WILLOW PARK, Texas – For 16-year-old Kaden Honeycutt, his path to making the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series has an extra speed bump compared to the rest of the field.
That’s because Honeycutt was not able to compete in the season-opening race for the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro two weeks ago at the virtual Daytona Int’l Speedway, making Tuesday night’s round at the virtual Rockingham Speedway the first race of his campaign.
That’s fine in the teenager’s eyes, however. Honeycutt told SPEED SPORT in advance of the race that he had a much more important item than racing on his plate at that point.
“I was out for a mission trip with my school for that week, so I couldn’t really do anything during that, unfortunately,” Honeycutt relayed. “It was just kind of unfortunate scheduling that landed right on top of the race. But personally, I would definitely much rather serve other people that are in need than just race on a sim for two hours on a Tuesday night. I can definitely handle without racing one race, just for that kinds of stuff.”
The good news for Honeycutt is that all drivers on the Road to Pro get to drop their lowest points score from their overall total, meaning he’s got just as good a shot as anyone to be right back in the game in a hurry.
“It was unfortunate timing, but I think it’s all going to be alright, honestly,” he noted. “Daytona was a little bit of a crash-fest anyway, so I’ll just take that as my drop and move forward to see what we can do this week at Rockingham. I’ve seen people that actually almost missed two races that have still made it into the (eNASCAR iRacing) Pro Series, so I don’t think it’s impossible to miss another race and still make it.
“We don’t want to have that happen, though, by any means. We want to stay strong and run up front as much as we can.”
For Honeycutt, who races both asphalt super late models and dirt modifieds on short tracks across the Southern United States when his schedule allows, the idea of making a run at the qualifier series that could propel him into the Coca-Cola Series ranks actually came at the urging of some friends and colleagues that race alongside him on the iRacing service.
“The point where I wanted to be serious about it was when I actually started figuring out how to kind of be fast everywhere I went (on the service) and started running with people that actually knew what they were doing,” Honeycutt recalled. “The Coke drivers and other pro drivers that I know … they’re just really good at what they do, and I just learned off them and actually started getting better almost every week until I started winning races against some really good people.
“When people actually started to talk to them about me running for a team, I was like, ‘oh, wow, I can actually start being serious with this and go somewhere,'” he continued. “After that is when I asked a bunch of people how you even get in to the Coke Series, and they explained the Road to Pro and the ladder system that gets you there by being top 20. Once I knew what the process was and that there were a lot of eyes on it, it made it an easy decision to go after it.”
Honeycutt will carry the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation on his Road to Pro truck for the balance of the 14-race schedule, which runs until late September and wraps up at the virtual Phoenix Raceway, the real-world site of NASCAR’s 2020 Championship Weekend.
He said “it’s an honor” to help carry the mission of the New York-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which aims to improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors, like its namesake Jaclyn Murphy battled in 2004.
“They were really the name that I wanted to put out there first, because they have been so supportive of Rod (Wortham) and everyone at Race Face (Brand) Development and I just felt like it would be a great thing to promote them every way possible that I could off the track,” said Honeycutt. “This Road to Pro is a great tool to do that, with the broadcasts by Podium eSports being as popular as they are and being able to run these races with a lot of people watching. It really helps their mission, which is something I’m proud of too.
“I think it’s just awesome to have them onboard and hopefully we’re able to support them very well throughout the season.”
As for his goals for the 13 races left on the Road to Pro calendar, Honeycutt boiled it down to a simple three-pronged approach: survive, thrive and contend.
“It’s hard to know what to expect and plan for because this is my first year doing it, but I really do think that if we just survive every single race and just don’t run into problems there in the early part of the races to where we can run in the top 10 the entire race, we’ll be alright and won’t have to hang out in the back so much,” he explained. “People are so fast and have such good setups, that it’s going to take survival and consistency and not having really any bad races in a row in order to make that top 20 (in points).
“I believe in our team and know we have what it takes, so now we just have to go out and show that in race conditions.”