Kaeding living a season of California dreamin' TULARE, Calif. -- When the National Sprint Tour was formed last winter, no one could have predicted the 2006 season Tim Kaeding has had. Anyone predicting that Kaeding would notch 14 wins in...
Kaeding living a season of California dreamin'
TULARE, Calif. -- When the National Sprint Tour was formed last winter, no one could have predicted the 2006 season Tim Kaeding has had.
Anyone predicting that Kaeding would notch 14 wins in the first season while driving for Steve Kinser Racing would have likely been checked into a mental ward.
As the series heads back to Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway to conclude the season this Friday and Saturday, it marks a successful homecoming for the San Jose driver.
In the first NST race ever in February at Tulare, Kaeding finished second to boss Steve Kinser. Two races later, Kaeding bagged his first NST victory. He's been doing that throughout the season, and with just two races left Kaeding is assured of having the most wins on the season.
Not bad for a driver previously known more for his wheelies and wrecks than his wins.
"Definitely going into this year, I did feel that I was an out of control racer," Kaeding said. "I had to prove I was consistent. I was either fast or out of control -- it was one or the other. It was a big stepping stone for me this year."
Kaeding, who drove the Roth Motorsports entry the last two seasons, was hired to replace Steve's son Kraig Kinser in the 11K as Kraig has made a transition to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
"Steve told me to win races for him," Kaeding said. "Being as consistent as we've been is what I wanted to show everyone. Steve wanted me to race like I had the last couple of years. He'd seen in me something other people didn't see. He saw that I could drive a car."
Kaeding admits he had self doubts before talking to the man known as 'The King' of Sprint car racing.
"It did get to me, after a tough last couple of years," Kaeding said. "When Steve called me up, he told me a lot of stuff I never thought I'd hear from a driver of that caliber. It was a great feeling he had all that confidence in me. I will admit it did choke me up a lot. He made me realize I did have the ability.
"Knowing that Steve Kinser has that much confidence in you, that's a huge confidence booster in of itself," Kaeding added. "Steve Kinser is a god in Sprint car racing."
Once he got the ride, Kaeding knew he had to take advantage.
"The biggest thing I had to do was not screw it up," he said. "It was now or never. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The chance to do this has been unbelievable. It's still hard to grasp it."
That has been evident after each of Kaeding's wins. He screams and pumps his fists as if it's his first win, and talks about how unbelievable the opportunity has been. Kaeding has become a big star on his own right, stepping out from the shadows of his famous dad Brent Kaeding and famous car owner.
"My dad (raced nationally) only one or two years," Tim Kaeding said. "He was more worried about his family and business. I was just a weekend racer back home. I wasn't ready for a national tour, mentally. It became a question of 'Do I want to stay home and dominate, or try to start dominating nationally?'"
After two years with Roth, the thought of going back home started looking more promising.
"It did cross my mind," Kaeding acknowledged. "But if I had went home, I would have looked like a failure. I didn't want to go home with my tail tucked between my legs."
Instead, Kaeding has been dominating nationally and keeping his car owner out of victory lane.
"It's still uneasy driving for Steve, especially when you're beating him," Kaeding said. "It's built the confidence level up with both teams running well. The start of the year was a surprise for all of us. We all clicked right from the get go. The guys gave me great race cars.
"It's an exhilarating feeling that you can win on any night," he added. "I didn't have to change my aggressive driving style. Nowadays everybody is so close equipment wise, you have to step it up that little bit. That (aggressive style) has helped more than it has hurt."
The style was developed after watching racers like Kinser, his father and more.
"Everybody I watched ran with that little extra every night," Kaeding said. "It's been my style ever since I began. Now, I can also be patient. It's great to know that if your car is somewhat close, you can compensate for it. You've got to just go for it, and try not to do anything stupid."
Even with all of the wins this year, Kaeding comes to the final weekend third in points, with no realistic chance of catching Danny Lasoski, who is 101 points ahead of Kinser and 155 points ahead of Kaeding.
"It does hurt knowing we're third in points," Kaeding said. "On off nights, we're no better than 10th. So we deserve to be in third."
Kaeding points to the July 16 race in Franklin, Penn. as a key reason to why the team is in third. On that night, Kinser got by Kaeding on the last lap for the win. Kaeding spun but recovered to cross the line in fourth. Following the race, however, Kaeding was disqualified when his car was 50 pounds too light.
"We got hurt in Pennsylvania, with the DQ that night," Kaeding said. "That really hurt us in the points. And my confidence level in the team fell. I should have stepped it up sooner. I needed to get my confidence back up in the team."
With the confidence renewed, Kaeding is looking forward to returning home this weekend.
"It's going to be nice," he said. "I grew up running Tulare. It's a beautiful racing facility. Everything about California I miss, except for the traffic. My friends and family will be there, so it will be fun. I really want to win."
Tickets are available by calling the track at 559-688-0909. Friday's tickets are $25 for bleacher seats, $30 to $35 for reserved grandstand seats, and $40 for box seats. Saturday's tickets are $30 for bleacher seats, $35 to $40 for reserved grandstand seats, and $45 for box seats.
For more information on the track including seating charts, visit www.tularethunderbowl.com. For more information on the NST, visit www.nationalsprinttour.com.