Exclusive to RaceChaser Online by Steven Ovens – A sport often becomes tradition in a family. Whether it’s stick and ball sports or the highest level of motorsports, a tradition is something you often see. For Chuck “The Cobra” Hebing, having a daughter race sprint cars is just carrying on the family tradition.
Hebing started his racing career in asphalt Late Models in the late 80’s at a well-known track in New York- Spencer Speedway. Chuck ran the Late Models for 3-4 years until he had the opportunity to try a dirt Modified at the then named Canandaigua Speedway. Canandaigua Speedway, now named Canandaigua Motorsports Park under the ownership and promotion of Jeremie Corcoran, is a fast half mile clay oval located on the Ontario County Fairgrounds in Canandaigua, NY.
It wasn’t until Chuck drove a Modified for a partnership that also was involved in 360 sprint cars, that he was able to get his first taste of the speed and danger of a 360 Sprint. “R.C. Faigle had two sprint cars so I tried one of his cars and it just stuck from there.”
Cobra, as he has become affectionately known by peers and race fans, has a decorated 360 Sprint Car career. He splashed onto the scene in 2004 with the Patriot Sprint Tour. He has a total of 37 career victories with the Patriots and 22 career victories with the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints. Dominating feature performances, consistency and back-to-back championships have become the norm for the Cobra Coaches and Motorhomes #45. He was crowned Patriot Sprint Tour champion in 2006 and 2007 while following those up with Empire Super Sprint championships in 2011 and 2012. His championship last year came down to the wire with long-time veteran of the tour and former champion Lance Yonge.
While Chuck was having all of his success with the Patriots and ESS, a daughter Kelly was growing up with the twinkle of racing and sprint car success in her eyes. At 3 ½ weeks old, she was experiencing her first Super DIRT Week, cheering on Chuck in the Dirt Modified. Kelly, now 18, started her career at the age of 10. She ran a microd one time, and carried on the family tradition- by winning.
At 14, she started running 270 Micro Sprints at local tracks in the Finger Lakes like Paradise Speedway. A track that has groomed stars on the Dirt Modified tour and 360 Sprint Tours like Justin Haers, Matt Sheppard, Billy Dunn, Kyle Drum and now ‘Little Cobra’. She is also pursuing her education in a racing related field as a student at SUNY Canton.
“Racing is something that I grew up with in my blood, it was just natural for me. I have been around race tracks my whole life, and it’s just something that we get to do as a family” said Hebing.
2013 was Kelly’s first opportunity to strap into a full sized sprint car. She was given a great opportunity to step into a quality ride in the Danny Willmes-owned #10. She has made starts at historical tracks in the Northeast- Rolling Wheels Raceway, Utica-Rome Speedway and the aforementioned Canandaigua Motorsports Park. When asked about her favorite part about driving a full-sized sprint car, “The speed, how competitive the other race cars are. The danger is a part of it too, you have to be careful not to touch the other cars but fast enough to get to the front.”
Even at 18, Kelly Hebing is beginning to see what being a female racer does for the female gender- particularly the younger females that now look up to her. “Last week here at Canandaigua I was walking through the grandstands and a little girl walked up asked if I would sign her checkered flag. She was only having female drivers sign it. That was pretty cool to me because as a Micro Sprint driver you don’t get that exposure to the fans.”
Exposure and fandom is something that is also a part of the Hebing family tradition. Certainly having the nicknames of ‘The Cobra’ and ‘Little Cobra’ doesn’t hurt. “It’s definitely something I’m still getting used to, but I like it. It helps keep yourself in check” said Kelly.
Racing is something that most hope and try to make a career out of, but Chuck sees this a little differently for Kelly- at least for now. “She has school, and she needs to do well in school. We will keep doing this racecar stuff as a part-time hobby with the 305. I told her she needs to get her career so she can start paying for her own racecars.”
Kelly’s career is still young and she is certain to receive a lot of advice in her future. But when asked what the best advice he could give Kelly as her dad, “I don’t know if it’s necessarily racing advice. I told her to get your job and your career before you spend all your money. Racing will always be around after you get your career and job in place.” When it comes to the track, “I have her watch old videos or I take her up on top of the trailer. I think having someone that can show her right from wrong, because I know right from wrong, is going to help her career speed up.”
Although it’s not known for how many more years fans will get to see ‘The Cobra’ and his famous 45 wheeling around the 360 tour, Kelly sees a lot of racing in her future. “I see myself racing for a long time, but for now I’m just going with what has presented itself.”
Chuck Hebing is a regular on the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints Tour, racing next weekend on Friday July 26th at the Mohawk International Raceway followed by Friday August 2nd at the Albany Saratoga Speedway.
Kelly Hebing typically races her Danny Willmes-owned 305 sprinter on off-nights for the ESS Tour. Fans can probably expect to see a lot of the ‘Little Cobra’ in the coming Saturday nights at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Walsh