In the tough ranks of NHRA sportsman competition, there are certain major milestones that many dream of achieving and one of those that remains very elite for the drivers is not only making it into the annual JEGS All-Stars field to represent their division, but more importantly to be crowned a champion. After a tough year battling it out to earn points and qualify for the prestigious shootout, San Marcos, California's Aaron Kinard made the nearly 2,100 mile one-way trip to Joliet, Illinois where he would be crowned the 2012 JEGS All-Stars Super Comp champion in a rather emotional day of racing.
Aaron Kinard Wins Super Comp at O'Reilly Route 66 Nationals.
"My dad [Larry] passed away last August and he was a huge influence on my racing," he explained. "He was who got me into racing, we raced together and in fact, we raced the final together at the very first divisional event you could claim for 2012 All-Stars points. He beat me in the final and that was the last race he attended before he died of cancer."
2012 JEGS All-Stars Super Comp champion Aaron Kinard.
While Kinard earned most of his All-Stars point competing in his own dragster, it would not be the one he would carry on in for the crown. "The car I won the All-Stars in was actually my dad's car," he explained. "It's pretty much built identical to the one I was running, but with the sentimental value I wanted to continue running it and sold my dragster."
It wasn't an easy "in" for Kinard to make the All-Stars roster and had a tight battle throughout most of the season. "Matt Woodard was pretty much on my tail kinda the whole year, as far as the points were concerned. I ended up getting in by one point, which is less than one round of racing," he confessed. "It was a real nail-biter all the way through and it came down to Vegas, where we were both in the third round. Whoever went farther at that race, was going to get to go."
"I actually got to watch the whole thing in front of me," he reflected of his fate into the All-Stars. "He was in the pair in front of me, as I sat in the water box and I saw the other guy's win light come on and that really took a lot of pressure off of me. I actually ended up losing right behind him, so to win by one point, well that was huge."
Sonoma Nationals' Super Comp Racer Aaron Kinard.
Racing at any level takes a lot of confidence, concentration and to do well, tons of dedication. After his father's passing, he showed all of that and more as he successfully carried on his quest for an JEGS All-Stars championship. "It has definitely been tough," said the multi-time Div. 7 champ. "I mean, we have done everything together since I was a little guy. It has not been easy losing your best friend and your dad, but I am a firm believer that there is a better place."
The 28th annual JEGS All-Stars event was held again in 2012 as a part of the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois. Coming into the event, Kinard mustered all the extra confidence he could, since he joked that he was on "suicide watch". "You know I had been to nine Super Comp finals in a row and just couldn't close the deal. It was really starting to get in my head, then finally to win the All-Stars," he said. "It couldn't have happened in a better way. I remember in '09 when I won it and watching it back on the TV coverage, seeing my dad on the starting line and how happy he was. So, making it happen in his car, I know he wasn't there, but he was definitely riding along with me."
Before he could have a shot at the crown, Kinard would first have to get his 2008 Racetech dragster and its K&N protected 565ci BBC past Div. 1 representative Justin Mason, and expected father-to-be at any minute, in round one and did so to move on to the semifinals when Mason clicked the red-eye on by a mere one thousandth of a second. "Super nice guy and I had a chance to talk with him a little in the staging lanes," he said of Mason. "He was waiting for that phone call from his wife at any moment and I know that had him a little scattered right at that moment."
Super Comp racer Aaron Kinard wins 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals taking out Justin Morgan in the final round.
That set him up to face Steve Evans from Div. 4 and Kinard skillfully drove both ends of the track to force Evans well under the 8.90 index. "I've been seeing more about Evans lately and I know he runs with [fellow K&N racer] Tommy Phillips, so I was sure they were sharing information. It was a pretty quick round and he was out in front of me and when I couldn't get there, I let him go."
Everyone who charges their way into an elite shootout, such as the JEGS, All-Stars is by no means a slouch on the race track, but with the unique group that are assembled each season, there are some racers who have never faced one another before and on the other hand there are certainly some competitors that are more well-known than others. Kinard's final round opponent would be the latter and he knew Sherman Adcock was not going to be easily handing him any wins.
"I have never raced Sherman. I obviously know a lot about him and he's just been deadly lately," he said. "I knew it was going to be tough, as I had watched him go .90 the round before. We definitely had a very close race."
Kinard put together the better .020 package to Adcock's .034 and the majority of it coming from his .009 light to his opponent's .019. The feat gave him his second JEGS All-Stars crown and helped his home NHRA Div. 7 earn enough points to take the 2012 Team Championship back to the West Coast for the first time, since the nearly three decade old sportsman program's inception.
This was Kinard's fourth year in a row to earn a spot in the All-Stars, with his first win coming in 2009 and now his second in 2012, every time competing in the 8.90 Super Comp category.
Before he got much a chance to begin his celebration, he was quickly made aware of how fortunate he really was not only during the final round, but to win it and do so safely. "When I pulled off the track at the top end, right away one of the safety guys points out that I had a leak," he explained. "We're not talking about a couple of drops leaking, we are talking the entire tank of fuel leaked out the bottom and just drained out like a hose. The fuel line that connects to the fuel filter had completely snapped off. How that didn't happen on the starting line, where they would have shut me off or for it to not have happened during the run, where I would have certainly got fuel under the tires and for it to wait until the moment that I turned off of the track. I mean three or four gallons of fuel just drained out right there. I just know dad was riding along with me and felt it was time for me to bring to an end that nine final round losing streak."
"Without all my supporters, I couldn't do any of this," he added. "I race on a budget and my goal is to be able to make it all pay for itself at the end of the year. Folks like K&N and what they do for my program and sportsman racing in general is greatly appreciated. I love the K&N scoop that I have on my Corvette that I just started competing with this year in Super Gas and I need to get a K&N scoop on my dragster. Of course, I use the K&N oil and air filters on everything and I just love them. They are nothing but the best."
With his full confidence back after the JEGS All-Stars Super Comp victory, and finally breaking the final round win dry spell that had plagued him for many events, Kinard ran hard with that and recently put his dad's dragster back in the winner's circle taking a Super Comp Wally a little closer to home. Kinard took care of some unfinished business that he had started back in 2010, when he ended with a runner-up finish in Sonoma to win the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals by taking out fellow Div. 7 racer, Justin Morgan in the championship round.
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