Over the past two years, Austin Kirkpatrick has been working to build a fast Dirt Late Model. On Sunday at Cherokee Speedway, the car he built was fast enough to lead every lap for a win with the Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series.
Going against a field which included the likes of Brandon Overton, Ross Bailes, Chris Madden, Dennis Franklin and Chris Ferguson, Kirkpatrick is the first to admit he was not the most talented racer in Sunday’s Hall of Fame 50. However, the car he built and drove was fast enough to dominate the $7,500-to-win feature.
“I had to make up for my lack of driving talent by making a pretty good race car,” said Kirkpatrick in victory lane. “This thing is so freaking fast. I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”
The win is Kirkpatrick’s first in the Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series, coming one night after a runner-up finish to Mike Marlar at Smoky Mountain Speedway. The big weekend is the byproduct of years of effort perfecting his home-built race car.
“Nobody saw the two years I spent toiling away in my garage. I was building this car from a rack and metal tubes. Every piece of this car is a piece of me.
“Every bit of race car understanding that I’ve developed in my 27 years of life is baked into this car. For it to be so fast is the most satisfying feeling you can imagine.”
It is often said after a dominating performance that the winning driver made it look easy. Kirkpatrick insisted that the 50-lap feature at “The Place Your Momma Warned You About” was as easy as it looked, a casual Sunday night drive.
“It was a cakewalk. After about three laps, Bill over here was giving me the ‘You’ve got plenty of room to work with’ [hand signal]. I was probably running 70 percent, after three laps I’d back her down.”
Even while some competitors fell by the wayside late with tire failures, Kirkpatrick had the utmost confidence that his relaxed pace would prevent him from suffering a similar fate.
“I’m not sure what my right-rear looks like, but I knew it would be a tire wear game. I saw a few people were popping right-rears, but I knew with as easy and smooth as I was driving, there can’t be anyone here with more right-rear tread left on it than me.”
What would drive someone to build their own race car to compete against some of the top Dirt Late Model racers in the country? For Kirkpatrick, it was seeing those racers gathered at Eldora Speedway for the World 100 three years ago and dreaming he could one day beat them.
“The whole reason for building the car was to win the World 100. I sat up there in 2017, sat in the bleachers. I thought, man, this is why I race. This is the best race I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere is so unbelievable.
“I knew I wasn’t going to outdrive Brandon Overton, Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Sheppard, some of those guys. Maybe if I thought a little outside of the box, I could build a racecar that could give me a little bit of an advantage.”
Coming off back-to-back wins with the World of Outlaws Late Models, Overton settled for second place on Sunday night at Cherokee. Ross Bailes rounded out the podium, with John Henderson, Jr. and Chris Madden completing the top five.
Fans who missed Sunday’s Hall of Fame 50 can watch highlights of the race on Speed51.TV by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo