By BILL FOLEY
A family lost a father while racers and fans have lost a very talented driver and friend as Kyle Inman passed away after a two year battle with esophageal cancer.
Kyle Inman was just 39-years-old and was a championship driver in the Sportsman division and transitioned successfully to 358 racing.
During his career was a regular at the Utica-Rome Speedway as well as Genesee Speedway and on the DIRTcar tours. However, he was known to race where he wanted and was a surprise entry at numerous events in the Northeast and Canada.
Kyle was a fierce competitor, but was fun to be around when out of the race car. He was a person willing to try different things to get his car to work. Though not flashy, he simply found his way to the winner’s circle.
Respect is something earned and many drivers indicated that indeed Kyle Inman had rightfully earned that respect on and off the race track.
Matt Janczuk Memories
If you happened to be a Utica-Rome regular the past few years there were many battle royals between Matt Janzcuk and Inman.
Matt told Dirt Track Digest, “This is pretty sad. Kyle was just a fierce competitor and one of the most formidable drivers I have ever raced again. There were races he would pass me. I would pass him and he would pass me again.”
Continuing, Janczuk said, “Probably my most memorable race against him was the Wild 100 at Utica Rome.”
The 100 lapper had gone caution free and reflecting on it, Matt noted, “I had a 17 second lead with five laps to go and he passed me on the final lap for the win. It was disheartening for me, but I actually was happy for him.”
Looking back on Kyle, Matt stated, ”He proved you couldn’t judge a book by its cover. He would pull in with an open trailer, get there late, have four spares and a generator or he would show up fashionably late with a stacker. You never knew what he was doing. There were times he would have to borrow a tire gauge or lug wrench.”
This upcoming season could have proven interesting as Matt explained, “I talked to Kyle about a month ago and I knew he was selling his stuff. I offered him one of my cars for Utica-Rome. I told him it would be in my shop, I would maintain it and he could come down on Friday nights and just have some fun. He said, ‘that would be cool.’ He was battling it. We never really talked about it. (cancer). He was battling it and was just so positive.”
Matt Steffenhagen Reflects
Matt and Kyle had a close relationship and it covered several years.
Steffenhagen told Dirt Track Digest, “We met through R/C racing around 2008 and he got me to help on the crew of his E-Mod in ‘10. Things changed directions for us after he wrecked in ’11. He ran a handful of asphalt races and the next year we put together a Crate Sportsman. We shared the driving duties. I raced Friday at Freedom and he raced Saturday at Genesee. Eventually, I got my own car, but the entire time I have worked out of his shop, hauler and everything.”
Matt said, “I know his favorite win was the Wild 100 at Utica-Rome where it went caution free, he tracked down Matt Janczuk late for the win.”
Talking about Kyle, Matt explained, “He was extremely driven in everything he did and wanted to race no matter what. After starting chemotherapy treatments early last year, he still made multiple Modified starts throughout the season and continued to try to improve in his move up to the Modified Division, even building a new car late in the year. His final win would end up being a Friday night qualifier at the Fulton Outlaw 200.”
Chris Mackey Was Stunned
Taking his time to reflect on Kyle, Mackey said, “Kyle was one of the good guys. I met him a few years back at Utica-Rome through Mike Walton (Fastline Performance). He was always a pleasure to chat with and 75% of the time he was just joking back and forth, but some talks were serious and that’s when you realized just how smart Kyle was.”
Continuing he talked about something most drivers would never attempt to do at the track.
“Bailey (Groves) and I were in the pits one night at Albany-Saratoga and here goes Kyle with a Sawzall. We asked him how it was going and his reply was something to the effect of the car isn’t going so I’m going to cut the bars out of it. Thinking he was joking we laughed. Five minutes later we walked by the back of his car and oh no, he wasn’t joking. There’s Kyle on the deck of his racecar cutting a bar out so the car could flex more. Just showed how committed he was to trying things to be better and make a better product.”
Corey Barker Knew What to Expect
Corey raced regularly at Utica-Rome, Fulton and Brewerton, but wasn’t shy about traveling once in a while.
He recalls some exciting competition with Kyle.
“From our Sportsman days to the last few seasons in a 358, Kyle and I had some pretty fierce and memorable battles,” said Barker.
Continuing he noted, “When Kyle showed up at your home track you knew he was a threat to win. A race that I still think about often is 2021 Super DIRT Week. We found ourselves in the same last chance showdown with only one more chance to qualify for both of our first Super DIRT Weeks in a Modified. I gave Kyle everything I had, but unfortunately fell one spot short. Kyle went on to make the race and busted my chops later telling me it was probably because I made the switch over to a Bicknell after years of running in Troyers. He wasn’t afraid to tell you what he thought of a move you made on the track or maybe if he didn’t like how you were racing. But at each new track it was a new event and he always was one of the few to come over and catch up after a driver’s meeting or just hang around.”
Brett Senek Raced Him Weekly
Brett Senek competed at the Genesee Speedway and got to know Kyle quite well.
Senek, like everyone else had nothing but respect for the late driver.
Talking with DTD he said, “Kyle was just a one of a kind guy. He was always smiling, always had time to joke around and always had a positive attitude. He was one of the nicest guys in the pits and you won’t meet another person like him.”
Continuing, he noted, “He was one of the best, if not the best dirt Sportsman driver there was. He was a very smart and talented guy and really changed the way Sportsman racing is today.”
Looking back at how Kyle helped him, Brett said, “At Genesee a few years ago I had some transmission problems and we couldn’t really get it figured out. So I ran over to Kyle real quick and this was five minutes before we were supposed to go out for time trials. I caught him as he was getting into his car and he stopped, ran over to my car, got in and tried adjusting the shifter cable to help us out. He was able to figure out one of the gears inside the transmission was screwed up. He then offered his spare transmission that was in his back up car at home and offered to send one of his guys home to get it out and bring it to the track. That’s the type of guy Kyle was. He would give you the shirt off his back to help you get back on the track. He was a one of a kind racer.”
Greg Martin Long Time Friends
Martin is a well-known Western New York driver, who like Kyle made the move from being a high running Sportsman driver into the Modified division.
The two had a long relationship, as Greg told DTD, “Kyle and I have known each other for years. His dad built some go kart engines way back when. He raced dirt Sportsman at Ransomville and when I got one we ran Modifieds together. He hauled us down to Charlotte the first time the Sportsman were there and he was always willing to do those things that help the sport.”
Martin continued, “The thing that I will remember about Kyle is he’d race anything anywhere. He put lots of thought into what changes he wanted to make and he’d find a place to try them out. He was a tough competitor and always near the front. He’ll be missed for sure.”
Dave Marcuccilli-Rocky Warner
While some of the top Sportsman battles were always between Janczuk and Inman, they followed the Rocky-Marcuccilli legendary battles.
Dave said, ”Kyle was always a good guy to chat with. He was very respectful to race with. One thing I remember is him showing up at Brockville with an open trailer, all by himself back in 2017. I’m pretty sure he was sleeping in his truck during the races.”
Rocky didn’t race as much against him, but told DTD, “He was a great competitor who always raced clean and always did his own thing. I always admired when he’d show up at the track with just him, his wife and most times Matt (Steffenhagen).”
Steve Petty From the Tower
Kyle not only had an impact on other drivers, but also racing officials.,
Announcer Steve Petty talked about his relationship saying, “I’ve known Kyle for a long time and his passing hit me like a ton of bricks. He was ‘a brother from another mother’, funny, charismatic and always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.”
Continuing, Steve said, “Kyle even did a brief stint as an announcer. He announced and raced at Glenwood RC. It was built on property at Holland Speedway and after the RC track was done he would come up to the tower and announce with Rick Mooney and I. One night at Holland I was solo and Kyle said, ‘I’ll make something up so you can get down to victory lane and back up’. I recall correctly he said something about having to change a set up on his race car plus also he was craving pizza from the concession stand (he had been racing 360 late models back then)”
Petty noted, “At Merrittville Kyle won a BEI race which shared the date with the Super DIRTcar Series. So a worldwide audience saw him beat the likes of James Friesen, Cody McPherson,and Brad Rouse. My mom had made chocolate chip cookies for his girls and him. He said in victory lane that his ‘extra energy was eating my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.”
A person can be remembered for many reasons.
In Kyle’s case it could be the Oswego Super DIRT Week Sportsman win, track championships or series championships or the fact that he was named one of the top 50 drivers in Super Dirt Week history.
Some might remember that he worked hand in hand with Fastline Performance to get Sportsman to run efficiently on coils as he was one of the movers and shakers in that effort.
There might be friendships, his competitiveness, his sense of humor or the way he faced the battle against cancer with a positive frame of mind.