Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Kody Hardage gearing up for Late Model action

SEGUIN, Texas — Some years, a racer just doesn’t get to race as often as he’d like. When life comes calling, whether it’s a medical issue or work responsibilities, racing rightfully takes a back seat. Yet like everything else, those hectic times pass and the focus returns to turning left and going fast once again.

For 39-year-old veteran racer and former Late Model touring series promoter Kody Hardage, 2024 will be time for more racing. Life’s unpredictable nature held him to 12 starts in 2023, with six top five and eight top-10 finishes to his credit. The second generation driver says it was a tough year all around.

“I ran a couple of Dustin Daniel’s races in the American Crate Late Model Series, a few shows at I-37 Speedway, and Owen Pittman’s All-Star Series, ” Hardage said. “I got out of running a race series to try and focus on family more and to be able to race on my own.

“I was spending all of my weekends as Race Director in the booth; on the road putting on races and not actually racing myself. My plan last year was to run about 25 nights; but in April, my wife fell and broke her leg. So my plans changed a little, I stayed closer to home and took care of my family.”

He did the right thing when life intervened, but still managed to make some gains on the racetrack.

“My goal was and still is to get back into Victory Lane, and to do that you have to be behind the wheel. Racing eight or 10 nights a year doesn’t do it. I won a race in 2021 and 2022, yet never made it there last year. We worked with Morgan Bagley a lot throughout the year, and found some speed.

“The car worked better than the driver most nights. Cody Leonard drove it in Corpus Christi and won the feature. The car wasn’t bad for me, I just made too many mistakes. I need to work on that in 2024.”

Now in his 15th year in our sport, Hardage has paid his dues in the world of Late Model racing.

“I started out like so many others racing Karts as a kid,” he explained. “I tell people I’ve been in the sport my whole life. My Dad raced from the time I was born so my exposure to the sport started early. I took some time off when I attended college, but returned to the sport after I graduated.

“It wasn’t long before I was building a race car, and jumped right into Late Models. I ran a handful of races at first, learning as I went along. It takes a while to figure these cars out and have them consistent. I’m still searching for more speed, so that’s what I’ll focus on this coming season.”

As the former director of the South Texas Late Model Touring Series (STLMS) and longtime Late Model competitor, Hardage is well-versed to speak on the current status of Late Model racing in Texas.

“I think it’s growing overall,” he said. “There’s guys that are still putting cars together and coming into the sport. A lot of the local South Texas guys are seeing the value of Crate motors and stepping into that world. It was pretty hard pill to swallow for most, but these motors are really kind of saving our sport.

“I think we had some tough times last summer with Owen’s series, just because of scheduling conflicts. I know Dustin had a lot of races up North last year, so Owen picked some dates that were open and hoped to draw some cars. But even when he had limited quantity, he had some high quality cars there.”

When Hardage puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he climbs into a very top-notch machine.

“I have a 2016 Rocket XR1 in my shop,” he explained. “It’s kind of an older car, but it has all of the latest updates. It’s powered by a GM 604 Crate Engine, which runs strong. The car is fast, the motor has plenty of power. I’m just not as good as the car most nights.”

Along with his years of experience and world class car, Hardage has plenty of support in his corner.

“I really need to thank Billy Bob’s Repair and Tire; Carroll Construction, Mo Bags Suspension Technology; and Lone Star Pressure Equipment. I couldn’t do this without them, so I appreciate their faith in me. It takes great marketing partners to remain competitive, and these folks are a huge help.”

With a brand new season just ahead, Hardage says he’s hoping to be a little more active on the ovals.

“I’m hoping to run somewhere between 25 and 30 races this year,” he said. “It will be a mix of local shows at I-37, some American Crate Late Model Touring Series races in both their South and Northern tours; and maybe just a little bit of traveling for a few races in there as well.

“Within that schedule the goal obviously is to support local racing as much as possible. They’re working hard to build this division in South Texas, and I’ll do my part as a racer. I’m just really happy with work, family and the outlook for a brand new season. I’m looking forward to getting back at it.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Jay Hallas