Heller brings three generations of racing to track | NevadaAppeal.com
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Heller brings three generations of racing to track

Dave Price
Appeal Sports Writer

In politics, there is a distinct difference between the left and right. In racecar driving, the difference is much more literal.

And that’s exactly why Dean Heller – the Nevada Secretary of State who is preparing to make a run for Congress in 2006 on the Republican ticket – enjoys coming out to Champion Speedway to race on Saturday nights.

“My time is pretty limited, but this is actually good therapy for me,” Heller said of racing. “Nobody out here talks about politics. I don’t have to defend myself to anyone. Everybody is here to race, everybody is treated the same and that’s the way I like it. I only have to worry about turning left at the end of the straightaway.”

Then again, three generations of the Heller family have been making left hand turns at the Carson City track for a long time, dating back to Jack “Blackjack” Heller in the 1960s and ’70s. Dean, 44, began racing in the 1990s and this season he will be running in the Western Modified and Late Model divisions, as well as the Desert Rose 100 Super Late Model series. Now 16-year-old Harris Heller has moved up to the Hornet class after his championship in the Junior Hornet division as a rookie in 2004.

“He’s good,” Dean said of Harris. “He had a car last year and bent it up a little. Now, he’s moving up a class. He just to get some more seat time in.”

Harris is excited to be in his white Dodge Daytona.

“This is fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge of being in the older division with the big boys,” said Harris, a junior at Carson High School. “I want to see how I do with these guys.”

Expect to see his father watching closely whenever Harris is on the track.

“My dad’s definitely been a lot of support to me,” said Harris, who began racing Outlaw Karts at Fuji Park when he was 8. “He makes this worthwhile.”

Harris wants to continue with his racing, although there are other priorities. Among those, Dean and Lynne Heller and their children have performed in a number of Western Nevada Musical Theater Company plays.

“It’s a lot of fun and I’d definitely like to go farther on, but I’ll have to balance it out with college and my career in music,” he said.

Dean remembers coming out to the track to watch races from the stands when he was a young boy. Dean and his five brothers and sisters had a lot of a lot of good times watching the races because his father, Jack Heller, won two track championships during 10 seasons of racing at what was then known as Tahoe-Carson Speedway.

“When they were younger, their mother would bring one of them out here for the races each week, and that was always a big deal,” said Jack, who moved to Carson City in 1962 from Hayward, Calif., ran a garage in town for years and, at one point, ran unsuccessfully for state Senate.

Dean graduated from Carson High in 1978 then went on to the University of Southern California, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, specializing in finance and securities analysis. He served as an assemblyman in the Nevada Legislature from 1990 to 1994, then was elected to the first of three terms as Secretary of State in ’94.

It’s definitely not easy to balance the duties of home, work, his bid to run in 2006 for the U.S. House seat being vacated by fellow Republican Jim Gibbons, and of course, finding time at the race track.

“I have a great crew,” Dean said. “I give them two nights a week and then Saturday nights. It was only one night this week.”

The Heller crew includes Robert and Shane Kline, John Dodge and Brad Kiesow.

“We calendar it all out on Sunday nights: ‘We have this much time for family, this much time for work, this much for campaigning, OK, what’s left over for racing,'” Dean said.

Well, sometimes racing does spill over into family time, he admitted.

“It’s something we all enjoy,” he said. “You can imagine the fun at the dinner table. Anytime the family gets together for dinner, the topic of racing usually comes up at some time.”

It definitely is a sport the family enjoys together.

“Absolutely. That’s why we all come out here in a motor home,” Dean said on Saturday night. “All the brothers and sisters were here. Even our daughter who is going to school at Arizona State (Hilary) was here tonight. She was here for other reasons, too, but she wanted to see her brother race.”

As far as the Hellers are concerned, the family that races together, stays together. Or is that vice versa?

n Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1220.

Dean Heller quote

“My time is pretty limited, but this is actually good therapy for me,” Heller said of racing. “Nobody out here talks about politics. I don’t have to defend myself to anyone. Everybody is here to race, everybody is treated the same and that’s the way I like it. I only have to worry about turning left at the end of the straightaway.”