualified for the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) in 2009 and even won a segment of that famed event and most recently, he collected a top ten finish in the ACT season finale at Waterford Speedbowl (CT).

Helliwell has always been good at Lee, but uniting with car owner Bruce Barnhardt, who got his start in racing by sweeping the floors of Dave Dion's race shop, has allowed him to get on the top of his game at Lee while also hitting the road on occasion.

“Everything has been working well,” said Helliwell.  “Bruce Bernhardt and I teamed up a few years back and it's taken off.  Whatever happened has worked out really well.  You couldn't ask for a better car owner.”

The long-term goal for Helliwell and Bernhardt is to take their orange #27 Ford, painted in the same livery as Dion's famous blue-oval machines, on the road full-time before too long - provided that enough financial support can be found.

“If we have an off weekend, we really like going places,” said Helliwell.  “We always like to try something new and learn.  Our goal for the next year and the year after is to run the Tour full-time.”

Although there are loose plans to build a second Late Model for the team, traveling this season has meant using the same car everywhere.  On the night before the NHMS Invitational, Helliwell capped off his Lee championship season by winning a feature there.  By 6am the next morning, the car was loaded into their trailer and headed into the pit area at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Yes, it was the same car,” said Helliwell.  “We had four or five guys on the crew who all went back to the garage at 11:30pm and we worked until three or four in the morning.  Then we showed up [at NHMS].  You're bummed to get there and have no sleep, but a run like we had made it all worth it.

“It's huge.  It's just really, really big.  We not even really part of the ACT Tour.  We run a race here and there, but Joey {Pole} and {Joey [Laquerre] and all those guys do this all the time and they have their stuff together for racing on long runs.  It's nice to come in here and run against them.”

Helliwell had a little bit of help in learning his way around Lee USA Speedway.  His father, Wayne Heliwell, Sr., is one of the most notable drivers from the track in recent history.  The elder Helliwell was well known for his gold #77 Camaro that often ended up in victory lane.  He is a proven coach too.  On one night in the early 1990's, Helliwell, Sr. lend out his back-up car to a driver from North Carolina who happened to be in town for the races at nearby New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  With Helliwell's tips, that driver won that night's race pitting NASCAR drivers against the regulars at the track.  Who was that driver in Helliwell's back-up car?  It was none other than the late, great Dale Earnhardt.

These days Helliwell, Sr. helps Helliwell, Jr. build racecars - including the #27 Ford that the younger Helliwell has driven to so much success.

“We do all of that ourselves,” said Helliwell, Jr.  “My Dad always had done his own stuff and I grew up watching him.  A few years ago, we teamed up to build chassis.  We have a couple of cars out at Lee and Seekonk.  It's nice to build your own stuff and then drive it.  You know what you have and you know what changes to make.  Plus, it makes me really proud to take something that is our own and not somebody else's and come out and run against really good equipment.”

It's not likely to see Wayne Helliwell, Sr. back in the driver's seat though.

“We had two cars,” said Helliwell, Jr.  “About two years ago, he got back into it and had a little bit of fun, but things have changed a lot and it just doesn't suit things now for him to run.”

But Helliwell, Jr. will likely be running, and winning, for years to come.  It just remains to be seen how often he will be hitting the road.  When he does those, he is especially proud to represent his home track of Lee USA Speedway.

“Lee is definitely my home track and it's always nice to go out [and carry that banner],” said Helliwell.  “You get support from the people at your hometrack and everyone [on the Tour] knows we're from Lee.  It's nice to be part of something.  When you go to Oxford, you think of Jeff Taylor, so it's nice to have people come to Lee and think of us.”

Helliwell will get to defend that home turf this weekend with the running of Oktoberfest at Lee USA Speedway - where a total of 11 features will be run as part of a three-day show that will close out the 2010 season.

Wayne Helliwell, Jr. at Lee USA Speedway.  (51 Photo)
Helliwell finished second in the NHMS Invitational this year.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Helliwell (Right) and his young daughter appear in a post-race press conference for podium finishers at the NHMS Invitational.  (Eric LeFleche / VLF Racing Photo)
Wayne Helliwell, Jr. (#27) races with eventual winner Joey Pole for the lead of the NHMS Invitational.  (Leif Tillotson Photo)