After a bit of a rough start to the 2018 season, Kyle Courtney has begun to find his edge in his No. 171 Crate Late Model machine. The 18-year-old racer scored a feature win last Saturday night at I-75 Raceway in Sweetwater, Tennessee and he hopes that momentum will carry over to this Saturday night when the United Crate Racing Alliance roars onto the high banks of Tazewell Speedway.
Those early struggles had begun to wear on the Knoxville, Tenn. native until the Courtney crew received some consultation from the guys at PPM Racing Products that helped the team get back up to speed. Over the course of the last month Courtney has been among the leaders in qualifying at every race before putting the entire night together last weekend at I-75.
“We feel pretty confident right now,” Courtney declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “We struggled some this year just trying to get speed out of the car, and if it wasn’t for Randy and Ricky Hamby at PPM, I don’t think we would be to where we’ve got to in the past four weeks.”
Courtney’s season underwent a significant turnaround in early July.
“Our first night out we went to Crossville and qualified second then ran second in the feature,” the young driver explained. “We went to Smoky Mountain the next Friday and was fastest in the second group(feature was rained out), then we went to Blue Ridge the next night and was second quick in hot laps and qualified on the pole, but when we were doing the four-wide salute in the feature, our motor went down on us so we weren’t able to compete in that race. But as far as qualifying, we’ve been doing pretty good. This past Saturday we went to I-75 and qualified second to Matt Henderson and we were able to get ’em on the start so we led flag-to-flag there.”
So have the struggles this season been due to reliability issues of just plain bad luck?
“It’s really been on account of both,” Courtney pointed out. “There for about a month we were having timing issues with the motor but that was our own fault because of some stuff we were doing. As far as setup wise, we really weren’t on our game so I told my dad and my brother Cody that I was tired of looking bad at the race track so we were going to have to get down to it and start doing our homework. And like I said, if it wasn’t for Randy and Ricky with PPM we wouldn’t be where we’ve got to in the past month.”
Although Courtney has quite a bit of racing experience for someone of his relatively young age, he has not raced on the high-banked Tazewell Speedway very often.
“This will be my fourth time there,” the driver sometimes referred to as Kid Quick said. “We went there twice last year and ran something like eighth and fifth. This year we were running sixth in the UCRA feature back in April and had a motor let go. We were down about 80 horsepower already but we were just trying to stay up in the points. We’ve got us a motor that will run now and we’ve got the car where it needs to be with speed in it so hopefully we’ll be alright come Saturday.”
Like many other racers, Courtney says of the third-mile track located in upper east Tennessee that, “You better hold on because it’s going to be fast.”
Courtney believes that changes made in the way the UCRA conducts its business has proven to benefit all the teams that compete on that series.
“Last year we ran with them and their pay scale was around $2,500-to-win and this year they cut it back to $2,000 but they actually added $1,000 to the whole purse and spread it out through the field so that way you have a little more money to race on,” he explained. “I think that with them doing that for the racer, it really shows that they care about us and they want more people to race with them. But people don’t see that and they just say they cut the purse by $500. The reason they cut the winner’s purse by $500 is to help the other guys out who don’t win. I understand that because you don’t always have the best of luck all the time but you still need money to race on.”
Courtney would love nothing better than to stand atop the victory podium at the end of the night on Saturday. But he also knows that will not be an easy task.
“I’ve yet to win a UCRA race. This past weekend was my second crate win ever so I hope that going into this weekend we will be able to come out on top. That’s one of my biggest goals is to get a UCRA or NeSmith win. We’re really close and we’ve just got to keep working hard in the garage to make sure everything is in tip-top shape to compete against all these other guys.”