Unbuckled: Getting to Know Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
Driver of the #27NH EKeys4Cars Ford Fusion
Hometown: Dover, NH
2015: Won his third ACT Tour Championship (4 race wins)
What are your favorite off-season hobbies?
Building race cars, catching up on projects around the house, and watching the Hallmark Channel!
What do you do for work?
I am a Fire Sprinkler System Project Manager/Coordinator for Mammoth Fire Protection in Lowell, MA.
What is your biggest life accomplishment?
Being a father to my three daughters.
What are your racing plans for 2016?
The ACT Tour and Super Late Model races down South.
What race(s) are you most looking forward to in 2016?
All of them really – but mostly the PASS race at Thunder Road.
What was the highlight of the 2015 season for you?
The win at Chaudiere. Bruce was sick in the hospital and couldn't come, but the team really pulled together for that much-needed win. And of course the Championship battle as well.
How did you get started in racing?
My dad (Wayne Sr.) raced, and it was a weekend event for my whole family. When I was old enough to race it was a no-brainer.
How did you come to work with car owner Bruce Bernhardt? What has that partnership meant to you?
It's all my dad’s fault. Bruce asked my father to help him set up his Street Stock. My father was busy with work, so he asked me if I wouldn't mind doing it for him. So I went down to help Bruce with his car, and by the end of the night he asked if I would take his car out in practice one night. The following weekend I took his car out in a practice at Lee (USA Speedway). In a lap and a half I realized the car had a blown right front shock; I came into the pits and told him, and he said to me “no way!” I told him to take it out, and low and behold it was a bad right front shock. He asked if I would drive it for the season-ending race. After that race he realized, in his own words, that he was the weak link. And that's how it started! The partnership we have now works so well because we have become such good friends and are on the same page. We both eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. When you have someone that believes in you as much as he does it makes you dig deep and want to give back 110 percent. As a whole the team is all volunteers and has the same feelings for each other, which in my mind is the best, because they’re all here because they want to be and not because they’re being paid!
Do you have anyone that you consider a hero or try to emulate?
No, not really.
Who is your biggest supporter at the track?
ACT official Tina Gallison!!! (Laughs) But really, my wife and kids. They are always cheering me on, watching at home, or sitting in the stands. And Michael Yeaton, a local in the town my shop is in that has his parents bring him to just about every race. You may have seen him; he’s the one all in orange...he even paints himself orange!
Tell me about your family?
I have been married to my wife Jill for 12 years. She works as a nurse in Administration for a big hospital in our town. My daughter Britany (age 20) graduated from college two years ago and now is a nurse for a doctor’s office – she loves it. Elisabeth (age 19) graduated from high school last year; she’s currently working in a daycare. Brooke (age 9) is in 4th grade and is just a big Gymnastics Freak!
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your racing career?
My father. He was raising a young family. I was in my early teens and watched his hard work and dedication to them and his racing, and that was passed on to me. Someone else that’s always overlooked is Bob Wallace – he gave me my first race car.
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
That I have had multiple sclerosis (MS) for over 14 years and I haven't let it slow me down one bit. So when I’m catching Eddie (MacDonald), who is sponsored by the National MS Society, it makes me happy to pass him.
In your own words, what does MS do? How do you (or anyone else) keep it from negatively impacting your life?
There are many different forms. I have what they call Relapsing-Remitting MS. It's a slow progression and I have little to minor symptoms. In a nut shell I have bumps on my brain that come and go; they have affected my eyesight in my left eye, and I also have a small loss of balance. How do I keep it from negatively affecting my life? I just don't let it. Some days are better than others, but you battle through it. Everyone has their own issue – this is mine. On the family side we just laugh about it and call it Multi Speed.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Look beyond your front bumper. It may sound simple, but once it clicks it makes a big difference.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Being a crew chief for the next greatest up-and-coming driver Bruce Bernhardt! (Laughs) Really, I'm not really sure; we'll see where the next five take me.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I would open my own old fashion trolley diner, and build a big castle with a drawbridge and moat! (Laughs) In reality, I would love to give back and donate money and time to Children's Hospital. I truly love kids, and helping them anyway I can is so fulfilling for me.