A year ago Kodie Conner had the worst start to a season a driver could possibly have. Crashed cars, blown motors, blown transmissions, you name it and he had it happen. This year the 14-year-old North Carolina driver has won three of his first four races on the PASS Pro Late Model tour, but of course, not without some adversity.
“The very first race at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) something was wrong with the motor in practice and it blew up,” Conner told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We had eight laps total. We went home, and changed the motor. We got to the track, unloaded, started up and I had no oil pressure because the oil pump went bad. But I started dead last and drove my way to the front and won the race.”
Since then, Conner has rattled off two more wins, sweeping a double-header weekend at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway (NC). His lowest finish so far is a sixth-place finish at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC), but was second on a late restart before crashing.
“It was amazing to win at Hickory,” said Conner. “It’s my first ever win at Hickory Motor Speedway and first time ever in PASS Pro Late Model history that they did back to back races, so it was just amazing.”
However, the Hickory double-header was difficult for Conner, because he had to miss a day of school to be at the racetrack. Conner, an eighth-grader at Corriher-Lipe Middle School in Landis, North Carolina, said he’s frequently missing school for races, and balancing those two aspects of his life can be very difficult.
“I do miss a lot of days,” Conner said. “And I get sick a lot too, which is a bad thing so I miss a lot of days. But my principal, Dr. Pugh, is amazing. She understands that racing is going to be my career so she does everything in her power to help me out with my schoolwork while I’m racing. I get excused absences for racing. It’s amazing.”
Conner added that his teachers are not so lenient, and that his due-dates for assignments are usually on Fridays when he has to be at a racetrack. As a result, Conner is frequently doing schoolwork either at the track or on the way to the track.
“On the way to Anderson I did a little bit of reading, then I had to do a science word puzzle which drove me crazy because I’m not too good at science,” said Conner. “Sometimes I’m in the backseat of the truck on the way to the track and I’ll read what I have to read. Then I’ll watch videos of the track so I have a clue of how to drive the track, like Anderson, because I’d never been there before.”
But once Conner is at the track, his car is easy to find. He’s usually running near the front, as shown by his three wins already this year, and his five wins last year after he got his season back on track. But also because of its unique graphics package easily catches the fans eyes.
“When I was real little, maybe three or four years old, I loved tigers,” he said. “They were my main thing. So my dad said, ‘Hey why don’t we paint your first kart like a tiger?’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah that would be awesome!’ So we ended up painting it like a tiger and it just stuck with me. Everybody knows me as the tiger kid.”
To match his car, Conner walks around every racetrack in a black and orange tiger-striped firesuit.
But there’s one other reason Conner loves his car’s design.
“It intimidates people,” said Conner. “They look in their mirror and they think, ‘Oh my goodness it’s Kodie Conner.’ It’s a good thing to have.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo