HOMETOWNER" KITE LOOKS FORWARD TO ARCA DEBUT IN ATLANTA INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- For Jimmy Kite and his parents, the past few years have evolved around racing, and the rat race that...
HOMETOWNER" KITE LOOKS FORWARD TO ARCA DEBUT IN ATLANTA INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- For Jimmy Kite and his parents, the past few years have evolved around racing, and the rat race that goes with it -- pack, load the car, head to the airport or the interstate, find a hotel, unload, unpack, and eat and sleep in a unfamiliar environment.
But, finally, this weekend, he'll wake up for a race in the comfort of his own home. Kite, who lives in Stockbridge, Georgia, will make his Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) debut this Friday in the Johnson Industries/EasyCare Vehicle Services Contracts 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. For once, the drive to the track will be shorter than the race itself.
"The last time I was in this situation would have had to have been mini-sprints about four or five years ago," said the 22-year-old, who will compete in the #45 Royal Purple Synthetic/"Synerlec"/Scandia 1997 Roush-tuned Ford Thunderbird. "I've always wanted to have a race down here in the Atlanta area and, for as many races as I've seen at (Atlanta Motor Speedway), I kind of wondered if I would have a chance. It's neat that I get two chances this year."
Kite, who was biding his time in the sprint and midget ranks a year ago before signing with Team Scandia and embarking on an Indy Racing League (IRL) career last June, will use Friday's race to test the stock car waters and to study the Speedway's track in preparation for Atlanta's inaugural IRL event in August. While "homecourt" advantage can be a major factor in some sports, Kite said he hasn't been around the Atlanta track enough to have gained an edge.
"It's not necessarily an advantage," said Kite, whose only previous preparation on the 1 1/2-mile Atlanta track for Friday's race was a two-day ARCA test last month. "For as many laps as I've watched around that track and as many times as I've told other drivers how to drive it, I've totally changed my tune. I won't tell another person how to drive that race track.
"It's like every other track -- it just looks a lot easier from the stands. I thought the track was just nice and smooth but it takes a lot of driving around it. You don't have as much time to rest as I thought you would."
Kite has, however, benefitted from Team Scandia's co-ownership of Brett Bodine's NASCAR Winston Cup team. Bodine, who drives the #11 Paychex Ford Taurus on the Winston Cup circuit this season, supplied Kite's car for the Atlanta race and has provided his experience along with it.
"The biggest part is that he helped show me where to run, taught me where the bumps are and helped me with other things like how the draft affects the car, where you can pass and where you need to be single file...things like that," said Kite. "It would take me a little while to learn those things but, thanks to his background, I'm already pretty comfortable."
Kite will return to the road and to the IRL series at Phoenix. by Len in Indy