By Phil Whipple
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Scott Burson
NEW WAVERLY, Texas — While scores of fans know this town as home to one of Super Late Model racing' most successful drivers, there's another resident here, although not a local, who's made quite a mark on the sport in a stellar 28-year career.
For 44-year-old northern New Mexico native Garrett Higgins, 2021 has been very strong in the highly-competitive world of Limited Modifieds. In 22 starts, he's earned four wins, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. With nearly three decades of experience, Higgins is still smiling as the season winds down.
“Lance Shaffer got me into a pretty good ride in the Limited Modified division this year,” he said. “It boils down to time spent in the shop, preparing the car and doing your homework. Lance listens to me, and he lets me experiment with things to try and get faster each week.
“We've had some horrible luck this year where we were leading a lot of races and had transmission failures, distributor gear failures, just things like that. But our successes came from working hard during the week in the shop. Had it not been for the parts failures, we may have won eight or 10 races.”
In that lengthy career, Higgins has driven a variety of cars and won features in just about all of them.
“My family has been involved in this sport for 70-plus years,” he explained. “So it's kind of a family thing with us. I've driven everything from what they call Hobby Stocks back home or what is known as Factory Stocks here, to spending five years in a Late Model driving for Rory Martin at RMR Racing.
“I'm from the Four Corners area of Northern New Mexico, so we raced all season at our home track then raced all winter down in Arizona. The first 10 years of my racing career, it was pretty easy for us to get between 60 and 70 shows in a year. I was doing it all on my own at first, but it was difficult.”
Enter a man with resources and a passion for short track racing, and Higgins' career hit a turning point.
“A man named James Wade, who owned Wade Adventure Rides, approached me and asked me to start driving his Modified. I drove for him for several years, then he sold the team to Rory and I drove one more year in the Modified for him. We won the New Mexico State Championship together.
“But then, we got into the Late Model stuff. We started running those cars down in Las Cruces, where they had put together a class with Open motors but with an electronic chip limiting RPMs. As that class grew, we started running Late Model races with open motors all over the country. I'd have to say that state title in New Mexico and a few wins on the Wild West Modified series were my career highlights.”
While he's always humble, there's more. Higgins has won the Texas Grand three times in two classes.
This year, the seasoned veteran faced some pretty stiff competition as he traveled around the region.
“I usually race once a month at 105, then the other three weeks I'm traveling around to places like Heart O' Texas, Boothill, or somewhere,” Higgins said. “Today, no matter where you unload, you'll have some heavy-hitters there who'll be the guys to beat. There is high-level talent everywhere now.
“You have a mix of seasoned veterans and young kids coming up through the ranks. You really never know who will be beside you in the lineup; it could be Howard Willis or Ricky Ingalls one week, and the next it could be a red-hot kid like Corey Neil Jr., who I know has an amazing raw natural talent.”
When Higgins suits up, grabs his helmet and prepares to race, he climbs in to an impressive machine.
“The car I won in on Halloween at 105 was an Express Race Car,” he said. “It was a newer chassis than the Express I drove for Lance all year, but they're both excellent cars. Good equipment is critical today if you want to run up front. My car was built in 2015 and has all the latest updates. It's a solid piece.”
Along with his decades of experience, top-notch equipment and high-end skills, Higgins also has some key people working behind the scenes to ensure his program is on-track and successful all year long.
“I am blessed with a great car owner and very supportive family,” he said. “I want to thank my wife, most importantly; my daughter, Bri; Lance Shaffer, Thomas & Johnathan Ivey; Garrett Gregory, Shane Hebert, Tommy Moore and Zane DeVillbiss. I appreciate their support more than they know.
“I also need to thank my longtime and valued sponsors, including Conroe Door and Hardware, of Conroe, TX; Supreme Vinyl Works, of Plantersville, TX; Southern Transport, of Kilgore, TX; E-Z Line Pipe Support Co.; Edge Electrical & Instrumentation; EMS Electric, Randy Roan Construction and Yancey Transportation. I couldn't do this without them and appreciate their faith in my race team.”
With mid-November now upon us, most racers in South Texas, Higgins included, are focused on three big remaining Fall Specials. After that, it's a short rest for the Holidays then prepping for a busy 2022.
“We're getting ready for this weeken's big Texas Grand at 105, I've had a lot of guys asking me about setup information so I think we'll have big numbers. Chris Brown and his partners have made big gains at 105 this year, so I'm super happy to see that place headed in the right direction.
“After that, we'll go to Edna to run The Clash at Texana for Owen Pittman, I really love how that man promotes our sport. We'll close it out in December at the Jerry Whiteaker Memorial in Corpus Christi. Next year, I'll split my time between the Limited Mod and an IMCA Stock car. I'm still having a blast.”