Editor’s Note: With the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing racing around the globe to a sudden stop, SPEED SPORT is reaching out to members of the racing community to find out how the outbreak is impacting them, both as racers and in their daily lives.
This story is part of that ongoing series.
WILLOW PARK, Texas – Kaden Honeycutt is trying to stay focused on all the positives he can find amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak that has stopped virtually all sports across the globe.
Honeycutt, who races late models on asphalt and IMCA-style modifieds on the dirt, hasn’t been able to go to the race track since the global pandemic brought racing – both in his home state and across the country – to a halt, but it doesn’t mean he’s not still engaged.
In fact, the 16-year-old Texan has been spending more time trying to grow his fan base and engage with his supporters than ever before, despite not being on the race track for now.
“I think that for a lot of the Race Face Brand Development drivers, like myself, we’ve come to conclusion that we need to use this time as the build up for our fan bases,” Honeycutt told SPEED SPORT. “We’re trying to drum up as much as we can, to where we can build our fan base to where it gets larger and larger, instead of having people work every day and just not even pay attention to us. Now we have people that are at home and they can’t really do anything, so why not try to get them involved and grab their attention, right?
“The way I look at it is that if people start to notice us short-trackers now, maybe they’ll follow us for the rest of our careers to whatever else we’re able to do in the future,” Honeycutt continued. “So I’m just using this time to give back, because it’s valuable time to act now instead of later. I think that’ll be a great thing for our team in the long term.”
Honeycutt went to victory lane with his dirt modified in late January at Big O Speedway in Ennis, Texas, but his slate on the clay is now on hold along with the rest of the industry.
He was quick to point out that the current world situation has had a tangible effect in his area, just like it has in many other reaches of the United States.
“This virus deal has obviously been tough,” Honeycutt noted. “It’s affected our dirt tracks at home, to where I really can’t do any dirt racing until NASCAR restarts or whenever everything gets back up going. We’ve already got all of our cars ready. I mean, we greased and did everything possible that we could, so that way now all we have do is sit and wait. Unfortunately that’s the path that we’re on right now.
“You just hope that this can get past us sooner rather than later, that’s for sure, and that everything will be able to bounce back when we’re able to go back racing again.”
The teenager was looking to go late model racing with the SRL Southwest Tour during the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park on March 21, but that race fell victim to the pandemic when events around the country were quickly postponed or canceled after the NBA put the brakes on its season roughly three weeks ago.
It was just the latest domino in a series of unfortunate events for Honeycutt and his family-run racing program.
“This has kind of messed up a lot of stuff for us that we were planning on do with our super late model, in particular,” he said. We were all set to go out to Kern County, and we never even … we got everything loaded and ready to go and then they canceled it on Monday right as we were going to leave. I was definitely disappointed about that, but there’s only so much you can do in a situation like this where everyone’s trying to look out for health.”
So with no racing on either surface to do for at least the immediate future, Honeycutt has turned his focus – much like other racers his age – to online schoolwork and iRacing.
It’s an odd feeling for this time of the year, he admitted after a moment of thought.
“This is definitely the weirdest times I’ve ever been in,” Honeycutt said. “We’re waiting on my school to know exactly how we’re proceeding for the rest of the year, so right now my school is the simulator and to build the race cars until whenever we get to back to racing.”
Speaking of his racing simulator, Honeycutt is keeping his competitive drive high amid the real-life racing shutdown, running in the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro in an attempt to climb the ladder virtually toward top rung, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
This is his first time trying to make the highest level of oval sim-racing, but considering he’s got the time to pursue that goal right now, it’s an opportunity Honeycutt is relishing.
Honeycutt also added that regardless of whether his goals are real or virtual, staying active on iRacing is an important tool that will help him reach check those boxes as he goes.
“Sim racing is really a big thing; it’s definitely helped me a lot,” he said. “It keeps me up to date, I feel like, so I don’t fall out of the groove and I think it will really benefit us as soon as we get back to racing and all that. Our car’s repaired; it’s just sitting on jack stands off the tires waiting to go.
“We’ll just have to see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully this thing clears up so we can get back racing.”