Kinser's Special Birthday

Steve Kinser

Steve Kinser's 60th birthday Monday is a reminder to enjoy what he's done and relish what's left as he moves toward the end of his career. (Photo: Dave Shank)

There’s no telling how many people have seen him win or how many people rooted for anyone but him to win. Night after night, year after year, Steve Kinser has been there on dirt tracks throughout the country.

I consider myself fortunate to be among those who sat covered in dirt and watched, rather, was mesmerized by how Kinser tamed a sprint car and made it do things few could. Growing up in Indiana, it was always special to see Kinser and the World of Outlaw gypsies when they passed through.

Such moments flash by with today being Kinser’s 60th birthday. His birthday also is a reminder that the chances of seeing the “King” of sprint cars compete grows fewer. Kinser has stated that this would be his last season running the full schedule. Surely, he’ll race after this season but not as many of us will be able to see him.

It’s been a remarkable career with 20 World of Outlaw titles and more than 500 series victories. Think about this, he’s been a series champion for a third of his life. How many can say they’ve been the best at what they did for one year let alone 20? And there’s also those 12 Knoxville National crowns - including five in a row at sprint car racing’s premier event.

Yet, it’s not the numbers that stand out the most about Kinser. It’s what he represents and the message he provides all of us.

For me, Kinser is more than checkered flags and spectacular flips. He represents father-son trips to the track. My story is not unlike many race fans. My first trip to the track came with my father. Together we wandered Indiana going to races. We’d get to the tracks early to catch hot laps, wanting not to miss anything. The nights often finished with me collecting autographs after the races and falling asleep in the car on the ride home.

Sprint car, midgets and Silver Crown races were always special but there was something extra when the Outlaws visited. I once watched Kinser and the Outlaws at his home track in Bloomington, Ind. It’s something I’m grateful to have experienced. The crowd was huge and its support hearty for its favorite son. You always saw plenty of Kinser T-shirts at tracks but at Bloomington it seemed as if they came with the ticket because so many had one.

For all the times I’ve seen Kinser, it will soon come to an end. Kinser is a reminder that even the great ones move on and we can’t take it for granted.

There will come a day for NASCAR fans when Jeff Gordon retires and all they’ll have are memories from that wispy mustache in the early years to his domination on the track and the moves he made to win. It’s already happened to fans of Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin and many others.

It also will happen some day to fans of Tony Stewart (43 years old), although you expect him to challenge Kinser and race sprint cars when he’s 60. It will happen to fans of many more. Three of top five in points in NASCAR are or will hit 40 this year with Matt Kenseth (42), Gordon (43 in August) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (40 in October).

As Kinser makes his final laps around tracks throughout the nation, take a moment to appreciate what he’s done and think about all those times you watched and with whom.

Related Topics:

Steve Kinser, World of Outlaws

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