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Up to Speed: Corey Heim’s Rise Has Him Cup Ready… With Whom?

Nearly 22-years old, Corey Heim is at the top of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series field, including nearly winning the title a year ago.

Heim added to his win total with an impressive victory at North Wilkesboro Speedway, his third of the season and eighth of his career. He led a race-high 66 laps, earned nine stage points and won by 2.474 seconds, an especially high margin of victory at a 0.625-mile short track.

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With 10 races completed in the 2024 Truck season, Heim has the most victories, stage wins and playoff points. He’s only four points behind Christian Eckes for the points lead, which carries with it an additional 15 playoff points.

Heim is poised for another deep playoff run, too. He is a legitimate threat to take his TRICON Garage team to victory lane at all races and he’s won at two playoff tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

His rise to the top has been well earned.

Remember, even though he lost the 2021 ARCA Menards Series championship to Ty Gibbs, Heim still accomplished one of the best single-season performances in ARCA history. Heim won six races and scored 16 top fives, 20 top 10s – yes, a top 10 in every race – and an average finish of 3.1.

His only DNF, at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, resulted in a seventh-place finish. Unfortunately, Gibbs was better overall and Heim missed out by 37 points. Still, trailing Gibbs, a current Cup driver battling for a playoff berth, by 1.85 is a remarkable feat.

Of all the drivers I’ve covered in ARCA, serving as the site’s ARCA editor, Heim is the second or third-best driver to graduate from that series, right alongside Jesse Love and only behind Gibbs.

Heim then seamlessly transitioned into Truck racing in 2022. He won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the first Truck race at the newly configured racetrack. He won the pole and captured the trophy at World Wide Technology Raceway. In a part-time capacity, he finished 14th and took home Rookie of the Year honors.

And now Heim has proven he’s worthy of a Cup ride.

Filling in for an injured Erik Jones at Dover Motor Speedway, Heim finished incident-free in 25th ahead of several current playoff-calibers drivers including Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, William Byron and Christopher Bell. In the next race at Kansas Speedway, Heim ran inside the top 10 before his involvement in a last-lap spin with Austin Dillon relegated him to a 22nd-place showing.

Now, as silly season is reportedly set to be chaotic, Heim appears to be the next Toyota prospect if Martin Truex Jr. indeed retires, right?

To quote Lee Corso from College Gameday, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Heim and Gibbs fiercely raced each other in ARCA. They both used a bump-and-run on each other to score a win at a short track. In their 33 races against each other, they both racked up impressive stats. Head-to-head, Gibbs prevailed 22 times with 12 wins and an average finish of 4.3. Heim came home with seven trophies and an average finish of 4.3. So they literally could not get away from each other.

Look at what teams Heim has driven for in the Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series. Legacy Motor Club, a Toyota team; soon-to-be 23XI Racing, a Joe Gibbs Racing satellite Toyota team and Sam Hunt Racing. Suffice to say, Heim and JGR don’t have entirely close ties.

And that’s OK… except that JGR is the top Toyota Cup team.

Yet with eight career Truck wins, a near-championship win one year ago and the high probability he returns to the Championship 4, Heim is ready for the next level. Furthermore, as Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Todd Gilliland, Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith showed, Xfinity experience is not a prerequisite to make it to Cup.

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So if JGR doesn’t want Heim, or Truex doesn’t retire, what are Heim’s options?

The possibility of multiple charters on the market means he should have several. According to FOX Sports reporter Bob Pockrass, Legacy and 23XI are both interested in acquiring a third charter. Heim makes sense for both organizations; he is already the reserve driver for LMC.

Otherwise, Heim could follow his Venturini Motorsports successor Love and switch manufacturers. Front Row Motorsports signed Gilliland after his Toyota departure. Would it follow suit by bringing Heim into its Cup fold? If silly season is thoroughly wild, a surprise organization might join the party and pull off another shocker by signing Heim.

I never would’ve thought Kyle Busch would leave JGR and the Tyler Reddick to 23XI signing surprised everyone. Heim could be the next person to join that list.

Admittedly, Heim could stay with TRICON for a third full-time season, which may be enticing if he does not win the title for a second straight year.

But from a prospect standpoint, if Heim continues running up front and battling Eckes for Truck Series supremacy, why wouldn’t he want to move up? If only he could mend fences with JGR; staying within the Toyota camp would be a whole lot easier.

About the author

Frontstretch.com
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Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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