Heim Has ‘Good Experience’ In Substitute Cup Role


Corey Heim (Matthew Thacker/NKP for Toyota Racing photo)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Corey Heim’s two-race stint as Erik Jones’ substitute driver in the NASCAR Cup Series may not have been overly flashy, but it was productive.

The 21-year-old from Marietta, Ga., raced the No. 43 Toyota Camry XSE for Legacy Motor Club at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway on April 28 and again at Kansas Speedway over the weekend. The pair of races marked Heim’s first two Cup Series starts.

His opportunity came because Jones sat out to heal from a fractured vertebra in his lower back, after a vicious accident at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 21.

While Heim’s 32nd-to-25th run at the Monster Mile wasn’t anything to write home about, the team considered it a success, as Heim kept his car clean and made it to the checkered flag, despite being three laps down to the leaders at the finish.

Sunday night at Kansas, however, was a tale of early frustration and late resilience that could have netted Heim a top-10 finish, had it not been for chaos on an overtime restart in the AdventHealth 400.

Heim ended up down a lap early, after copping a speeding penalty during the first green-flag pit cycle of the race on lap 34, and was pinned off the lead lap by the end of the first stage.


Corey Heim in action at Kansas Speedway Sunday. (David Rosenblum/LAT for Toyota Racing photo)

From there, he had to battle for most of the race toward the back of the running order, before finally being the beneficiary of the free pass during the penultimate caution of the night at lap 198.

That got Heim back on the lead lap in 30th, and he was able to maintain and move forward little by little, finding himself 17th when Kyle Busch spun on the backstretch with seven to go to set up the overtime attempt.

A two-tire call by crew chief Dave Elenz gave Heim some much-needed track position, allowing him to line up ninth for the two-lap shootout that decided the race.

Heim tried to go three-wide on the bottom of the track, but lost momentum off turn two and began sliding backward in the waning moments. He was 15th at the white flag before tangling with Austin Dillon and spinning coming to the finish line.

It left Heim with a 22nd-place finish that was far from representative of the poise he showed during the last 75 laps in the Sunflower State.

“It was a long day for sure,” noted Heim after the race. “We got behind early from the speeding penalty and just, situationally, couldn’t get the lucky dog (free pass) until the end of the race. We struggled with track position, of course, at the end of the longest line [being] one lap down most of the race. But once we finally got back on the lead lap in stage three and freed the car up, I thought we were pretty good.

“I have to give a huge thank you to Legacy Motor Club for having me along these last two weeks, and to Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and all the team partners for everything they do and their support. Definitely wish we could’ve run closer to the front, but it’s been a good learning experience, and we’ll move forward.”

Finally getting to race on the Cup Series stage is something that Heim always aspired to do, going back to his earliest days racing Legend cars and late models in his home state of Georgia.

The reality was greater than Heim could have imagined, even if it did come with a lot of growing pains.

“This has definitely been good experience for me; [racing in the Cup Series] is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I was a little kid,” Heim told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The first race at Dover … it was such a cool moment to be able to drive the No. 43 [STP] throwback as well. I thought that was an awesome car to be able to make my first start in.

“I’m just super grateful to everyone at Legacy for having me on, and I feel like I definitely learned a lot,” Heim continued. “I had a pretty short amount of time to prepare to debut, but I leaned on everyone I could … Jimmie [Johnson, team co-owner], John Hunter [Nemechek, teammate] and Erik while I was trying to get everything figured out. Nothing beats real seat time, though.

“I can listen [to people] all I want, but I was never really going to know until I went out and did it.”

Heim Smith

Corey Heim (11) is the current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point leader. (HHP/Jim Fluharty photo)

With Jones returning to the seat of the No. 43 this weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Heim will turn his focus back to his regular duties – racing full-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with TRICON Garage and contending for a championship.

He’s already won two Truck Series races this year, including Saturday night at Kansas, and has looked nearly flawless by finishing no worse than 10th in the first eight races of the season.

It was a different story at the Cup level, but as Heim pointed out, “no rookie is going to be perfect” at the top level of stock-car racing in the United States.

“I made my fair share of mistakes, especially on pit road, but that’s part of the learning process for me [as a rookie in the Next Gen Cup Series car]. I feel like I’ve already improved so much, just within [two] starts,” he noted. “We’ll go back to Trucks and Xfinity now, but still put in the sim work back at the shop for Legacy [and 23XI] and be ready if they need me again in the future.”

Heim will chase his third Truck Series win of the year Friday, May 10 in the Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. He’s also racing part-time for Sam Hunt Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

He’ll remain the simulator and reserve driver for both Legacy and 23XI Racing in the Cup Series, hopeful of having another chance to showcase his newly-learned skills in the future.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.