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Kaeding aboard the Bates-Hamilton Racing No. 42x. - Devin Mayo photo

Tim Kaeding : Part-Time Outlaw, Full-Time Dad

“I don’t want him to lose out on opportunities to race,” she said. “I’ve told him that if it gets bad while you’re gone, we can talk about it and work out a plan,” so he can spend time with Tannyn, said Thompson, who juggles full-time Mom-hood with a full-time job, working for a local electrical utility company.

“Occasionally, we fly out to spend time with him when it’s too expensive for him to fly back and forth,” said Thompson. That became the plan in 2020, when Kaeding raced much of the season at Huset’s while racing in California was in a COVID-induced shutdown.

On the one hand, this juggling act is all too common and ordinary among racers. But on the other hand, for Kaeding there is an extraordinary side story. All athletes want to win at the top of their game. Marathon runners want to win Boston. Climbers want to scale Everest. Top-flight sprint car drivers want to win with the WoO. Only a few drivers, even those of Kaeding’s caliber, have a genuine opportunity to do that.

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Jason Sides (left) and Tim Kaeding at Knoxville Raceway. – Mike Campbell photo

Kaeding had it once and, as the 2021 season began, the opportunity dangled in front of him again, as tempting as a sparkly diamond to a miner. Kaeding and WoO veteran Jason Sides have enjoyed a racing bromance over the last few seasons, with Kaeding driving one of Sides’ back-up cars on numerous occasions.

“I like him and he likes me and we have fun together,” said Sides about the chemistry between them. The pair had talked now and then about Kaeding increasing his time in the companion car to Sides’ familiar No. 7s sprinter.

Time, especially road time, takes its toll over the years. Criss-crossing the country for 90 races a year can grind on a racer like a spinning wheel on metal. Sides, the 2003 WoO Rookie of the Year, has been grinding those road miles for nearly two decades, as both driver and car owner. And as the 2021 season began, the conversations between them got more intense as Sides was looking to lighten his load.

“We really talked about having two cars,” said Sides. “He would drive one car full time and I would drive the other part time. We were serious, but obviously there were things he had to think about.”

Kaeding had to think about how to be a dad to Tannyn, who now spends time during the week climbing around a sprint car in the garage and has learned to read the calendar, knowing that Saturday was the day he could often spend with his dad at the race track. More often than not, Tannyn is the first person in the truck on those Saturdays.

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Tim and Tannyn Kaeding – TIM AYLWIN PHOTO

On days when Kaeding is home in San Jose, he spends the afternoons with his son after picking him up from daycare.

But Kaeding had other things to think about. Like the marathon runner who falls out at the 25th mile or the climber whose legs give out with the summit in sight, Kaeding wanted another shot at the top. In a sense, the WoO tour owed him a second chance.

Kaeding has been there before, only to see the proverbial brass steering wheel fall out of his hands. In 2005, he was on that 90-race grind with one of the best-equipped teams in the business, Roth Motorsports, with whom he would later win his second KWS title in 2011. He was in contention for rookie-of-the-year honors when the stresses of being on the road took its toll on the team and Roth brought it back to California in mid-August.

As a result, Kaeding finished 18th in the standings, handing the rookie title to Shane Stewart.

“If you stop to look at it, you see that I’ve never run a full Outlaw schedule,” said Kaeding, who drives at least a handful of races on that tour every year. That included two weeks of racing with Sides in August, beginning with the Ironman 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo, the Capitani Classic at Knoxville and the Sage Fruit Front Row Challenge Southern Iowa Speedway, all leading up to the 60th Knoxville Nationals the following week.

Engine problems early in the Knoxville Nationals put the team behind all weekend, with Sides finishing in the D Main and Kaeding running from 15th to seventh in the C Main, barely missing the transfer to advance to the B.

Back in California and driving for Bates-Hamilton Racing, Kaeding is in contention for his third King of the West championship. His 67 wins in that 410 series ranks second all-time to his dad, Brent, who won 84 features in the series.

Over the years, Kaeding has collected an impressive 21 wins, 97 top-five finishes and 213 top-10 results on the WoO tour and he is eager for more. But the plan for full-time racing on the WoO tour is on hold — at least for now.

“Being a dad makes it hard to be away and being on the West Coast meant I would be away for four weeks at a time,” said Kaeding, “and I want to spend at much time with Tannyn as possible.”

As far as Sides is concerned, teaming with Kaeding full time may just be a matter of time. “We’ve talked about it for the last year or two and it could still happen,” Sides contends, “especially when Tannyn gets older and understands more.”

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