Stories

Father, son battle it out on track

Kent Tammen is a pretty laid back driver.

He has years of experience piloting a hobby stock, and he knows a few ins-and-outs when it comes to racing.

He's not about to go barreling into a corner and hope the car sticks.

His experience has helped him each time he hits the track.

That experience also has helped his son, Austin. Kent has been able to give a few pointers here and there to Austin at tracks such as RPM Speedway in Hays and WaKeeney Speedway.

"He's taught me about everything I know," Austin said. "Since I've been a little kid, I've always been around it with him."

But now, as Austin has gotten more experience and driving time, the two have started a bit of a fun rivalry.

That means both are out to win, now, and Kent isn't about to sit back and watch his son to critique him on the track when they are in the same feature.

That's because the father hasn't seen the son a lot, he jokes.

"Usually he's behind me, so I don't get to see him," Kent said as he let out a chuckle.

The son, well, he just shakes his head and smiles.

"We give each other crap back and forth at times,"  Austin said. "We have fun."

Last year when Austin got behind the wheel, it was his first full year in the car. The father and son never lined up in the same heat, and very rarely did they even come close to each other in the feature.

That changed Sunday night, though, as the two started just three spots away from each other at WaKeeney Speedway.

The end result: Youth won out this time. Austin finished fourth, and his father was right behind in fifth.

"It depends on which track, I think,"  Kent said about who's faster. "At WaKeeney, he is faster. At Hays, he's getting better, going to be tough. But it's fun. We give each other a hard time about it. If he beats me, I don't have a problem with it."

The duo has formed an even stronger bond since last year, helping each other on their cars in the pits and during the week. And when Austin is away at Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, Kent is turning wrenches to get his son's car race-ready.

"He does a lot of it, but when he's at school, I try to get it ready for him for the weekend," Kent said.

Kent said he wasn't the same type of driver years ago as Austin is today.

"He's way more aggressive than I was," Kent said. "I think it's because he's younger. His reaction time is quicker the older I get. He'll drive it in harder than I will."

And, Austin has a desire to run more nights than his father. Kent is happy competing regularly at Hays and WaKeeney, while Austin would like to run more at Sherman County Speedway in Goodland.

"The original plan was I didn't plan on having two cars," Kent said. "I was going to fall out and let him start driving mine. Then my wife talked me out of it, told me I wouldn't be happy doing that."

While the two have similar genes, their car setups are different -- just like their driving styles.

"We've got two totally different setups in the car," Kent said. "That's the way it's been every night. He's never tried the way I run mine. We've talked about it, but he's doing good where he's at. I hate to switch him up."

Still, it begs the question of who is faster.

"We have our nights," Austin said. "I'd like to say me, but I'm not as scared to scrape the car up like he is."

And if it came down to the last lap and they were side-by-side for the win, who would prevail?

"It depends on if he was on top or the bottom,"  Kent said. "If he was on top, he'd probably get me. He likes to run up there high.

"I wouldn't try to wreck him, or anybody for that matter. He's a little more aggressive than me. I know whatever I tear up, I have to fix."

Sounds like words of wisdom from a father, huh?

NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net