What are most 14-year-old boys up to? Chasing girls, putting off their homework, and sleeping in every Saturday and Sunday? Well that's not Hunter Smith. This 14-year-old young man exhibits maturity and discipline well beyond his years. He races, plays sports, and somehow manages to balance a girlfriend and schoolwork in with all that and much more. K&N sponsors this exceptional young man and recently had the opportunity to ask him about his racing, busy schedule, and future goals. Here's what Hunter had to say:
Hunter Smith and his K&N sponsored kart.
Hunter tearing down the track in his kart.
How has your season been to date? What position have you achieved?
Our season has been very good so far. We are currently in the championship lead and we have 8 points-paying wins, and 2 non-point-paying wins to date. Overall, I can't complain.
Have you faced any challenges with kart setup? What's working well and what isn't?
We have faced a lot of challenges with kart setups. Camber, caster, toe, and weight distribution are the four challenges that have come up with most. The track we race on (Snydersville Raceway) is a very wide- slightly banked track and being that it is a dirt oval, the track changes with air temperature, weather, and how many karts are driving on it. Setups are constantly changing, so my crew chief (my dad) and I always have to be on our game and work with what we are given.
Coming out of the turn, Hunter focuses on the straight-away.
How does this season compare to last season?
I think overall, this season has been better. 2009 was our first year, so we didn't know what to expect. And miraculously, we won the championship! In our rookie year! In 2009 we won 8 point paying races, and 2 non- point paying races, which is equal to what we have in wins at this point in 2010 and the season isn't over! So in performance on the track, we are a lot better.
Communication between my dad and I has gotten a lot better too. However, last season we had a bigger points lead at this point, and we currently only have 25 points over 2nd place. We just need to work on getting a few more wins and securing championship #2.
Hunter overtaking one of his competitors.
What have you learned this year? Personal growth? Technical knowledge?
This year has been a big learning curve. I've learned how to handle people, work with sponsors, and a lot of technical aspects of the kart from aerodynamics to how a K&N Air Filter can give me maximum performance on the track. One lesson that sticks out in my mind is from NASCAR Whelen Modified driver, Burt Myers. He says you should count your blessings, not your problems.
At one point this season I was on a winning streak. I won 4 races in a row and my competitors started to get angry, so they came after me. We got roughed up a little bit, but fought through it. Like Burt said, I just had to focus on the good, not the bad.
Hunter throws some opposite lock to keep his kart under control.
How do you feel about the team's performance this year?
The team's performance this year has been absolutely amazing. My pit crew consists of my dad, Ed Prchlik, and Jake Odee. They are always giving a 100% effort. If I go out in practice and the kart is handling terribly, they set it up so I can win the heat and feature. They always know what they are doing, and I can't thank them enough.
What challenges are you expecting in the next race?
My competitors are all very fierce and hungry for wins, as am I. The track condition could always be different from last week. Hopefully we can go out for practice and see what we are going to have to do to make sure we can set the kart up and get win number 11 of 2010.
Being such a young racer, what challenges have you faced balancing, school, sports, girls, and racing?
Believe it or not, I haven't faced that many challenges. At this point my education does come first and thankfully my teachers have been rather supportive and understanding about my racing. I am very athletic- I race, I play soccer, I workout daily, and I have played basketball, baseball, t-ball, run cross-country and track. I was also awarded the physical fitness award in 8th grade. And girls? Well that hasn't been a problem at all. My girlfriend, whom I have been with for almost 7 months, is my biggest fan. She makes it to as many races as she can. She's always there to help me through those rough races, and celebrate when we have a good one.
Where does kart racing fit in to your life goals? Do you plan on racing professionally as a career?
I'm hoping to start sprint car racing in 2011. Kart racing has been great to me, and I'm ready to move up. And yes, I do plan on racing professionally as a career. Hopefully I can make it to any form of professional auto racing- NASCAR, IRL, World of Outlaws, you name it, I want to drive it.
How have K&N products helped your kart?
K&N products have helped our kart a lot! K&N air filters are so durable and never clog. K&N's filter oil and filter cleaner keep our filters clean, so we can get all the clean air we can going into the engine. Thank you K&N!
14 years old and he's already balancing and managing more things than people twice his age. Hunter Smith is a bright and growing star in the racing world. He has his head on straight and with his talent and a little bit of luck, Hunter Smith will be on television sets across the country every weekend on a NASCAR circuit. K&N is proud to sponsor Hunter and his team and hopes that our relationship with and support of Hunter will continue for years to come as he continues to grow and progress through the racing ranks towards his career goal of professional racing.
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