Interview by Mary Lendzion
Photos by Fastest Street Car Staff
Jeff Heintz is inspired whenever he walks into his shop, Heintz Racing in Mooresville, North Carolina.
That’s where he’s surrounded by cars with LS and LT engines, and where he focuses on making them faster with his small staff. His workdays involve ingenuity and inventiveness, and that makes him happy.
Heintz’s shop, on the Mooresville Mile, is near shops belonging to NASCAR teams, Gibbons Motorsports, Spraker Racing and Hogan’s Racing Manifolds, among others. When he works on Sundays, he has the television on to listen to the NASCAR race to see how his close friends, Alex Bowman, who drives the number 48 ZL1 Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports, and Matt DiBenedetto, who drives the number 21 Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing, are doing.
When Bowman stops by to see Heintz, he does figure 8s in the parking lot in his Corvette C6 drift car, with Heintz in the passenger’s seat collecting data.
Away from that, Heintz holds his own in Chevrolet Performance Stock presented by Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center at NMCA events across the country, and even earned a championship in the class in 2020.
He’s immersed in the world of racing, and he’s incredibly busy working on customers’ cars and his car, but when he says he wouldn’t have it any other way, we believe him.
Read on for more about Heintz, who lives in Concord, North Carolina, with his wife, Christy.
WHEN WERE YOU FIRST EXPOSED TO RACING?
I grew up in Concord, North Carolina, and have always been around cars. When I was in my early teens, we had a farm, and I was always working on and fixing lawn mowers and tractors, and I was very interested in how to do all of that. Then, when I was in high school, I took automotive classes for three years, and I tried to learn as much as I could. My family is known for drag racing in this area. My cousins, Mike and Steve of Heintz Brothers Automotive, are in the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame for their racing. As I started getting more into racing, I started talking to them about it, and I absorbed as much information as I could.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?
After my brother, Brian, graduated from high school, he was going to sell his 1976 Trans Am with a Pontiac engine that my cousin, Mike, built, and I didn’t want that to happen because I was in love with that car and I wanted it. I was only fourteen at the time, so my parents made a deal with him, gave him a deposit to put down on another car and gave the car to me. I actually still have it.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST WORK EXPERIENCE?
The week after I graduated from high school in 1993, when all of my friends went to the beach to celebrate, I went to work at a local dealership called Beasley-Cross Chevrolet in Kannapolis, North Carolina, where I was changing oil, rotating tires, doing inspections and whatever else needed to be done. Then I moved up to be a technician and to write service orders, and then I was a service manager and worked in the parts department. I was there for 11 years, and that got me a lot of exposure.
WAS IT FROM THERE THAT YOU WENT TO WHITAKER’S WHEEL AND TIRE IN CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA?
It is. Whitaker’s Wheel and Tire hired me to run the service department that they had just started. I was dealing with customers, writing up tickets and ordering parts. I was able to help the techs out when they needed help. I was there for four years before going to a dealership called Sparks Chrysler Jeep in Concord, North Carolina, to write service orders. I was there for several years, and then went back to Whitaker’s Wheel and Tire. Then I started working for Nick Williams of Williams Performance in Mooresville, North Carolina, and about three years later, I decided to open my own performance shop, Heintz Racing, in 2010.
WHAT WAS INVOLVED WITH OPENING HEINTZ RACING?
Nick Williams was on the verge of shutting down the performance side of his shop since the machining side of the business was taking off, and I teased that I would buy the performance shop, and we made a deal. I bought the dyno, the lifts, hoists, special tools and everything else in the shop that wasn’t in his personal tool box. There were still some cars that were being worked on in the shop, and the two guys who were working for him started working for me. I was still working for Whitaker’s Wheel and Tire when I started Heintz Racing. I would come into Heintz Racing at night and the guys would have the cars lined up and the dyno ready for them to be tuned. We would work from 7 p.m. until midnight on late-model GM vehicles with LS platforms, and then later, LT platforms. We were performing all sorts of performance upgrades. I wanted my shop to take off, but I was also loyal to Whitaker’s Wheel and Tire, and on top of that, it was a big step, and I didn’t want to cut ties to my old job entirely. I wanted to make sure everything would be good, and I wanted to get to the point where I could pay myself in addition to paying my guys and all of the bills. I ended up staying at Whitaker’s Wheel and Tire for four more years after opening Heintz Racing.
WORKING TWO FULL-TIME JOBS IS QUITE A COMMITMENT.
Yes, it was. I wasn’t able to do stuff with my wife and friends, and when I was working and would hear the cars running at Mooresville Dragway on Thursday nights, I would want to go. Four years into it, a friend came by my shop one night and made me an offer to buy my shop. I accepted his offer and sold him my shop, my customer base and my equipment, and I walked away for a few years.
WHAT DID YOU DO AT THAT POINT?
I built a small shop behind my house, and I was messing with my cars and some of my friends’ cars, and then I met Jeff Hagaman, and I started building cars for him, including a Corvette ZR1, Corvette Z06 and a ProCharged Camaro. We started racing half-mile events with him driving the Corvette ZR1 and me driving my Cadillac CTS-V. Jeff and I became close friends, and I was working on his car when I got the call that he had died in a half-mile wreck in New Orleans two years ago, and that was extremely hard on me. Jeff had inspired me to move into another shop in Concord, North Carolina, for a fresh start with a new dyno and equipment, and that was when I got introduced to NASCAR driver Matt DiBenedetto, and NASCAR driver Alex Bowman, who’s now one of my best friends. Alex took over driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then for Jimmie Johnson for Hendrick Motorsports, and he actually owns the building that my shop is now in. We have built many cars for him, including a Camaro, Corvette and C10. He’s really into cars, including dirt cars.
WE WERE GLAD THAT YOU STARTED COMPETING IN PROFORM LSX RUMBLE PRESENTED BY CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE AT NMCA EVENTS IN 2012, BEFORE MOVING TO LME STREET KING.
When I first started with the series, I was driving my Cadillac CTS-V with the original engine, transmission and rear end, but we installed a cam and some bolt-on modifications, plus a fuel system and a lot of nitrous. We ran 9.35 at 147 mph and we were recognized two years in a row for having the fastest Cadillac at the NMCA event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana. Would you believe that car ran those times with 124,000 miles on it? Then I started racing my wife’s Corvette Z06 with an LS3 engine and a Nitrous Outlet system to 9.60s in LME Street King and True Street. I was entering both classes at races, but then I wanted to move to a heads-up class.
IS THAT WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURCHASE KEVIN LUMSDEN’S 1999 CAMARO IN JANUARY OF 2019?
Yes. I had seen Kevin Lumsden at one of the races, and I got to know him and told him that if he ever decided to sell the car, I would be interested in buying it. And, one day when I was eating lunch, he texted and said he was selling it, and we drove to Texas to pick it up, and I decided I was going to race it in Chevrolet Performance Stock presented by Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center. They had been playing up the class, and I had been watching it, and thought it would be a good fit for me. The car has a sealed DR525 engine and a Turbo 400 by RPM Transmissions.
WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE CAMARO UPON BRINGING IT HOME?
Because I wasn’t familiar with everything about the car, I put it on the dyno when we got it home, just to see what the power level was, and I went over everything. Kevin Lumsden helped me with shock settings and things like that. Then, I did some testing at Mooresville Dragway and Wilkesboro Dragway in North Carolina because there’s not a lot you can do to these cars for Chevrolet Performance Stock presented by Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center. You can’t get into the engine, so it’s all in the transmission, converter, gear ratio and tires. I struggled with the car at first because things I had learned in the past didn’t apply. There was a big learning curve.
YOU PULLED OFF A THIRD-PLACE FINISH IN CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE STOCK PRESENTED BY SCOGGIN-DICKEY PARTS CENTER POINTS IN 2019, FOLLOWED BY A CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2020. WHAT DID THAT TAKE?
It took me setting my mind to this is what I want to do, and I tested and gathered data, and I spent hours and hours going over the data. I didn’t have the fastest car, but I was fortunate in the races where I won because I had a quicker reaction time. It’s funny because at first, I spent so much time trying to keep the front of the car down on the launch, but then I discovered the car just wants to have the front up on the launch. It just takes time and a lot of testing.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON COMPETING IN THE CLASS?
I love the class, and all of the racers in it. If I’m struggling or I break something, they jump in and try to help me. They’re not going to try to take advantage of that for an easy win. At the NMCA race in Florida this year, Ronnie Hackelton was having trouble with the rear end under his car, and we all jumped in and helped him change to a different gear ratio and different axles. We’re family, and that’s another reason why I want to stay in this class for now.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS YEAR?
I would love to be able to back up my championship, but to be honest, I’m going to approach things round by round, especially with some of the changes I made, like replacing my 28X10.5 slicks with Mickey Thompson 275/60/15 Radial Pros. I just have to find the sweet spot. If I could win another championship, that would be great, but if not, that would be okay, too.
YOU SAID EARLIER THAT YOU’RE GRATEFUL FOR SUPPORT FROM SPONSORS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS. WHO DO YOU RELY ON FOR HELP WITH YOUR RACING PROGRAM?
Heintz Racing, RPM Transmissions, Valvoline, Strange Engineering, AFCO Racing, Coan Engineering, Bogart Racing Wheels, Brian Tooley Racing, Customs By Bigun, Dixon Connection, The Driveshaft Shop, Mark Williams Enterprises, Bagshaw Fabrication, Motion Raceworks, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, Optic Armor Performance Windows, Holley, Aeromotive Fuel Systems, VP Racing Fuels and Scoggin-Dickey Performance. My dad, Larry, goes to the races with me, and he helps me stay awake while driving to and from the races. He helps me get everything set up for the car, and pushes me to the lanes and picks me up from the scales. I have help from fellow racers and Heintz Racing customers Don Dixon, Terry Faust, Tommy Dabbs and Scott Brown. We joke that we’re Team Shake ’N Bake. I also have support back home from my mom, Cynthia, and my wife, Christy. Racing is a lot of work, and it’s very nice to have all of these people behind me, and it makes me love what I’m doing even more.
(Interview from the June 2021 issue of Fastest Street Car)