By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
BLOOMINGTON, IND. -- If your last name is Kinser and you live in Bloomington, Ind., chances are you have raced at the Bloomington Speedway.
Nestled into a hillside just a chair's throw away (by Bobby Knight's standards) from Indiana University, the 1/4-mile high-banked bullring has been in existence since 1923.
The King of the Outlaws, Steve Kinser, started his racing career at the track in 1976. It is where his father, Bob, started racing in the 1950s.
"My mom and dad went to Bloomington and took us kids to the track," B. Kinser said. "My cousin, Morris, and I got together and bought a coupe for $125. "My dad said, 'what are you going to do with that?' I told him I was going to race it. He said he had gone to his last race. Well as it turns out, he went to all of my races from Florida to Pennsylvania, anywhere we go, he went. We're a real close family."
This weekend, the World of Outlaws make their second of three trips to Central Pennsylvania for the Summer Nationals two-day show.
"I didn't run a whole lot at Williams Grove, but we always went at the end of the year when they had their big one," B. Kinser said. "Jan Opperman could go race anytime he wanted to. He was a heck of a nice feller."
B. Kinser was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1999.
S. Kinser, who has 575 WoO wins, has one win this season along with four top-fives and 18 top-10s.
"My first full season at Bloomington was 1977 and we mainly raced a non-wing sprint car," he said.
The 20-time WoO champion, who is ninth in the points, learned a lot about racing from watching his dad race.
"He has always been my hero," he said. "He was a good clean racer and good in traffic. Dad knew how to handle himself. He had a lot of good equipment and even when it was mediocre, he still put it up towards the front."
S. Kinser noted that having good equipment, even racing at Bloomington, was a key to being a successful racer.
"We're coming into Williams Grove and that's a place where you have to have good equipment and that also applies to wherever your race at," he said. "At the Grove, you have to have a good motor program and a good chassis set-up when you come in there. Our problem this year is getting qualified."
His first visit to the Grove was with his dad to watch him race.
"Even as a young kid, you saw a lot of good cars there," S. Kinser said. "We came in and had a lot of success because of the good equipment we had with my cousin Karl (Kinser). There are a lot of good racers and race teams in this area and there always will be."
B. Kinser noted that his sons, Steve and Randy, were pretty much a natural at things.
"We bought them pedal karts for Christmas one year and they were racing them and bumping into each other," he said with a laugh.
Randy, a year younger than Steve, was almost born at a race track.
"Dad had raced at Columbus (Ind.) that night and my mom (Cora) told me I was born a few hours after the race," he said. "Steve and I were always competitive as kids. He was a year older so he could always beat me."
Randy bought a race car the summer before he was to go to the University of Michigan on a wrestling scholarship.
"We had some good battles at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt (Ind.)," Randy said. "We did race some racing together, but that was right around the time the Outlaws were getting started. I tried to run some races, but I was more of a local racer."
R. Kinser noted that he ran pretty good at Williams Grove and shared the front row for the first Gumout series race with Fred Rahmer.
"I really enjoyed racing at Williams Grove with its history," he said.
"I was just out of high school and I remember watching dad race at Williams Grove in an invitation race and a young guy won that race and it was Steve Smith Sr."
He also raced at Lernerville and Selinsgrove and a lot with Steve in Australia.
"I had some good victories over there and (my cousin) Karl really knew how to make the cars go," he said.
S. Kinser was an Indiana state high school wrestling champion who lost three matches in his career and was undefeated in winning the title in his senior year.
Steve's son Kraig, 28, is 12th in Outlaw points with one win this season. He was the 2004 Rookie of the Year with the Outlaws and the 2008 winner of the Knoxville Nationals.
"I pretty much jumped into the micro sprints when I was 13," he said. "It was a lot of fun learning from my grandpa. To have someone with his experience and his character, it was special."
K. Kinser last won at Bloomington in 2002 in the former Great Lakes Outlaw Sprint Series.
"My grandpa taught me to take care of my equipment, to be smart on the track and to choose my spots. He taught me the ropes," he said.
Like his father, K. Kinser wrestled in high school. It was later in high school that he though about being a racer.
"I wasn't as good at wrestling as everyone else in the family was," he said.
He recalls coming to Central Pennsylvania with his dad.
"Having been there when I was younger, I halfway knew what to expect," he said.
"I love racing around Pennsylvania. The PA Posse fans are some of the most loyal fans I've ever met. I admire the fan base. That's something great for our sport. It makes you feel like an underdog sometimes when you walk in there."
"I sure am proud of my boys, we've accomplished quite a bit in racing," B. Kinser said.
And it all started on a 1/4-mile bullring where a family of race fans formed a special bond that has lasted for three generations.