MOORESVILLE, N.C. — If there’s a sprint car race happening in the state of California, Kyle Hirst is going to be one of the names that will likely be contending for the victory.
Hirst drives for the powerhouse Roth Motorsports team on the West Coast and scored 14 feature wins last season, including his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series triumph during the Gold Cup Race of Champions on Sept. 8.
The 30-year-old also picked up the inaugural Sprint Car Challenge Tour championship last season and will contend for both the SCCT and King of the West-NARC Sprint Car Series titles in 2018.
We caught up with Hirst in between races on the World of Outlaws’ annual West Coast swing to talk about his family’s racing history, his debut at the Chili Bowl, reflections on his Gold Cup win and more.
Q: How did you get your start in racing?
Hirst: Racing runs deep in my family, man. My dad raced for 20 years in Northern California, his step-dad (Joe Hill) raced at West Capital (Raceway) when he was younger … so I’m kind of third-generation. When my dad retired in ’94, about that time I started running outlaw karts.
About as soon as I turned 16, my mom and dad got me into a sprint car and we were able to do that as a family for two years or so before I had to try and find rides and get going, just because of how expensive the sport is. Now I’m starting my 15th year (in racing) and I’m still doing it.
It’s been a part of my life forever, man, whether it was watching my dad, running go-karts or now running sprint cars. Even though my family could only field a car for me for so long, they’ve still supported me by coming to the races as often as they can. Even my sister is married to a racer (Willie Croft), so we’ve got a big family out here on the West Coast and it runs in all of our bloodstreams.
Q: You got to run your first Chili Bowl Nationals as a driver in January. Talk about your experience.
Hirst: Man, it was a lot of fun. Having raced the last couple years down in Australia, I hadn’t had the opportunity to get to Tulsa and race in January, so being home this time I hit up my buddy Jimmy May with JFM (Josh Ford Motorsports) and kept begging him to let me run it.
I really wanted to get a taste of what the Chili Bowl was all about, driving a midget and going wheel to wheel with some of the best in the business. To be able to do that and run a midget for my first time ever altogether was a blast. We had fun. I was with a great group of guys and got to bring my wife and my kid out, and those are the kinds of memories you keep with you. It was a great week.
As a driver, you always dream high and want to do more, but for my first time in the car I felt like it really did go well. I passed some cars and made it to the C (Main). Everyone kept joking that you had to make it to the C to get any TV time (on MAVTV) and we did that. I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to do it again one day.