When street stock driver TJ Henry blew his engine during Tuesday warm-ups for the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park, his backup power plant was 15 hours away in Delaware. No problem. Enter Henry’s sister, Samantha, and father, Tim. The duo flew back to Delaware the next day, finished assembling the engine, threw it in the back of a pickup truck, and drove to Florida, returning on Thursday morning.
“We got to Tampa on Sunday morning, and slept in a Walmart parking lot so we would be on time for Monday practice,” TJ, of Felton, Delaware, said. “Everything went great in practice. On Tuesday, the engine broke in warm-ups. All the gauges read fine, and it was still running when I shut it off.”
They found the engine broke a crankshaft. On Wednesday, Samantha and Tim boarded a 6:15 a.m. flight from Tampa and arrived in Philadelphia at 11 a.m. A friend picked them up and drove them an hour and a half to Delaware.
“We built the engine before we went to Florida, but it had no cam in it,” said TJ. “My dad had to install the cam, put on the timing cover, and the intake. He sealed it up and by 4:45 p.m. they were on the road back to Tampa.”
They arrived at Easy Bay at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday.
“We ran on M&Ms and Monster Energy drinks,” Tim said.
Once back at the track, the crew changed engines and finished around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.
After warm-ups, TJ Henry said the car felt good. Then, lightning struck twice in his heat race, where he finished sixth.
“After the checkered flag, I was in turn two when I pushed the clutch in … the engine locked up,” said TJ.
A valve had dropped, chewing up a piston and putting a hole into the cylinder wall.
“The first engine we blew had 35 features on it, and we won 25 of them,” TJ said. “The second engine was brand-new. It was a part failure.”
A racer offered TJ a GM crate engine.
“I would have taken him up on the offer, but I had to be back at work on Monday morning, so we stuck with our plans,” said TJ, who works in the parts department of a Dodge dealership.
The Henrys and their crew stayed at the track to watch for the rest of the weekend. They headed home on Sunday.
“My dad and sister deserve a trophy for being the best dad and best sister in racing,” TJ said.
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.