Kyler Johnson Ready for Home State Weekend Amid Third National Tour Season

Kyler Johnson’s Sprint Car career began for the same reason as many other drivers: he wanted to be just like dad.

That goal evolved into to a full-time career with the American Sprint Car Series National Tour for the Quinter, KS native.

“My dad [Cody] ran Sprint Cars for years, that’s all I ever knew growing up,” Johnson said. “He ran 360s and 410s around the Midwest, and that’s basically all I’ve ever been around. So, whenever I was old enough to get into a Sprint Car, we took the chance at it.”

After a few seasons of competition in the karting world, Johnson made the move into a 305 Sprint Car in 2019 at age 15. While the entry-level division served as a good starting point for Johnson’s career, he wasted no time in taking the next step.

“You’re not going to go anywhere in a 305 Sprint Car,” Johnson said. “That’s just basically all we had around us was 305s, so it was just easiest to run those. And then once we got fed up with all the 305 stuff, we decided to move up to a 360.”

While most drivers opt to initially run a localized schedule to get their feet wet at the higher level, a lack of options close to home meant that option didn’t make sense for the team. Johnson’s alternative? Dive head-first into the National Tour.

“In 2022, there wasn’t any 360 racing around us at all,” Johnson said. “Our nearest track was 81 Speedway, which is still three hours from us, and they only had one show a year. So, we basically figured ‘Well, if we’re going to run 360s, we might as well tough it out and run the whole National deal.’

“We definitely learned a lot that first year, never even driving a 360 until that first show at Devil’s Bowl [Speedway].”

That first appearance resulted in a Last Chance Showdown exit on night one and a 20th-place Feature finish in the finale, but things began trending upward soon after.

Johnson’s rookie season with the Series ended with a ninth-place points finish and his first-career top five at Clay County Fair Speedway in September. Season two brought steady improvements for the No. 45X, as Johnson ended 2023 sixth in the standings after collecting his first National Tour podium at 81 Speedway along the way.

Entering 2024, the primary storyline surrounding ASCS was World Racing Group’s purchase of the Series in March. Midway through the inaugural year under the new ownership, Johnson spoke highly of the improvements he has seen as a competitor.

“I think the change was definitely much needed,” Johnson said. “This just gives a much better platform, definitely a lot more security as far as money and all that goes.”

The Series wasn’t the only one making changes over the winter, as Johnson elected to switch engine providers in hopes of finding more reliability in 2024. However, the move hasn’t gone to plan, as Johnson has still experienced engine issues on multiple occasions across the first 10 events of the season.

“We’ve already kind of steered away from that engine builder too, we’re looking to go to one of the big three engine builders, either Don Ott, Ryder or Fisher,” Johnson said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do yet, we’re just trying to limp through this year. We’ve had a lot of engine problems already this year.”

On nights where the engine has held together, Johnson has been competitive all year long. He began the season with back-to-back top 10s at Super Bee Speedway and Red Dirt Raceway and picked up two more during Speedweek at Creek County Speedway and Tri-State Speedway. Johnson said finding more pace at the beginning of the night will be key to ending it toward the front on a regular basis.

“Each time we hit the track, we have to make the best of it,” Johnson said. “This is one of the stoutest groups we’ve had in the past three years. It’s hard night in night out, you’ve got to be on kill every second.

“If we could just qualify a little bit better, I feel like we would be much better off. Each night it seems like we go in and we don’t qualify very good, so that puts us behind the eight-ball right off the bat. We’re coming from the back of a Heat Race, fifth or sixth, and that puts us starting at least 15th in the Feature, and you’ve got a lot of work to do at that point.”

Next up on the National Tour calendar is a trip to Johnson’s home state, with a Kansas doubleheader on tap starting Friday, July 19, at Lakeside Speedway and wrapping up Saturday, July 20, at 81 Speedway. Johnson is still searching for his first Series win, and his past performances at both facilities put them on the shortlist of tracks where he could make his first appearance in Victory Lane.

“Lakeside, we seem like we’ve had really good speed there,” Johnson said. “I know our results don’t really show it because we’ve blown up two engines there, but we always seem to qualify good, we have really good speed there, so hopefully we can keep that speed up and keep our engine together.

“And then 81, that’s my favorite track. I’d consider that my home track even though we have tracks closer. My Dad has a lot of history there, he won a lot of races there, that was his home base whenever he was running 360 stuff. That was where my first 305 win was, my first podium with ASCS, we’ve had really good luck there every time. It’s a track that we’re pretty familiar with, and we seem to always run good.”

Fans planning to attend the 81 Speedway event can purchase tickets online in advance, while tickets for both races will be available at the track on race day. Can’t make it to the track? Watch every ASCS National Tour event live on DIRTVision.