LAS VEGAS — Sixteen-year-old Kayli Barker made history this past weekend at the Las Vegas Speedway when she became the first female to become champion of one of the three NASCAR classes at the Bullring at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Finishing fourth in the 30-lap NASCAR Super Stock feature, Barker emerged as the super stock champion.
Barker needed to place sixth or higher to win the super stock championship. After losing the car’s nose in the qualifying heat, which resulted in a flapping hood that blocked visibility during the rest of the heat, Barker started the super stock feature race second to last. Painted “Bug Blue,” a paint mixed especially for Barker, car No. 34 plus 2 made it across the finish line in fourth place at about half of its former glory – missing its nose, sporting smashed door and generally being held together with about three rolls of duct tape.
“The last race is always cut throat,” she said, “because you have six months to fix everything.”
During Barker’s entire season racing super stocks, she only had one DNF.
“It just shows how hard my team has worked to get me where I am,” she said. “We worked two hours in the garage every night, and it paid off.”
Barker’s win is impressive for a driver of any age, but especially for someone whose friends have only been able to come watch her race when they can get a ride from their parents.
A race car driver from the age of 8, Barker obtained her NASCAR license just after her 14th birthday. On Aug. 18, 2012, she won the NASCAR Whelen All-American series feature race, setting a new NASCAR age record: 15 years, 24 days.
Barker is a second-generation race car driver; her dad was racing super stocks when she was still a toddler, and some of her earliest memories are helping him tighten bolts on his cars.
In 2006, she started racing Bandoleros, the next step beyond simple go-karts, and ended the year as the Nevada State Bandolero Bandit Champion. In 2009, she won the championship again, becoming the youngest female track champion in Las Vegas and the first female to place within the national top 10. In 2011, she won 18 races in a row in the Bandolero Outlaw division, racing to the championship with a total of 22 wins and becoming the only female to win two track championships in Las Vegas. She placed fourth in the nation that year, although she had more total wins than any other racers.
A junior at Mountain View Christian School in Las Vegas, Barker earns straight A’s and hasn’t missed a single day of classes.
She is also the spokesperson for Project 150, a program dedicated to offering supportive services to homeless high school students throughout Clark County, helping these Las Vegas area youths receive the guidance they need to graduate from high school.