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Dillon Kidwell making strides in Factory Stock

By Phil Whipple, RaceON.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Mike Frieri

CHINA SPRINGS, Texas — In the ultra-competitive world of Factory Stock racing, there are drivers with decades of experience on the ovals and brand-new, state-of-the-art race cars. Yet within that same pit area, you’ll also find a few former race fans with limited resources who decided to give it a whirl.

For 27-year-old Dillon Kidwell, taking on the giants of Texas short track racing with an older car and  smaller budget than most isn’t at all daunting. In fact, as he begins his sophomore season around the tracks of North Texas, he’s excited to get rolling and maintains some realistic goals for the year overall.

“I’m just a former Bleacher Creature who decided to get behind the wheel for myself,” Kidwell said.  “I had always been like a sponge in the grandstands, soaking up knowledge as I watched the races. I studied the lines guys take, and I always paid attention to the approach various drivers were using.

“I also used to turn wrenches for Justin Lemar when he raced, so I learned a ton working with him for several years. When I did actually start driving myself, I was a little more prepared than most rookies. I’m still learning, and will be for a long while. Yet we’re gaining; and this year, we’ll get even better.”

Kidwell is a unique and wonderful example of a man who didn’t come from a racing family, didn’t have the support of his parents as he embarked on his career, yet is just as passionate and dedicated to honing his skills as anybody out there. It’s refreshing, really, to hear his story and that desire to learn.

“My folks weren’t particularly impressed when I told them I was going short track racing,” he said. “I get it; lots of people feel this sport is just a waste of time and money. But once I Hot-Lapped a friend’s car, took a deep breath and calmed down after spinning out a few times, I was completely hooked.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks from the stands, like others who’ve done this before will tell you. But when you figure it out and start to gain speed, it’s a great feeling. I do it to have fun, to get the best results I can, and to enjoy the camaraderie that fills the pit area. Racers are one big extended family.”

In 2021, Kidwell got his feet wet by competing at some pretty tough bullrings. Learning the ropes at places like Heart O’ Texas Speedway (HOT) and Kennedale Speedway Park (KSP) is no cakewalk.

“The level of competition in Factory Stock around North Texas is off the charts,” Kidwell said. “In Waco, at KSP of even at Big O in Ennis, you’re going to have some very good teams on hand. So at least I can follow some great drivers, and try to learn from them. It’s how I’ll be more competitive.

“I’d have to say that KSP is my favorite track; it has the stiffest competition and is what I call my home track. It’s the number one place I want to record a win. I need to learn how to adapt at every track, yet that’s the one I need to master. I go into every place with a baseline setup, then make little tweaks.”

When Kidwell suits up, grabs his brain bucket (some may call it a helmet) and gets ready to race, he climbs aboard what could be called a fine and reliable blue-collar classic automobile.

“It’s an older home-built car I spotted in a field a while back,” he explains. “My buddy Melvin Kemp had it out beside his place, and one day I asked him about buying it. He said if I put a transmission in a different car he had, I could take the old Hobby Stock home. So I did that for him, and loaded her up.

“I have a couple of guys who’ve made this possible for me, and without them I’d have no racing hobby. Duane Wolff and Chase Neil have worked to repair the car and make it semi-competitive for me. I’d be lost without them. It’s one thing to have a car, but totally another to get it ready to compete and actually go do that. It takes help from guys who have skills and love this great sport. I’m very grateful.”

It was a humble start last year, but it went well enough so he didn’t get discouraged.

“I ran it one time at Big O in the Thunder Stock division,” Kidwell said. “I started 11th in my first-ever race that night. I made a pass for the lead, then got dumped going into Turn 3 and it ended my night. From there, I decided it was time to get fed to the wolves. So I went Factory Stock racing.”

Along with his bubbling passion for the sport and reliable old beast of a race car, Kidwell also has a few key people and marketing partners behind him who ensure his program is successful.

“First off, I need to thank my beautiful wife, Brooklynn, and my two daughters,” Kidwell said with pride in his voice. “My whole world revolves around her and those girls. Without her support, I’d still be sitting in the grandstands.

“And along with my friends Duane and Chase, I also need to thank Wade White, David Phillips with Big Dave’s Racing Engines; Jack Jenkins with Jenkins Race Components, Earl Baxter with 41 Shocks; Billy Joe, and Melvin Kemp with Kemp Motorsports. I appreciate all of their support so very much.”

While Kidwell will opt out of this weekend’s season opener at Big O Speedway, he does have plans to race a little later this month. He’s also got goals to achieve for the 2022 season overall.

“We’re getting ready to run that Lone Star IMCA Stock Car Tour deal when it stops at HOT on Feb. 20 and at KSP on February 25-26,” he said. “We don’t chase points at Big O, so I don’t want to risk hurting the car before we go to Waco. There’s bound to be some stiff competition there, even more than usual.

“This year, I’m just focused on making as many A Mains as I can. I need to be more consistent; I go like hell some nights, but struggle on others. That’s the nature of racing, it seems, yet I still love it. If I can make most of the features and stay competitive, I’ll be that guy in the pits with the big smile.”