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NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Tyler Walker, 11, leads a heat race Friday night at Ness County Speedway in Ness City.

NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Tyler Walker leads Kerri Bruntz into turn three Friday night at Ness County Speedway in Ness City.

Drivers chasing dreams on small dirt tracks

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

NESS CITY -- In the future, the distance to the track might become a lot longer for Tyler Walker.

That's in the future, though. For now, Walker is more than happy having a short trip a few miles away in Ness City to compete with his go-kart.

That's not the size of track, or vehicle, he wants to stay with, though. Walker, from Dighton, hopes to one day move into a larger car and compete on larger tracks in the area.

"Heck, I started when I was 6," Walker said Friday night at Ness County Speedway, in its second full-season of operation. "And here I am at 11."

He is here, but his dreams are far beyond the small dirt ovals. He eventually would like to move into a modified when he gets older.

He already has family lines racing in larger classes.

His cousin, Austin Walker, is a successful Northern sport mod driver who competes at tracks in western Kansas. And his other cousin, Taylor Walker, is engaged to sport mod driver Chris Heim of Hoxie. Heim is one of nine finalists for the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge that will begin airing Aug. 11 on SPEED. The winner of the competition will have a chance to become a developmental driver for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Those ties have Walker's eyes looking toward a possible racing future.

"That's what I was hoping to do,"  the youngster said. "I was hoping to get up and go to a modified. Like my cousin's soon-to-be husband might be accepted by NASCAR. He's driving a NASCAR car. If he gets in the top ... he can be accepted by NASCAR. I'm hoping to do that some day."

Larger dirt tracks will mean more travel for some go-kart drivers in the future, if they decide to move into a larger class.

The region has seen many successful drivers begin in go-karts and move into a different class. Modified drivers Travis and Dylan Sherfick began in the go-kart circles of northwest Kansas, as did sport mod drivers Trenton Kleweno and Clay Money.

All have admitted the experience they learned racing smaller karts has helped with the adjustment to racing technique on the larger tracks.

That's what Jeremy Huish is hoping happens to him. Huish, a 15-year-old from Jetmore, has been racing go-karts for seven years.

On Friday night, Huish won his heat races -- as usual --  then took a few practice laps in his two-stroke kart, a much faster and more powerful version than he regularly competes with, to simplify it in layman's terms.

"It's probably going to help a lot," Huish said. "We're hoping that it's going to help a lot and get me ready for it before we would just jump into it and try it."

Huish and his family decided after the first race this season that moving into a larger car might be a worthy challenge. The search was on for a 305 sprint car, and they finally found one.

"And we're going to have a whole lot more fun, that's for sure," said Huish, who is working part-time at Myers Engine in Ness City, a business that supplies many 305 racing engines for sprint cars in the United Rebel Sprint Series. "And I think we're ready to move up. It's not getting old, but we're ready for a change."

Huish will get a start to his sprint car career in the next few weeks as he jumps behind the wheel for a few races.

He knows the success he finds in go-karts won't come as readily in the sprint-car ranks.

"We thought it was going to be hard moving up into the classes we are in now," Huish said. "But it's been good, and we've done just as good moving up in classes as we did before it. We have buddies that are saying we'll not win them all like we do in the go-karts. It's going to be a tough change going from one end of winning a lot to not winning as much. It will be a little different, that's for sure."

Huish said he didn't necessarily think about advancing classes when he started racing go-karts, but he wouldn't trade the experience he's gotten in the class for anything.

"It's a whole lot different, and I wish people would look at it differently,"  he said. "Go-karts aren't as easy as people think. It's a whole different thing than most people think."