Mark Henry Makes Usac/Cra Sprint Car Series Debut Saturday at Bakersfield

Saturday night at the Bakersfield Speedway, one of the drivers will be living out a dream.  After three seasons of racing lightning sprints, Mark Henry is switching to 410 sprint cars, and will make his debut in the leading non-wing sprint series west of the Mississippi, the USAC/CRA Sprint Cars.  Spectator gates will open at 4:00 p.m. at the longtime Kern County track and the first race will be at 6:00.

On May 25th, two days before the annual Salute to Indy at Perris Auto Speedway, Rosamond, California’s Henry drove a 410 sprint car for the first time at a practice session.  The plan was to shake the car down and get it ready for the race 48 hours later.  The first two sessions on the famous Riverside County half-mile oval went well and the third stint started out good.  However, entering turn three he took a nasty flip and destroyed his car.

“I had one really nice Triple X Chassis that I was practicing with at Perris,” Henry stated. “I kind of came in too hot into one of the corners.  I did not really have anyone to judge speed off of.  I biked it up on the cushion and sent that car into the wall.  Now I am here with a brand new car and hoping I do not do that at Bakersfield.”

While the crash was pretty wild and destroyed the chassis, Henry kind of got lucky with the bolt-on parts.  The crash wiped out the front axle and the two CSI Shocks on the front.  It also punctured the radiator.  In addition, he had to replace the torsion bars, arms for the front end and stops.

Needless to say, Henry did not make his planned debut.  Initially, he was unsure when he would finally get to achieve his dream.  Suddenly, that flip at Perris turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Friend Stan Sexton, one of the owners of GAS Chassis, stepped in.  Instead of debuting with a previously owned car like was planned at Perris, he will be debuting a brand new GAS Chassis at the track known as “The West’s Fastest 1/3 Mile High Banked Clay Oval” on Saturday.

“I am really good friends with Shane and Stan Sexton,” Henry stated.  “They were telling me I should move up from a lightning sprint.  I was on the fence about it and thought I was not really ready for it.  I had a really gnarly crash last year at the Hangtown 100 (in his lightning) that destroyed the car.  I was at their house and they had a spare chassis that they kind of handed off to me.”

Running a 410 sprint car is the third racing discipline that Henry has tried.  It started off with junior dragsters.  In 2019, he bought his first lightning sprint car and now he is moving into 410 sprint car racing.

“My whole family drag raced when I was growing up,” Henry commented on how he got started in racing.  “They went to one race in Vegas when the junior dragsters were there.  That was the most amazing thing.  I was focused on getting a junior dragster.  I finally got one when I was 11 or 12 and raced that up until I was 18. I did really well in that and actually won a couple of championships.”

“I was working out in Texas and this super nice car (junior dragster) showed up for sale,” Henry continued.  “I ended up buying it and started building it.  Then I started thinking about how many total minutes you have in a dragster versus an oval track.   Three or four minutes total on track (in a dragster)?  I started thinking this is a lot of money, tracks are shutting down and you are driving six or eight hours to get to every track.  My uncle always kind of mentioned the lightning sprint.  So, I found a cheap lightning sprint, went to the track by myself with it,  One time around the track and I was hooked.  I have always wanted to go faster and do something better.  That is where I am at now with the sprint car.” 

Driving a 410 fire-breathing sprint car is a whole new ball game.  They are no joke and are considered by many to be true beasts.  Henry realizes this and is realistic with his expectations of being new to the sport.

“The main goal is really to go out, have fun and finish the race,” Henry said.  “I cannot afford to tear up another car.  If I did that, I think I would be out the rest of the season.  If I finish last, but finish the race with the engine I built myself, I will be so excited.  In the future, make little goals.  Finish next to last, second to last.  Towards the end of the season, finish in the top 10 and maybe win a heat race or two.  Start small, slowly get knowledge, and learn how to drive it and get better.”

While he hopes to make all of the remaining USAC/CRA races in 2023, there may be some other things in the cards.  He will race other shows where he can run a 410 in the area.  He has also picked up an older Triple X Chassis and if he can find a 360 to rebuild, he would like to do some winged racing.  Still, the main objective will be the non-wing 410 with USAC/CRA.

The Bakersfield Speedway is located at 5001 North Chester Ext. Ave., Bakersfield (93308).   Spectator gates will open at 4:00 p.m. with racing at 6:00 on Saturday.  Adult tickets are $30.00.  Seniors 65 and over and military with a proper id get in for $25.00.   Kids 6-12 are $15.00 and children 5 and under are free.  Parking is free.  The track website is http://www.bakersfieldspeedway.com/ and the office phone number is (661) 393-3373.

Henry is a breath of fresh air in sprint car racing.  His know-how and enthusiasm bode well for his progress in the sport.  His only sponsor at this time is GAS Chassis.  If you would like to be a marketing partner with this new, fan-friendly driver, feel free to call him at (661) 886-9027 or send him an email at mailto:[email protected].

Mark Henry Racing PR