Harford Tech's Denmyer ready to make his move in winged sprint cars
By By Matt Hamilton
The Baltimore Sun|
Mar 16, 2014 at 1:27 AM
When Kyle Denmyer was 9 months old, his father, Roger, taped down the pedal of the boy's new Fisher-Price Dodge Power Wheels car so he could ride it continuously.
When Kyle's mother, Tammy, came home from work that night, she saw Kyle and his new toy. He was doing circles in the driveway.
"That was his first time on wheels, when he was 9 months old," Tammy said. "Kyle was always into something with wheels and a motor."
Kyle said there was never a time he didn't want to ride his Power Wheels.
"I used to just drive that thing all day. I would drive and drive and drive, just doing circles in it," Kyle said. "I would fall asleep in it, hit a tree, wake up, put it in reverse and keep on going."
Today, Kyle sits in his garage and tinkers with his 358 winged sprint car. Its black exterior, with a fresh new blue-and-orange paint job from his mother, reflects the NASCAR program on the TV in the corner of the garage.
Weighing 1,500 pounds with 700 horsepower and wings extending from the roof, Kyle's car stands taller than he does. It's a far cry from the Power Wheels he rode as a toddler.
For many racers, childhood visions of driving toy cars are distant memories. For Kyle, the toy wasn't retired all that long ago. At 16, Kyle will begin his first full season in the 358 Sprint class Saturday.
Kyle is one of a small group of young racers competing in 358 Sprint at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pa. Track owner and promoter Alan Kreitzer said that although it is unusual to see someone Kyle's age in the 358 class, it's not unheard of.
“[Younger drivers are] becoming more prevalent than [they] used to be,” Kreitzer said. “The whole trend towards younger drivers started when Jeff Gordon [now 42] did so well as a young driver. It is great for the sport to have young people coming in, moving up and doing so well. I think it's very healthy — and good for the fans.”
Kyle, who began racing in the 358 series near the end of last season, is a Harford Tech junior and native of Joppa.
“I always loved motor sports. It has always been [racing],” he said. “It's a way I can put my personality out there and express myself. A lot of kids play football and wrestle and all that; I race.”
Kyle began racing at age 5 when, after watching go-kart racing for a few years, he decided he wanted to try it. With the help of his father, a former motorcycle driver in the Camel Pro Dirt Track Series, Kyle started racing competitively soon after driving for the first time.
Roger Denmyer raced for years on the dirt-track circuit, traveling along the Eastern Seaboard but received no parental support. That lack of encouragement inspired Roger to stand with Kyle wherever racing takes him.
"We left it to him. Obviously, we were interested and gave him whatever he needed," Roger said. "But there would be many a days where we would ask him, 'Are you done? Have you had enough? We'll sell it all [the equipment],' and the answer was always 'No, no, no.' We never pushed him to race ... and it's his decision to race today."
Kyle's interest in dirt carts took him from racing smaller “money races” in early childhood to a more consistent regimen when he entered his teens.
His career began gaining speed in 2011 when, at age 14, he became one of few racers ever to win three races in different classes — Briggs 340, Briggs 375 and Animal 340 — on the same night.
Performances such as these made Kyle and his family believe he could move up from cart racing to sprint cars and race full time. The results also caught the attention of sponsors such as Chris Hiser of Chris Hiser Motorsports.
Hiser, who is friends with Roger Denmyer, retired after an eight-year racing career but wanted to stay involved with the sport via sponsorships. He watched Kyle for years before deciding to ask him to sign on.
“He's very dedicated to what he does. He's very dedicated to the racing end of it,” Hiser said. “He was a very smooth driver when I watched him. At a young age, he has a very professional way of going about himself at the track.”
Hiser asked Kyle to race under him on the 358 Sprint circuit, giving Kyle the breakthrough he had been seeking.
“[Deciding to switch to 358 Sprint] was easy. From 5 to 16, I made so many friends driving carts, so it definitely [was tough leaving them],” Kyle said. “But it has always been a dream, and I didn't hesitate. I talked to my parents about it ... and then it was like, ‘When can we do it?' I had to settle my own self down because I was ready to go.”
And off he went. Kyle started racing among older and more experienced competitors in the 358 Sprint series at Lincoln Speedway in August.
Kyle made the top 10 in a handful of races, including a season-high ninth place at Susquehanna Raceway on Nov. 6.
"There's some guys that have been doing this stuff going into their 40s, and there's guys like me just starting out," Kyle said. "You have to gain your respect in these things ... but you're out there to do a job, and that's to bring home first place."
Kyle said he hopes to use this season to adjust to racing 358 Sprint cars. His father echoes that idea.
"[The older drivers] have so much more experience than Kyle. He needs seat time," Roger Denmyer said. "After that, I think we're going to be as competitive as anyone there. I know my son can drive it. He's never worked hard with a steering wheel in his hand. It comes natural to Kyle."