10 Questions with…John Heinan

Retiring Safety Team Director

How did you get into being on the Safety Team at Slinger?
I grew up near the track, about four miles away and I would go there with my uncle. Long story short, I ended up talking to one of the safety crew members at the time (1989), asking how to become a member, and he said just show up and we’ll show you what you have to do. I came back the next week and started working in Turn 4. From there I just continued to show up every Sunday until I became the Director of Safety, and then retiring. [What year did you become Director?] My first day as Director was Tony Strupp’s fire – that was my first day as Director.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen since you started?
The biggest change I’ve seen is the dedication, the equipment that has been brought to the track and the equipment that people have personally bought for their own safety as well. One more thing is the amount of training and off season work that is put in by all of the members.

You were the catalyst for raising the Slinger Safety Team to its current reputation as one of the best around. Why/how did you take that on?
It all started with Tony Strupp’s fire. From that day forward I made it my personal goal to make sure all of our equipment was up-to-date and that it was all working. I then made sure we had all the proper training to know how to use all of the equipment. In the off season, I arranged to have outside entities available like Flight for Life. Being a volunteer firefighter and EMT, I just kept researching and learning, bringing what I could, as far as my knowledge of what would work for the track and just kept making it evolve. Working with other people outside of the track, getting their ideas, putting pen to paper and executing it at the track. I also built a practice late model so that we could practice extrications and fire suppression.

The Slinger Safety Team has many supporters, who needs to be thanked?
Frogy at PMF Landscape Supply, Barricade Flasher, Ten 2 Communications, Fuel Powersports, Tollefsen Steel, TNT Rescue Systems

How do you feel about Shelley Greenwald taking over?
Shelley is going to do an amazing job! She’s worn the hat before by working at other tracks and just the amount of time she has put in at Slinger. She’s been learning everything she can from what we’ve trained her to do and her ideas she has brought to the table to help us. She is very dedicated.

After 29 years on the Slinger Safety Team, why are you retiring now?
My body is telling me it’s time. The heat and just the physical part of the job of what I have to perform on a Sunday night has taken its toll. I have also had some changes with my full-time job. In the 29 years, I only missed five races. I also enjoy helping in the pits with some younger and some veteran drivers.

Will we still see you at the track on Sunday nights?
You’ll probably see me there every Sunday. I’m not just handing it over, I’m helping Shelley with getting up to speed as being the director, and filling in as needed when they are short-staffed or they just need extra help, I’ll be there working.

What do you like about Slinger Super Speedway?
The biggest thing I like about Slinger Speedway is the close-knit, family atmosphere between the racers and the Safety Team. They’ve always had nothing but good things to say about us. They’ve given us positive and negative feedback, which helped us grow to the point we are now.

Attached to this post is information about joining the Slinger Safety Team? Why should someone join?
It’s a lot of fun, you get to watch the races, you are right there, and you get to help people when they need it the most. The people you work with typically have the same interests as you and the camaraderie is great. And you are working at a historical place…and that is really cool.

Tell us about your family.
I have an amazing and understanding wife, Joy, who has put up with having every weekend cut short throughout the summer because I would not miss a race. I’ve been married for 26 years. My oldest son, Ricky the Rocket, raced at Slinger for many years. I have a younger son, Robby, who is also on the Safety Team taking after his old man.

Final note from John: “I want to thank everyone I’ve had the opportunity to work with, to help. It’s been an honor and I will look forward to seeing everybody at the racetrack.”

An introduction to incoming Safety Director, Shelley Greenwald:
John, congratulations on your 29 years of dedication to keeping the drivers, crews, and fans of Slinger Speedway safe! The countless hours on and off season have not gone unnoticed. You have been key in developing this team into what it is today and I look forward to still being able to tap into your wealth of knowledge going forward.

For those of you who don’t know me I’m Shelley Greenwald and I will be taking over for John as Safety Director. I have been around racing and coming to Slinger for as long as I can remember. I raced go-karts as a kid and my dad raced at Slinger for several years, so I have some understanding of what it takes to build and maintain a racecar for the season. 2021 will be my 12th season on the Safety Team at Slinger Speedway. I also have been working at the Milwaukee Mile on their safety team since 2007. Due to working there I have had the opportunity to be trained by the NASCAR and IndyCar safety teams on how to provide the best care for drivers. I have 14 years of fire department experience, the last 4.5 as a lieutenant. Some of my training includes Firefighter 2, Driver/Operator, and Paramedic. I have undergone advanced vehicle extrication training and also help teach other firefighters extrication skills. I have two Associates degrees, one for Fire Protection Technician and the other for Paramedic Technician. I am also currently working towards completing nursing school. I’m looking forward to the 2021 season! If you see me around and would like to introduce yourself come on over to say “hi”!

A note from John and Joy’s son, Robby: My dad has been an important part of the Slinger Speedway Safety Team for the last 29 years and built it up from the beginning to what it is today. I have been fortunate to have joined him for the last four years. He has taught me about hard work and dedication. We’ve learned a lot from him and are going to miss seeing him at the track every Sunday. Thank you, Dad, for all the good memories, for protecting the drivers and for making Slinger Speedway a safe place to race every Sunday.

Returning Team Members:
Dan Yenor: Firefighter I and former EMT; 8 years on Slinger Safety Team
Colin O’Donoghue: Firefighter I; 6 years on Slinger Safety Team
Robby Heinan: 4 years on Slinger Safety Team
You!?!? See attached flyer for more information!