In the sport of asphalt short track racing, there are a number of aspiring young drivers striving to make a name for themselves. They toil away in the trenches, paying their dues and capitalizing on every opportunity to advance that comes their way.
For 16-year-old Kate Re, the last eight years have been a steady progression from Karts, to Legacy cars to a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Modified, to the high-end Super Late Model she drives today. Along the way she's had injuries and setbacks, yet her burning desire to succeed pushes her forward.
Thus far in 2020, a season where the original plan was to just run Saturday nights at Oxford Plains Speedway to get her feet wet in SLM, she has run four PASS North races (three at White Mountain Motorsports Park and one at Oxford), and two Saturday night shows at Oxford. It's been a whirlwind.
While the numbers may not show it, Re has qualified well for her features and has put in a valiant effort each time. The level of competition she faces in this division is unsurpassed in the entire country.
“These first few races have been the start of a huge learning curve for us,” Re said. “We just go into every one with the goal of qualifying for the feature. I'm getting guidance from great people like Derek Griffith and Ben Rowe, helping me with my driving style. It has been an adrenaline rush every day.
“I have been a little nervous at the start of the heat races. I had never shifted gears on a start or a restart. It was an entirely different experience, like nothing I've ever done before. So I was gathering all of this information from different guys for help on that, and what lines to run at White Mountain.”
Re hit most people's radar screens in 2019 driving the No. 10 PASS Modified entry. The division has gone through its ups and downs, but is growing now and full of big talent. Re enjoyed her time there.
“The PASS Mods were a perfect stepping stone for us between the Allison Legacy cars and what we're doing now,” Re explained. “Running in that class taught me to get involved with setups, to work in the shop by myself, and forced me to learn about things like shocks and springs. There was so much to it.
“It was my first full-bodied race car. I had to learn how to do weekly maintenance, to keep the tires under me and not abuse the car too early. I got some great guidance from drivers like Spencer Morse, who once said he got schooled by me on a restart. The Mods taught me a lot about throttle control.”
Those who follow northern New England's active and talent-filled Super Late Model scene know there will be challenges to face for Re during what can be a steep learning curve. Yet the girl is undaunted.
“One of the biggest aspects of my learning curve in this class is the amount of prep time it requires in the shop,” Re added. “It isn't just one day or night, I am in here seven days a week working on this car. I'm always going through all of our notes, making sure we don't overlook something. It is consuming.”
Within the PASS North Super Late Model pit area are a handful of crew chiefs with skills above and beyond their rivals. Some have the ability to teach, to guide, to coach and to encourage. Jason Ricker is a prime example, the current crew chief for Ben Rowe and former crew chief for Reid Lanpher.
Ricker has been working with Re for the past couple of years, and the young driver loves that guidance.
“Jason has been such a huge help to me,” Re said. “From improving my program last year with the Modified, to tips on taking better lines to run in my Super Late Model, he has been amazing. He was our go-to guy for every race we ran in the Mod. He is my coach, my mentor and is always pushing me. Driver feedback is so key in this class, and Jason makes sure I elaborate in detail after every session.
“Even when he was working with Reid, he took time to help us out. It was me and my Dad in the shop during the week, with Jason always there to help at the tracks. He is always checking up on us, making sure we are doing the right things. I can't thank him enough for all he's done for my career.”
Ricker played a huge role in Lanpher's success on the ovals before moving over to work with Rowe. He enjoys playing the role of mentor with Re, and says she is unlike any other teenage racer he's ever seen.
“She’s a student of the game, always trying to get better,” Ricker said. “She tries to learn as much as she can about that car, and wants to be involved with the chassis setup and tires. She knows the more she understands about the car, the more it will help her behind the wheel.”
Ricker also says the perception some may have of Re is incorrect, that things are not just handed to her.
“She isn’t one to feel entitled to respect, she is trying to earn it," he added. "She has already earned a lot of respect from other drivers out on the track. So many generation Z kids feel everyone owes them something, but she’s not one of them. Kate works very hard for what she has.”
What's interesting to see is that Ricker isn't the only industry veteran to see the potential in Re's career. She has a truckload of people supporting her efforts, including a dedicated family and race team.
“I need to thank my parents for all they've sacrificed for my racing career,” Re said. “I appreciate them more than words can say. I also want to thank my amazing team, including Rick Re, Mark Psonak, David Ricker, Mark Woodard, Chris Nelson, Tristen Fogg and Karen Re.
“I also owe a special thanks to DLP Motorsports (Buggy Pletcher), Jason Ricker, Brandon Wilkinson, Dylan Turner, Derek Kneeland and Whipple Motorsports Media. Their help is priceless.”
Along with those skilled and devoted people working behind the scenes for Re as she pursues her dreams, the KRM10 team also has a fine group of marketing partners to make it all possible.
“I'm so fortunate to have some great companies on board our car this year,” Re said. “I have to thank Henry’s Concrete Construction, Worster’s Marine Center & Worster Rubbish, Derek Kneeland Racing, Searles Excavation, Rangeley IGA (in partnership with Dream Ride and the Hometown Foundation), Bessey Motor Sales, GT Overhead Door, Mt. Washington Valley Kustomz, Waddell Communications, The Winchenbaugh Family and Vacationland Campground. We couldn't do this without their support.”
With the uncertainly this COVID-19 pandemic brings to our racing industry, teams across all of New England are simply racing whenever they can right now. Go for it, do your best, and hope that things return to normal for 2021. For the remaining weeks of this abbreviated season, Re's goals are clear.
“I just want to soak up as muck knowledge as I can and race as often as possible,” Re said. “Our goals are still to qualify for every feature, to learn each time out and to steadily become contenders. If I can learn enough about these cars and get adequate seat time in 2020, my 2021 should be competitive.”
Story by: Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Correspondent
Photo credit: Speed51 Photo