TORC PRO 2 Competitor Combines Racing with Promoting Autism Awareness
Step into the pit area of the number 23 Allies of Autism PRO 2 at any TORC Series stop, and you will instantly be surrounded by what’s so special about the world of short-course racing. There’s something wonderful about the old-fashioned atmosphere surrounding the team, from their activity-adorn Hero Cards to their custom-built grill disguised as a racing engine. Stay here for more than a few minutes and you’re bound to see a young fan get lifted up into the seat of the actual race truck.
Smiling as wide as the children pretending to drive his PRO 2 is Kevin Hanegraaf, one of the most good-natured drivers you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet. Hanegraaf and his team operate with a level of passion and merriment that comes only from serving a higher purpose – a purpose that is displayed all over the team’s truck, equipment, and apparel.
Hanegraaf does double-duty every race weekend. In addition to participating in the competitive PRO 2 class, Hanegraaf and his team of family and friends commit their time and expenses to promoting autism awareness. For Hanegraaf, it’s a cause directly tied to his personal life.
“The Good Lord blessed us with two boys, Kyle and Kade, and they have significant autism. They were diagnosed when they were two. They were typical developing: talked, socialized, did all the normal kid things, and then it all went away. They’re non-verbal to this day. They’re very intelligent, but they have autism issues, and that’s ok.”
As he raised his boys with his wife Vicki, Kevin Hanegraaf, who raced motorcycles in his youth, dreamed of strapping himself into a PRO 2 truck. He attended the Labor Day races at Crandon every year, keeping the dream alive. While he waited for the right time to race again, the experience of raising boys with autism molded him into the man he is today.
“I’ve learned I have to step back and be on their timeline, so patience is a big thing. Truly, our faith in the Lord has really grown because of what we have going on. It’s made me a stronger man, husband, and father.”
In 2013, 34 years after winning the Crandon Brush Run 101 in the 125 moto class, Hanegraaf was given the opportunity to once again take the track, this time in a retired racer’s truck. Instead of using racing as an escape from the world of autism, Hanegraaf brought the two together in one very special combination.
“When we started racing, we thought, ‘What better way to fuel our passion for racing than to promote autism awareness?’ So I formed a nonprofit called ‘Allies of Autism.’ At the end of the year we take all of our financial winnings and give back to families that are dealing with autism. Last year we surprised 11 people around Christmastime with a nice little check.”
You can join Kevin Hanegraaf in his quest to make the world a better place through racing and autism awareness. Get involved and stay “up to speed” with the A2 team through the Allies of Autism Facebook page. “At the track, we invite you to come to our pit site, sit in the truck, take pictures, and just talk,” Hanegraaf adds.
“We want to give back to those who are struggling. We do care about families that are affected by autism, and we want to promote that autism is out there,” said Hanegraaf. “If you can help one person, it’s worth it, and we’ve touched many families so far.”
Kevin would like to thank his wife Vicki, brothers Pete and Stu Hanegraaf, Todd and Jay Schuh, and sons Kyle and Kade. “Without all of them I could not possibly think of doing this.”
Thanks to A2 Racing’s sponsors: Pomp’s Tire, Ellington Mutual Insurance Company, Boatec Inc., American Metal Roofs, Goodyear, US Venture, Hentzen, Lee Beverage, Amsoil, Fireline, Josh Mayers, Sun Drop, Keller, Thermach Inc., John and Carol McClary, Miller Welders, Appleton Lathing Corporation, Badger State Transport, Brindlee Mountain, Butch’s Pizza, the Meat Block, Texas Fire Trucks, and Airgas.
Andrew Pfluger is a longtime race fan and writer for the TORC Series. To offer feedback or make suggestions for future content, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.