For this edition of EPARTRADE’s popular “5 Questions With Racing Industry Executives,” we turn to Scott Heintz, who is a second-generation member of the racing industry as an owner of Heintz Performance, one of the best racing retail operations in the country.
Heintz is also the owner of FSE/Fire Suppression Engineering, in addition to being vice-president of Heintz Performance, which is based in Concord, North Carolina. Both companies are located under the same roof.
Heintz started FSE in 2019. In the racing business since he was a teen, Heintz says the two companies support each other, and offer the ultimate in customer support.
He explains that he started FSE with a partner who, like Heintz, is also well-versed in the fire suppression industry. They offer 20 years of experience in design, engineering, manufacturing, sales, and service of motorsports fire suppression systems, and provide a wide range of options depending on customer requirements. Precision designed and manufactured, all FSE systems use the Novec 1230 extinguishing agent.
Q: Tell us your story of how you got started in racing?
SCOTT HEINTZ: I grew up going to drag races. My father Steve Heintz and his brother, my uncle Mike, started Heintz Automotive, and they drag raced in the 1960s and 1970s. They started the business from going to races. Drag racing was where it all started for them and for myself as well.
I drag raced for about a year, right when I was getting out of college. But I wasn’t that good at it. The business side of racing was more my thing than the racing side. I’ve raced a couple of time in my life. I had a road racing car, but I realized my knowledge wasn’t behind the wheel but behind the counter.
FSE is one aspect of what I do, but I am also an owner of Heintz Performance, so I am focused on both. Heintz had a relationship with another fire extinguisher manufacturer for almost 20 years, and we became known as a place to get your extinguishers worked on. I gained experience and knowledge from that, and it made sense to go out on my own and start another company.
Q: What is the most exciting thing to you about the motorsports industry today?
SH: Right now, during this pandemic, the most exciting thing is the anticipation of going back to racing; going back to life as we knew it.
Overall, I find exciting just the strides and attractions that we have been able to gain in a short amount of time. I have three of the main chassis builders of late models, the majority of the NASCAR teams, all purchasing new FSE products from me when theirs expires. We have a sprint car unit that is very affordable, we also have systems for the aircraft industry, and units we build and service for the garbage and waste business. So, while fire suppression for motorsports is where I gained my knowledge, we have also been able to branch out and do some other things in other industries that rely on good suppression for their day to day operations.
Q: What motivates you daily in your job?
SH: My customers are what motivates me the most, seeing and interacting and servicing them. We have a good relationship with our vendors, too. Being proud of the product that we build and service and sell, being that business, that person people come to when they need help, that’s what motivates me. My customers know they are going to get a good product, and get the best service that’s available.
Q: What recent new technology or advancements in racing excite you most?
SH: SFI has a new open wheel open cockpit system for IndyCar for which they have a 17.2 spec that they are working on designing and developing. I’ve been working on that a little bit. It’s been held up by so many things, but it’s coming in 2020. Then, I’m also excited that we are looking at expanding the FSE line.
Fire suppression—if you have it, and don’t need it, that might be an expense you feel you could spend elsewhere on the car. But if you don’t have it and need it… I think racing needs to mandate onboard fire suppression. It is a natural progression that needs to be continued.
There are other good extinguisher companies out there, I have nothing but good to say about them. Competition is good, it drives us to come up with something that is better than what they have, or what we have. You want to build a system that when the driver has to pull that pin or cable, or the thermal sensor goes off automatically, you’re confident it will suppress a fire enough to get the driver out to safety.
Q: What should everybody in the racing industry know about your company?
SH: For FSE, I think they should know about the experience and knowledge I have been able to gain over the almost 20 years of working specifically with fire suppression in motorsports. I’ve built, repaired, designed, and tested. I’m probably one of the few people that can go into a race shop, and take a system, measure the lines and measure everything out, configure what system you need, and build it exactly to your specifications. Race cars may all look alike, but the guys that own a race car, they’re different. He wants to mold the system to what he wants.
Fire suppression dictates where sensors, cables, and lines should be. I have helped place these systems, custom-fit hose length and configurations, and I can service and certify them. It’s advantageous to be able to build custom-length, specific configurations and hose lengths for a specific race team or chassis builder. Our attention to that kind of detail is what separates us from everyone else. The system looks good, it works, but also it can be custom-made and configured exactly the way they want it and sent out in an extremely efficient time.
[Editor’s Note: Given the current pandemic situation, we asked Scott two additional questions.]
Q: What is your business experiencing right now in the pandemic?
SH: I would say we went from a steady run to a leisurely walk, let’s put it that way. I have customers who come in on a regular basis, I do some sales to certain industries that are essential businesses, so that is how I look at my reasoning for being open, because I provide parts and services to those businesses. I have some customers who come in during the day; I am still shipping parts. There is business, it just isn’t anything like it was. 80% of my customer base has basically been shut down with stay-at-home orders.
Q: Is there anything you wanted to share with the racing industry right now about the pandemic?
SH: This may be extremely cliche, but I would say that the racing industry is like one big family, and families go through good times and bad times. When we return to some sort of normalcy, my advice to everyone is to remember what’s important. I lost my uncle, who helped start the business. He passed away on March 30th, and not being able to see a lot of friends and family during the service, there was a little bit of disappointment and sadness there.
When we return, let’s go to work, but remember that friends, family, and faith are the main things that are important. Remember that we are racers. We race to win, we don’t race for second place, we race for the trophy. We need to go back and work hard and race for that trophy every day.
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