There’s an excitement in Kyle Hamilton’s voice as he recalls evenings at paved ovals in Indiana that were such an important part of his childhood.
He had already spent much of his young life watching races with his family at Indianapolis Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway) before his father purchased a Legend Car and began competing at Anderson Speedway.
Watching his dad pilot the colorful machine around the high-banked quarter-mile oval planted the racing seed, but it was some of USAC’s finest that ultimately grew the dream to the point that it could not be denied.
Hamilton wanted to race and he wanted to compete on pavement.
“We definitely went to dirt races, but my dad and I would make every race that was at IRP,” Hamilton remembers. “We would catch every race there we could, whether it was Silver Crown, midgets, sprint cars, whatever it was, we loved to watch there. And, then we’d go up to Anderson. And when my dad ran Legend Cars at Anderson, all the way back in 2000, ’01, the nights that he was on the same docket as the USAC midgets, I mean I knew this is what I want to do. And, at the time, guys like Dave Steele and J.J. Yeley, a lot of those guys had really good rides and that was just kind of the dream for me.”
In the years since, pavement midget racing in Indiana has fallen off, but Hamilton has remained faithful — whether in midgets, sprint cars or Silver Crown machines — to his pavement roots.
At age 25, he is now a 16-year racing veteran, having first climbed behind the wheel of a quarter midget as a 9-year-old.
His goals changed in recent years, as he moved toward securing a future working for the family business, Curtis Motor Sales, which his family has owned and operated for more than 30 years. After preparing for a career in teaching by achieving his degree from Purdue University, Hamilton quickly landed a position instructing sixth graders, but after a year realized he should take a different path, simply stating, “It wasn’t 100 percent for me.”
Hamilton discovered he could, instead, help guide the family business forward, especially as it expanded to a second location, so he committed to that career and began to scale back his racing. Ironically, it was then that he began achieving his greatest racing success.
Hamilton had consistently shown talent throughout his career. In the quarter midgets, he won in the Light 160 Honda division at Mini Indy Speedway in 2004. After moving to Kenyon midgets the next season, he quickly got acclimated and earned his first feature win at the Indianapolis Speedrome. He won the USAC Kenyon Midget Series title in 2007, claimed a USAC Ford Focus Midget Midwest Series championship in 2008, then another championship in the Kenyon brothers’ United States Speed Ass’n midget series in 2009.
In 2010, he began racing at select pavement events for one of midget racing’s most notable teams, in the legendary “9” cars of Steve Lewis and Bob East. Hamilton was making a name for himself as a pavement specialist. In fact, aside from a year running 600cc mini-sprints at U.S. 24 Speedway (resulting in rookie-of-the-year honors), Hamilton has spent his entire career racing on pavement.
“It seems like the way I enter the corner and the way I feel a car — kind of off the right front corner — it seems like any car I’ve driven I’ve been able to give really good feedback to the teams on what the car is doing based on how I get into the corner. And, then obviously how you get into the corner helps your center and exit of the corner,” Hamilton explained when asked what it is that makes him more comfortable racing on the pavement than on dirt. “It seems like I’ve always been able to relay information a lot better. The times I did run dirt, when you had to run it off the rear of the car more, I felt like I didn’t always know what to tell the team to do, and it was ultimately not making us any better because I wasn’t giving them good feedback.
“I do think that if I got with a dirt team with a skilled crew chief that could help me learn the terms I need to be using, it would definitely be possible to make the transition,” Hamilton noted. “But it’s all about the people that are around you and, at the time on dirt, it was basically my dad and I and we just had too much going on on the pavement to spend the time and resources to get too much better on the dirt.”