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Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series highlighting Eastern Iowa drivers to pay attention to for the 2017 season.
CEDAR RAPIDS — This season will mark the 13th year in which Cedar Rapids racer Kyle Olson has gotten behind the wheel of a racecar at Eastern Iowa dirt tracks.
The son of a local great in Russ Olson and the cousin of Tony Olson, last year’s IMCA Northern Sport Mod national champion, Kyle has seen and been around a lot of success. That hasn’t always translated to his racing, but the last two years there have been signs pointing to that changing.
Two years ago, he won four races, including the Hogan Memorial. Last year, he won at Independence Motor Speedway and Benton County Speedway in the same weekend, becoming just the seventh driver in the division’s history to win at those two tracks in the same weekend.
The improved results all came on a car that had long since passed its prime; that had been beat up and welded in too many spots to count.
Kyle has reason to believe 2017 will be his best year yet because the days of third- and fourth-hand equipment have passed, too. A brand-new Revelation Racing Sport Mod, new setup tools and a healthy dose of motivation have him champing at the bit to see what this year has in store.
“The last two years have been better years for me. We’ve put newer tires on, we got the scales and stuff, so that helped. And I started doing better. It motivated me. It was like, ‘Well, if I’m able to set aside more money to put into the car or get tires, it’s making a difference,’” Kyle said. “I was offered a deal on a new chassis this year and I figured if I’m getting a new chassis I might as well fork out the money and put as much as I can into it. I have good sponsors that have helped, to have backers like that who gave me a little bit more this year.
“The motivation is seeing a new car and seeing the possibilities that could come of it.”
Anyone who watched or rooted for Kyle’s dad Russ will recognize the 2017 version of the K3 right away. Olson wanted it to look like a mix of old school B3 — his dad’s number — with a modern twist. The result is a look he said is his favorite of all the cars he’s driven.
Looking the part is just a part, of course. He wants to channel his dad in many ways — as he always has.
Kyle smiled wide and gave a quick laugh when asked what his dad would think of all the extra money and new equipment he’s invested in for this season. Russ was the kind of racer that threw stuff at the wall to see what would stick, no matter what anyone else was doing to their car.
With the 2017 REV Racing chassis underneath him something of an unknown — the Clarence-based chassis manufacturer hasn’t produced many Sport Mods yet as a young company — it’s the perfect chance for Olson to do exactly what his dad used to do.
“He always had ideas. If something wasn’t working, he’d have an idea of what to try to fix it to make it faster. He liked to try crazy things,” Kyle said. “If he was here, I wouldn’t have been able to sit back and even consider buying the new car. He’d have been like, ‘Do it. Take the chance.’ He was just one of those people who wanted to take something nobody knew about and prove that product. That was his skill.”
Kyle said REV Racing approached him over the offseason with a deal on a new car. Nothing was given to Kyle, but the deal the two sides worked out enabled Olson to get into a brand-new car for the first time in his career and ensured REV Racing would have a car competing against some of the best anywhere in a Sport Mod.
That of course includes Tony, who had 60-plus wins in the last two seasons, won the national championship and The Gazette’s Eastern Iowa Driver of the Year. Kyle wants to beat the best of the best, naming his cousin as well as national title runner-up Tyler Soppe of Sherrill and Whittemore driver Nick Meyer, among others. He wants to “be one of the top guys,” he said.
A renewed focus on paying attention to the details and a chassis company believing he’s capable have Kyle in the best place he’s been as a racer. Now, Kyle said, “it’s up to me and my guys to make it work.”
“(REV Racing) saw potential in me and said they wanted me in one of their cars because they’ve seen me run older stuff and they’ve seen what I can do with older things. They wanted me in one of their cars. That also gave me motivation, that someone would say that,” Kyle said. “I want a consistent car to where I’m always consistently able to race for the win. I’ve always either been up front and battling or toward the back and we can’t figure out the problem. I want this car to be able to be consistently in the top five.
“A good year would be a few wins, maybe a track championship and most of all to have fun and not be frustrated. I’ve been frustrated a lot of years. I just want a car that will work and we’re able to work with.”
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