FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Many racers who annually attend the Rumble in Fort Wayne know Kit Henry as a staunch supporter of grassroots racing. Saturday night, those years of effort were rewarded in a big way.
During opening ceremonies for the 25th annual Rumble, presented by Jason Dietsch Trailer Sales, Henry was recognized as the ninth recipient of the event’s highest honor – the David Lesiecki Award for Untiring Dedication and Devotion to Motorsports.
The award was created in 2014 to honor the late Lesiecki, who passed away prior to that year’s Rumble and was instrumental in the operation and success of the quarter midget class at the event for many years.
Lesiecki‘s widow Diana and sons A.J. and Jonathan, who both raced 600cc micro sprints at the Rumble for many years, have remained an active part of the Rumble community and the event’s operational success.
Diana has maintained the quarter midget program behind the scenes since David’s passing with help from 2018 Lesiecki Award recipient David Ebert. Meanwhile, A.J. and Jonathan transitioned over to lead the technical inspection side of the micro sprint program in 2021, following in their father’s footsteps by becoming instrumental members of the Rumble’s diverse event staff.
Though the David Lesiecki Award has primarily been presented to Rumble competitors over the years, Henry’s impact on the Rumble has been heavily felt, in both the 600cc micro sprint and go-kart ranks.
Henry and his family owned and fielded winged and non-winged micros for veteran John Ivy for many years, as well as entries for past notables like Craig Mintz and John Ivy.
Eventually, Henry sold the micro fleet and equipment to his crew members, but many of those cars continue to compete at the Rumble presently. Ivy continues to dominate in both micro divisions and Tyler Shullick, Ivy’s daughter Kelsey and Henry’s son Cap all race micros in the winged class.
If that wasn’t enough, Henry started a go-kart parts business in 1999 to support his son’s early racing career and has operated a parts trailer for the Rumble’s go-kart racers for nearly the entire history of the famed indoor event.
“I got into the parts industry in ’99 as a means to help support Cap’s racing,” explained Henry. “When Cap started to grow, he grew so quickly that I couldn’t continue to justify the expense of replacing his high-dollar firesuits as often as he needed them. That led me to start Henry Motorsports as a G-Force (brand) dealer, until a year that G-Force couldn’t supply me, and after that I became a dealer myself.
“From there, we expanded into the go-kart business to continue supporting Cap, and it carried our team until he got to (racing) the big cars,” Henry added. “I stayed in the kart business just because I love karting; it’s a type of racing that has always meant a lot to me and it’s a discipline that has been part of the heartbeat of the Rumble for decades now. We’ve made so many memories here, with me as a car owner, Cap and others as drivers, and even as support staff with the parts trailer. It’s all special to me.
“This is something I wasn’t expecting, but it means a lot. I keep coming back because I love this place.”
Cap Henry noted that fans who support the Rumble year in and year out don’t realize all of the things his dad does to help the drivers they watch on the racetrack for two nights each December.
“Dad loves racing more than anything,” noted the younger Henry. “He’s sold karting parts since the late ‘90s. He brought me here (to the first Rumble) in 1998 and I raced go-karts myself. And he fielded micros forever here. At one point we had, I think, three or four different micro sprints in this building. He finally did sell all the cars to the crew guys, but he’s still supplied parts and everything to anybody that needed them. A lot of racers, when they think they might be done for the weekend, can keep going because of Dad and the fact that he supplies parts to allow guys to make repairs and get back out on track.
“The Rumble has always been close to our hearts. We’ve had a lot of success over the years here and made a lot of memories. Dad’s really proud of the event and just loves it, so for him to be honored in this way is something that’s so deserved and something our family really appreciates.”
A.J. Lesiecki pointed out that he and his brother Jonathan were among those who both competed against Kit Henry and his racecars and were aided by Henry’s desire to see his competitors at their best year after year.
“The first word I think of when it comes to Kit is in the award name itself: dedication,” said Lesiecki. “Kit has a lot of the same traits as I remember in my dad, and when Jonathan and I were racing against Cap (in the micro class) Kit owned Cap’s cars like our dad owned mine and Jonathan’s cars. He did everything to help Cap’s racing the same way Dad did for us.
“In addition to all of that, Kit was as hard-headed as a car owner as my dad was,” Lesiecki added with a chuckle. “But he’s done so much for this event that we wanted to give back to him with this award.”
Past recipients of the David Lesiecki Award include Ivy (2014), Doc Hathaway (2015), Larry Cleveland (2016), Joe Liguori (2017), Ebert (2018), Charlie Schultz (2019), Mel and Don Kenyon (2021 co-recipients), and event promoter Larry Boos (2022), who was surprised with the honor last year.
The award was not presented in 2020, when the Rumble was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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