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Bloomington’s Steve Kinser has been the number one name in sprint car racing for the better part of four decades. In so doing, he has grown a legion of fans from coast to coast and across the Pacific Ocean to Australia and New Zealand. It takes an exceptional driver to command this kind of fan loyalty; and Kinser certainly is that — in spades.

As a young married man I took my wife to tracks like Bloomington Speedway, Paragon Speedway, Lawrenceburg Speedway, etc. to watch a wild young driver herd what could be among the ugliest sprint cars to find victory lane. There was no decorative tail. Rather, it had a bare fuel tank carrying the now famous 11 emblazoned on it. Nothing seemed to get repainted before it really needed it. The appearance of the car belied the maintenance of what was below the skin. Clearly everything there was dedicated to make the car fast.

Kinser was raised by a father, Bob Kinser, who was also a winning race driver. He was a bull of a man who was a full-time mason, laying brick and block during the week and racing on the weekends. For years, he raced three nights a week. And, the elder Kinser raced mostly without a wing. As a youngster, the younger Kinser was asked what his father did. He responded, “He races and drinks beer.” A lot of what Steve Kinser became is rooted in what his father was.

I’ll never forget the first Four Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway. Steve was entered in both the USAC Sprint Car and USAC Silver Crown portions of the event; but he had to have a substitute driver qualify the cars; and he had to start on the tail in both features. Within a few laps he took the lead in both features. He drove both races with his back bumper inches from the Eldora concrete. He won both features in what had to be the most spectacular piece of driving I’ve ever seen.

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