NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Kiowa Higdon (17) leads Kirk Pfannenstiel (86) during a sport compact heat race Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays.
Forgive Kiowa Higdon and his lack of patience at times.
When you've struggled at the back of the pack for a few years and had a hard time getting things to go your way, you can understand why the senior at Hays High School wants to get to the front of the field quickly.
Now that he's got a taste of what the top spot is like, he's more anxious than ever to get up there each night.
"I'm impatient, but I need to be learning how to be more patient," Higdon said. "I just have to take my time and work my way through the field. It's key for me, because I like to get out front and lead the field so I have some space to work with if I do mess up."
Higdon has had a lot of time out front this year in the sport compact division. In fact, he's already won two in a row at RPM Speedway in Hays, and another at nearby WaKeeney Speedway.
"It's pretty nice to have a nice, good car that I have, and to have a good run for once," Higdon said.
Higdon struggled a year ago, with his best outing a seventh-place showing at Hays and WaKeeney. He finished outside the top 10 in six of nine races.
This year, he bought Shyla Hughes' car from a year ago.
"It was way different than my old car," Higdon said. "It's got way more power, and I've got it set up right to run around the top of people on this track. Right now, it's unstoppable. It hooks, and it goes."
In his three wins this year, he's led all but two laps in those features.
"It's in the car and the driver," Higdon said. "These past few years, not having the fastest car, gave me a lot of seat time. It taught me how to drive."
Now, Higdon finds himself in a familiar spot -- only because he's accumulated a good point average. The inverted starting position means Higdon starts near the fourth or fifth row each feature.
That still hasn't slowed him.
"Going from second to last and third to last, and being up there, it just puts a little doubt in everyone's mind whether I'm going to get first or not," Higdon said. "It just shows everybody I can get up there and win, just as fast and good as anybody else."
In nine races this year at Hays and WaKeeney, Higdon's worst finish was 10th -- one of his two DNF's this season.
He has eight top-seven finishes, six top-three finishes and five top-two finishes. As of May 4, he was fourth in IMCA state points and 12th in national points.
Higdon's also locked in a tight battle for track titles at Hays and WaKeeney.
"It would be really nice after four years to win a track championship," Higdon said. "That's my goal this year. I'm going to travel up to Beatrice (Neb.) to get some more national points and hopefully get a top-five in national points. That's what I'm aiming for."
It's all an attainable goal for the teenager, if things keep going the way they are.
Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.