Santa Maria Sun / Athlete of the Week
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 23
Athlete of the Week: Kyle Heckman
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
Picture young Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights as he takes his dad’s car for a cruise at the grocery store while his mother looks on, distraught.
“Look Momma—I’m goin’ fast,” screams little Ricky.
That’s about the age that local racer Kyle Heckman got behind the wheel of his first car.
Heckman, who grew up on the Central Coast and graduated from Nipomo High School in 2008, has been racing for 13 years. Starting with go-karts, Heckman eventually graduated to dirt oval tracks and is now working his way into the NASCAR stock circuit.
“I started racing because it was always in my family; my dad and uncle raced dirt cars locally in Santa Maria, and grandparents were gear heads, so it was something I naturally picked up and fell in love with,” he said.
Heckman’s last race at the Sonoma Raceway in June didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped. Although he took second place in the NASCAR K and N Pro Series West races, Heckman encountered transmission problems in the first practice session before the race. Despite these technical issues, Heckman still placed 16th out of 31 entries.
Now that the racing season is under way, Heckman said there isn’t as much practicing. Races usually take place on Saturday nights with only a few practice laps before going right into the race, but Heckman said the victories don’t come necessarily from practice, but by gaining an edge on the competition in the shop.
“The sport is always evolving in technology, so we all strive to gain the upper hand,” Heckman said. “Races are won and lost in the race shop before the car even sees the track, so it takes a lot of effort during the week to be competitive too.”
Although Heckman admits he loves the speed, he explained racing is so much more. To be a good racer, he said, is a package deal.
“You need to have a complete package: a quality, well-prepared car, and knowledge of what to do to the car to get the most out of it,” Heckman said. “It’s so much more than getting in a car and driving fast.”
For Heckman, races are as mental as they are physical. Before every race, he reminds himself to be patient. Heckman said he tries to focus on being smooth with the car, finding the limits of the car and the track, and making the best of both.
“There is a saying in racing: to finish first, first you must finish, and this is completely true,” Heckman said. “You can’t win a race by crashing into someone, so being selective and making smart moves will give you a good shot.
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