Helberg Looking to Clear Schedule to Create Room for a Winged Sprints Win on Saturday at MIS
By Chuck Corder
JoJo Helberg’s plate runneth over these days.
When he’s home in his native Santa Rosa, Calif., the 23-year-old Helberg has more welding work than he knows what to do with.
“It’s just the owner and me, so it’s super hectic,” said Helberg, who has welded since he was a little kid. “I’m there so few days right now, that he overbooks the days that I am there.”
And when he’s not there, Helberg is a hot commodity in the winged sprints world.
He’ll be a part of the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series, the extraterrestrial-looking cars, that land at Mobile International Speedway on Saturday night.
It’s just one of the many sprints endeavors Helberg has committed to this season. A schedule that also includes driving three races in Anderson, Ind., for the Andretti family.
“It’s our fourth year running with Must See, but we’re not running for points,” said Helberg, who won the series championship two years ago. “We’re gonna hit a few tracks all over. We’re not committed to anything.”
But his entire focus will be clear and present against a stout MSRXSS field come Saturday at MIS, which also hosts Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bombers.
Gates open at 4 p.m. Saturday and admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids under 6.
Brian Gerster knows his comfort zone inside and out.
It comes in the tight confines of his sprint car’s cage.
The 45-year-old Gerster is another contender to win Saturday despite rarely getting much one-on-one interaction with the No. 50 he steers at MSRXSS and other races.
Car owners Dick and Deborah Myers reside in Waterford, Mich., while Gerster works as a design engineer for a medical company in Fishers, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis.
“The car is pretty fast, and that’s probably because they don’t let me work on it,” he joked earlier this week. “We go racing and we work great as a team. I take care of the driving part.”
Gerster certainly makes the most of the quality time he does get.
He was the series champion last year and set an overall track record (13.203 seconds) at Five Flags Speedway over in Pensacola.
It was nothing new for Gerster, who blistered every short-track racing fan’s Mecca, Bristol Motor Speedway, in 2011.
He set the track record (12.742) and it marked the first time — on record — a pavement sprint car had run a qualifying lap of more than 150 mph at Bristol or any other venue.
Gerster backed up the fast time with a win at Bristol to walk away with a cool $10,000.
“That was a big deal for us,” he understated. “Bristol is a really neat place. We’ve got a couple high-banked tracks here in Indy. We like going racing no matter what, but on the banked tracks we’re normally a little faster.
“Mobile is unique — the shape of it, some of the intricacies. It’s not just a perfect oval. It’s tricky to get around it fast. That’d be pretty cool for me to get a feature win down there.”
Helberg’s appreciation for MIS and tracks of its ilk continues to mature.
He admittedly has struggled in past years, including 2013, at intermediate tracks. Helberg is confident those pitfalls and misfires are behind him.
“Even though Mobile is a fast half-mile, the setup is a little bit different,” he said. “It was a small change we didn’t quite have under control last year until later in the season.
“This year we’ve figured out how intermediate tracks go.”
As busy as he is, JoJo Helberg can always make time to wave the checkered flag and hoist the winner’s trophy when the asphalt settles Saturday night at MIS.