MARIETTA, Ga. – He’s only two races into his ARCA Menards Series tenure with Chad Bryant Racing, but 16-year-old Corey Heim has already discovered that it’s a big step up from the late models he’s used to.

However, he’s taken the adjustment in stride and has several strong finishes to show for his efforts already, with back to back top-five finishes in the first two short-track races of the season.

Heim came home fifth at both Florida’s Five Flags Speedway in March and Salem (Ind.) Speedway in April, one of three ARCA drivers to earn top-five finishes in each of those two events.

Even though he isn’t old enough to run a full season on tour, Heim sits 11th in points on the strength of those two results, just 10 points behind Brad Smith for a position inside the top 10 in the standings.

That’s good news for the Georgia teenager, because he freely admits that he wasn’t fully prepared for everything that a move to ARCA competition entailed when he signed with team owner Chad Bryant back in October.

“I think my move to the ARCA Series was honestly kind of a wake-up call for me, that I need to take things a little bit more seriously now, because I need sponsors and success to be able to continue with my career beyond this point,” Heim told SPEED SPORT. “The (Chad Bryant Racing) crew and I already work really well together, though, even though I’m still learning and developing into these heavier cars.

“It’s been a great and challenging learning experience for me, but I definitely think we’re getting better with each test session and race weekend we go through together.”

Heim raced his way to second in the CARS Super Late Model Tour standings last season, earning one win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes in nine races and coming up just eight points shy of eventual champion Jared Fryar in the final points tally.

However, Heim peaked at the right time, winning the last race of the year at South Boston (Va.) Speedway in November to give himself some much-needed momentum going into his new opportunity.

“The way we ended last year was pretty important,” Heim noted. “I think that win at South Boston was huge for me in terms of confidence, just reminding myself that I can do this on a bigger stage and against some of the competition that we were racing against.”

It doesn’t mean that Heim hasn’t noticed plenty of differences between racing his super late model and racing a 3,400-pound ARCA car, however.

Corey Heim sits in his car on the grid at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway in March. (Daylon Barr photo)

“I think the biggest thing is that it’s for sure a different feel,” Heim said of the heavier ARCA machines. “The weight factor is definitely the biggest thing that I’m getting used to. Other things like aero and steering box feeling are big factors for my learning curve as well. The good thing is that I have great people like Chad and Paul (Andrews, crew chief) helping me develop into who I want to be.

“I have to admit, having only five cars on the lead lap at some points during these races is a little bit odd compared to what I’m used to, as well,” he added with a laugh. “Our hope is obviously to keep building this program, so that hopefully soon I’m the one lapping the top guys instead of fighting to stay on the lead lap.”

Heim has a set goal ahead of him, as he’s contending for this year’s Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge title, a championship within the ARCA national points race meant to allow the younger drivers who can’t race on the bigger speedways an opportunity to still contend against the veterans of the series.

Currently sitting fourth in the Short Track Challenge standings, Heim is confident in his chances going forward and excited to already be in the mix this early in his journey.

“Winning the Short Track Challenge is definitely our goal; taking home that title would definitely look good on my resume if we can pull it off,” Heim noted. “I really want to win a race – or a couple of races – along the way, though. I believe we have the team to do it and I’m excited about some of the tracks that are coming up on the schedule.”

With 10 more races on tap this year, including both dirt miles at Springfield and DuQuoin and the second race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway once he turns 17, Heim is focused on enjoying what’s ahead of him.

“This has been a really exciting start to my time in ARCA and I can’t thank Chad enough for believing in me and giving me a chance,” Heim smiled. “I hope I can continue beyond this year, but I want to enjoy every moment I can while it’s here in front of me.”