Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Chris Henigan going after more wins in 2022

MARSHALL, Texas — Among the dozens of talented racers throughout the Ark-La-Tex region, one longtime Modified specialist stands above the rest. This savvy, third-generation driver knows what it takes to wins races and track championships, and his sights are set on Victory Lane again in 2022.  

For 39-year-old multi-time winner Chris Henigan, the new season means another opportunity to win more races. In 2021, he earned five wins and 16 top-five finishes in 24 starts. Now in his 23rd year of competition, he’s back in Victory Lane with a win last Saturday night in the ARMS race at Ark-La-Tex.

“Our new season got started on a very rough note,” Henigan admitted in a quiet, humble fashion. “I think after that first USMTS race we had to fix just about everything on the car but the steering wheel. So to get it all back together right and pick up a win like we did last weekend was pretty special.  

“Fortunately, when it came to getting the setup back to where it needed to be, Terry Phillips has some good notes. I had been struggling a little bit, so went to Terry’s place and bought his car last year. He works hard and is one of the best. If you buy one of his race cars, he’ll tell you all you need to know.”

Last Saturday’s big American Racer Modified Series (ARMS) victory was not without its challenges.

“It went pretty smoothly overall,” Henigan said as he reflected on the night. “I totally forgot about the redraw, but luckily Mike Dillard’s wife drew us the Pole. So that kind of helped us all night, since your starting position is such a big deal there. With me having a lot of laps there, it all fell right into place.”  

Chris is the son of former racer Tommy Henigan, and the grandson of another well-known short track pioneer. To say this is one of the region’s premier racing families is a bit of an understatement.  

“I’ve driven Modifieds for just about all of my career,” Henigan explained. “I ran a couple of Late Model races and some Stock Car races, but I’ve really always loved the Mods. I’ve won two USMST races, and won a feature at Texas Motor Speedway one time when they hosted a big show. 

“We won a couple of track championships, but we try not to run for points any more. My grandfather, Ace Henigan, got this all started back in his day. In fact, his old Modified Coupe has been restored and paced the field last Saturday night at the track. It was really neat to see that, and a special night to win.”

If you run a Modified in and around the Ark-La-Tex region, you know the competition is pretty stiff. This powerhouse driver says it’s some of the toughest you’ll find anywhere in the Deep South. 

“The competition is definitely tough in Modified racing right now,” he explained. “I feel like most of the guys who own one are fast. There are no beginners with a cheap ride here, unlike in Sport Mods. Not many rookies with little seat time; just veterans with good cars who don’t want to tear them up.

“You need to be dialed in, and be fast right out of the trailer. I feel like there are more cars capable of wining on any given night in this division. Whoever hits the setup just right on any night is probably going to be your feature winner. It’s just super competitive, and I love it when we hit it just right.”  

When the infamous “Win Again” Henigan suits up, grabs his helmet and gets ready to compete, he climbs into a well-built, finely tuned machine. 

“The car I bought from Terry is actually a GRT chassis,” he said. “He takes those and puts his own little twists on them, and really takes care of his customers. When you buy a car from him, you get his skills and knowledge on how to make it go fast. Again, it really got us turned around once I bought this car. 

“For horsepower, we have a Sputs (Owatonna, MN) engine built back in 2013 that my Dad has rebuilt every year,” he explained. “In fact, Dad built most of his own engines when he raced and has also done most of mine. We use a local machinist when we need that service, but Dad is my engine builder.”  

Along with his incredible natural talent behind the wheel and top-notch race car from ol’ TP, Henigan also has several solid companies on board who keep his program mighty competitive on race days. 

“First off, I have to thank my wife Heather, and kids Brookelyn and Dustin,” he said. “The support of my family is priceless. I also want to thank our great sponsors, including Panel Truss, Ralo’s Auto Sales, Southerners Roofing, TQC Texas Qualifications & Consulting, LLC; Southern Supply House, J&J Motorsports, Career Search, GRT by Phillips and C&C Oilfield Service. I appreciate every one.”

As the new season hits full throttle, Henigan has a clear goal in mind as he loads up the car once more. His son Dustin, now 15, will make his second start on the oval this coming Saturday night. A fourth generation wheel man will be out there carrying on the family tradition. 

“My goal is to get out there and win as many races this year as possible,” he concluded. “I’ve done the points chasing thing in the past and am just not into that level of stress any more. We do this to win races and have fun as a family, and to represent our partners as best we can. I just love to go racing.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer  

Photo by: Chaz Brzeski