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Henry Hanger Triumphs at TST

Henry Hanger Triumphs at TST

EASTABOGA, Ala. (Jan. 10) — When Henry Hanger emerged from his car and waved a VP Racing Fuels checkered flag from the top of his Crate Racin’ USA Modified Sportsman machine, it probably felt like old times for a driver who’s enjoyed much success in his racing career in Open Wheel Modifieds, a division that’s now expanding quickly for the Adairsville, Ga-based sanctioning body.

Hanger was the fifth fastest qualifier, won the opening heat race, and led every lap of the 25-lap feature to claim the $1,500 victory over Ken Schrader, Chris Hill, Tyler Wood and Bradly Qualls. A 24-car starting field was culled from a 39-car entry list.

Crate Racin’ USA established their version of the highly-competitive class three full years ago, and has experienced four-fold growth in car count numbers over the past two years as a fourth season looms on the horizon. All of a sudden the division is a hot commodity at a few different CRUSA-sanctioned facilities across the Mid-South, and cars are getting built in garages across the region.

Hanger, a personable and talkative man who is popular among fans, has watched his two sons Christian and Will Hanger do their own racing in recent years as his career took a backseat to their efforts. He was quick to point out that his victory in the division at the 30th edition of the Ice Bowl was the biggest win of his career. Not only that, it was accomplished after a relatively long layoff, due in part to a violent career-changing crash against the wall at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn.

A prolific winner years ago in higher-powered Open Wheel Modifieds, and also an accomplished competitor who won races in full-bodied machines, Hanger has been mostly inactive for the past decade, participating on a limited basis. After pulling away from the driver’s cockpit during a recovery period, he’s been on a self-imposed exile while his sons made their way in the sport.

“That wreck really got my attention, and it scared me enough that I backed away from driving as much,” Hanger said. “It took me awhile to get back to normal, and my two sons were starting to race, so it seemed like a good time to slack up a little bit. This is probably only the fifth or sixth race that I’ve driven in the past two years.”

Having acquired a 2020 Harris Race Cars-built machine, Hanger laid out a plan to return to the cockpit, albeit on a limited basis. He admitted surprise that the car drove as well as it did, and said that rebuilt his confidence quickly.

“I just love these Open Wheel cars, and I always did,” Hanger said. “I’ve run a lot of open motors with ‘em, but I think the growing numbers in this Crate-type stuff shows how popular they could be, and there’s hardly any maintenance with ‘em. I’ve been urging a few more tracks to run these cars, and then the fans will get to see how good the racing can be, and the division will probably grow like crazy.”

En route to victory, Hanger had to deal with a strong mid-race effort from Chris Yarbrough, who ended up sitting against the outside wall in turn two on the 19th of 25 circuits. Then he faced a potential threat from Ken Schrader, who had started ninth.

“I didn’t know what happened to the No. 45 [Chris Yarbrough], but I saw Kenny Schrader’s number show up on the scoreboard and I knew he was there, and I thought, “Whoa…this is probably gonna get interesting.”

Hanger repelled the former NASCAR star’s challenge, and rolled his own machine into victory lane with sponsorship from Seamus Excavating, AgHub Midwest, Roy Sargent Building Inc., Coe’s Truck Service, Thornburg Trucking, Swift Springs and Karl Performance.

“Our whole plan this season was to run just six or eight races, so to begin the year with a victory this big is a pretty good way to open the year,” Hanger said. “I’ve run here in different divisions, but I’ve never actually won a big Open Wheel race here.”

Hanger expressed a comfort level with his car that he hinted might lead to a few more racing appearances. As a veteran with many laps at many tracks, he quickly felt the difference.

“When I first went out there to practice, it took me a minute or two before I settled back in the seat, but considering we’ve run Open Wheel cars so much in my my career, it wasn’t long before I knew this was a great car,” Hanger said.

“Since that wreck at Duck River, it was like I wasn’t no longer driving hard enough and just letting the car do the work. I wasn’t letting the car settle down the way you need getting into the corner, but once I found my groove in this car, I could feel the difference. This car is unbelievable.

“Now I’m probably interested in running a few of the bigger races, because I think I’ve found what was missing in my driving.”

CRUSA Modified Sportsman (Ice Bowl): 1. Henry Hanger, 2. Ken Schrader, 3. Chris Hill, 4. Tyler Wood, 5. Bradly Qualls, 6. Oakley Gillespie, 7. Scottie Hiett, 8. Jordan Phillips, 9. John Smartt, 10. Blazz Trull, 11. Rusty Duncan, 12. Blake Swann, 13. Luke Riddle, 14. John Sands, 15. Bobby Joe Hickman, 16. Jason Harrison, 17. Billy Tedford, 18. Jim Wakefield, 19. Greg Lloyd, 20. Chris Yarbrough, 21. Justin McRee, 22. Tyler Hurst, 23. Jarrad Gray, 24. Michael Blakeney.

Article Credit: Brian McLeod

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