WHEATLAND, Mo. — The familiar red No. 98 modified, which won countless features and four track championships, will again take to the Lucas Oil Speedway oval this season. There will just be a different face under the helmet when the season opens on April 3.
The car, which belongs to retired driver Jeff Cutshaw, will be driven by Robert “Hollywood” Heydenreich in the Cedar Creek Beef Jerky USRA Modified division.
“He hangs around the house all the time and is good friends with the family,” Cutshaw said of Heydenreich, a fellow Bolivar resident. “I just wanted to give the kid a chance and put him in some good stuff.
“He’s got some talent. We just have to fine-tune him a little bit and calm him down and get him to finishing races.”
For Heydenreich, 24, the chance to learn from a veteran with championship pedigree and a totally different driving style, is a dream scenario. The driver who got his nickname of “Hollywood” a few years ago after rolling his car and posing for cameras as he crawled out of the crumpled ride, can hardly believe the opportunity that awaits.
“I don’t know that I deserve it; there are probably better options for Jeff out there,” Heydenreich said. “But he said, ‘You’ve got a lot of potential, we just need to slow you down and get you focused a little bit more.’ That got me excited. I’ve never been taught by anybody.
“I didn’t start racing until I was old enough to pay for it myself. I’ve never had anybody like Jeff who’s a multi-time track champion with well over 100 feature wins offer to help me. He says, ‘Hey, you’re doing good, you just need some help.’ For him to stick his neck out for me, it’s saying something.”
The way Heydenreich found out about the opportunity to drive for Cutshaw made it more memorable. He had been doing some welding work for Cutshaw and was asked to stop by Cutshaw’s shop to take a look at a potential project. Little did he know what awaited him.
“I got over there and walked into the shop, and there’s this brand-new race car sitting on jack stands,” Heydenreich said. “I said, ‘You getting back into racing?’ He said, ‘No. That’s what I had you come over here for. We’ve got to have a talk.’ ”
Heydenreich is entering his sixth season of racing, spending time in a USRA B-Mod before switching over to his first full season in a USRA Mod in 2020. He finished sixth in Lucas Oil Speedway points, but did pick up a feature victory in exciting fashion last June, passing reigning track champion Robbie Reed on the outside in the final 100 yards.
Cutshaw joked that Heydenreich is notorious for aggressively riding the high side around the track while he won his championships by religiously sticking to the low groove. That makes the pairing of the duo more unique and already, the high vs. low path around the track has been a subject of conversation between student and teacher.
“We’ve already had discussions about that and I told him I was gonna pull him out of the car if I ever saw him on the high side,” Cutshaw said, with a laugh. “I told him I won way more races on the bottom than I ever did on the top.”
Heydenreich said learning a more-patient approach will help him in his goal of finishing at or near the top of the championship chase. Too often last season, Heydenreich failed to finish races.
“Jeff told me ‘wrong place, wrong time. It’s not always your fault, but you have to not put yourself in those situations.’ This week we’re reviewing a lot of race video footage from last year and he’s gonna point out some areas, things that will help me. To be able to finish high in points, you have to finish races. Just be smooth and consistent.”
Cutshaw, who won consecutive track championships at Lucas Oil Speedway from 2014-17, retired from driving after a runner-up finish in the 2018 standings.