Racing prodigy Barker already on fast track


Kayli Barker went into this past season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Bullring with high hopes.

Then on the first lap of her first race, she crashed her No. 34 Chevy Camaro into the wall.

Not quite the season opener she had in mind.

After they patched up the car, Barker responded with a fifth-place finish in her second race. Then she knew that her goals - a top-five finish in NASCAR Super Stock, top rookie honors - still were within reach.

Barker, a sophomore at Mountain View Christian School, reached those marks finishing fourth in the points standings and finishing highest among the class' first-year drivers.

She did even more than that, becoming the youngest female driver to win a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature race when at 15 years and 21 days old she won Aug. 18 at the Bullring.

That broke the record set by Hannah Newhouse (15 years, 2 months, 10 days) in April in Twin Falls, Idaho. Denton Garrett (14 years, 5 months, 10 days) holds the overall record, set in August 2011 in Waterford, Conn.

Barker didn't even realize she had won the race - the two leaders wrecked on the final lap - until her dad told her over the radio.

"I was like, 'I did?' " Barker said. "I didn't know what to think. I was in shock for two days after that."

Sports Illustrated noticed, including Barker in the "Faces In The Crowd" section of its Sept. 24 issue.

That publicity helped lead to landing two more sponsors, especially important as she hopes to ascend the ranks.

Barker would like to compete in Super Late Models and Modifieds next year. Her long-term goal is to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Not Sprint Cup or Nationwide?

"It seems everyone is closer" in trucks, Barker said. "It's more my style."

Her favorite driver is Matt Crafton, who finished sixth in this year's truck standings.

Barker even got Crafton to help her two years ago with a school project on careers. She posted on his Facebook wall the news of her victory at the Bullring and met her hero in person at an autograph session when the trucks series came to Las Vegas in late September.

Though Barker didn't introduce herself to Crafton, he recognized her, saying, "I heard you won."

Barker grew up in motor sports, racing since 2005. Her parents, Ron and Vicki, own the car, and Ron also is the crew chief.

Barker won the Bandolero championships at the Bullring in 2009 and 2011.

Now she has that hoped-for top-five finish in her first season in Super Stocks, overcoming the opening-night wreck April 21 that took out her left door and badly damaged the front-wheel components.

Barker stayed on the track that night, somehow repeatedly getting her Camaro around the 3/8-mile oval to finish 10th.

"I drove around so I could get points," she said. "I couldn't turn at all."

That slam into the wall turned out to be only a minor obstacle to achieving the season-long objective.

"We wanted to reach it," Barker said, "and we worked the whole year for it."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

 

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