Kyle Weatherman busted onto the ARCA Menards Series scene as a 15-year-old, almost a decade ago. Since then, though, it’s been an absolute grind for him to make a career out of stock car racing.
“I know what I‘m capable of doing, I‘ve just got to get the right opportunity,” Weatherman recently told Jayski.com.
Over the offseason, MHR announced Weatherman would take over as the full-time driver of the No. 47 car for the 2021 season. Though with an underfunded, once backmarker team, it was an opportunity of a lifetime for the 23-year-old.
“This is a dream come true,” Weatherman added. “The cool part about this is that it‘s just the start. This is definitely the journey and trips that I wanted to make happen, but we‘re just beginning as well. I love the hustle. I love the grind and it makes it that much more worth it when opportunities like this arise. This is just the beginning.”
— Kyle Weatherman (@KyleWeatherman) July 19, 2021
In 2013, as Weatherman was starting his professional career, he scored four top-five finishes in five starts for his family’s ARCA team. In 2015, he earned his lone ARCA win at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Between 2016 and 2017, the Missouri native put together enough funding for 22 of 40 ARCA races, while sprinkling in a couple of Cup Series starts for Rick Ware Racing.
Combined, Weatherman made just 17 starts in NASCAR‘s three national series between 2018 and 2019. During the week, he’d work as a full-time mechanic with RWR. Quite simply, he just wanted to keep his name relevant.
Last season, Weatherman was the primary driver of Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 47 Chevrolet. After 23 starts, he ended the year with an average finish of 27th. He also scored the team’s first ever top-10 finish at Kentucky Speedway, placing eighth.
Since the age of 8, Weatherman has been working on racecars. Admittedly, he doesn’t care about much else. Sure, he enjoys the mechanical aspect of racing and knowing what setup is underneath of him, but the driving portion is his true love.
Growing up, Weatherman didn’t care to socialize about real-world issues. His focus was one thing: Racing.
“My friends in high school literally make fun of me from the movie scene and not seeing a lot of movies, whether it‘s that or anything,” he said. “When they ask me outside world questions, sometimes it‘s a little embarrassing because I don‘t really know outside of the racing industry. I sleep, dream and breathe racing.
“This is my life, I love it and I wouldn‘t want to trade it for anything else.”
Mike Harmon, team owner of Mike Harmon Racing, appreciates Weatherman‘s grind, as he works Monday through Thursday with the team and travels to the track with them each weekend.
In some ways, Harmon sees a little of his younger self in Weatherman and in Bayley Currey, the team’s other primary driver.
“He works on the cars, very passionate and dedicated,” Harmon said of Weatherman. “A lot of people think racing is cool, and I feel they are here for the attention and the show. But I know Kyle and Bayley like to race. They‘re here for the racing first. Their families can‘t write checks to get them here, so they‘ve got to work to get here.
“He‘s given it his best shot. He‘s swinging for the fences, and that‘s what you‘ve got to do nowadays. All he ever talks about is racing. He‘s all in and it‘s good.”
The opening 20 races of the season, however, haven’t gone as planned. There’s no doubt in Harmon’s mind, the Nos. 47 and 74 teams are as quick as they’ve ever been, but the team has little to show for it.
That includes both cars failing to qualify for three of the four races in which there’s been qualifying: Circuit of The Americas, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Road America. Some of it’s been freak incidents, such as Weatherman looking good on the scoring pylon at COTA, only for the No. 74 car to blow an engine. When the session resumed, the track dried and a plethora of cars edged out Weatherman’s time. When he was able to get back out on the track, it started to downpour.
The end result was Weatherman missed the show.
“It just wasn‘t meant for us to race at COTA,” Harmon said. “You couldn‘t script it like that, but it‘s what happened.”
For a small-budget team, missing out on any race is difficult financially. It also buries the team down in owner’s points, where it’s not eligible for the weekly top-30 bonus (the No. 47 team ranks 38th in the owner standings).
But when Weatherman has been in the field, he’s seen top 15 to 20 speed at times. That’s a sizable improvement from years past for an MHR machine.
“The year, speed wise, has been great,” Weatherman said. “Competition wise, they‘ve stepped up their game as well. We had a handful of top 15s, top 20s, but it‘s been tough to run that this year.”
And the races in which the team has run competitive, sometimes in the top 15, something bites the No. 47 car. A lot of times, it comes down to funding.
Last month at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Weatherman was running well inside the top 20 when he didn’t pit during a late caution. Ultimately, that came down to not having a final set of tires at a track that chews up tire wear. On the restart, his shifter got stuck in gear, triggering a multi-car pileup. The No. 47 Chevrolet finished 32nd, instead of inside the top 20.
This past weekend at Watkins Glen International, the No. 47 car had an electrical fire. Weatherman was forced to hop out of the car while the track was still green.
— Kyle Weatherman (@KyleWeatherman) August 9, 2021
Small things like that pile up and dig the team in a bigger hole.
Harmon noted, though from the outside looking in it looks like the team has funding to purchase the necessary needs because his cars aren’t blank, that’s not the case at all.
He said, “Sponsors cost money even though they‘re giving you money. We have to fill our obligations, wrap the cars, which takes money. There‘s just not enough money to be doing what we‘re doing.”
With 13 races left in the 2021 season, there is hope. Weatherman believes the team is heading in an upward trajectory, and he has a lofty goal in the back of his mind.
“At least get a top 10 before the year finishes,” Weatherman said of his goal for the rest of the season. “Realistically, just more consistency would be really nice. I know we‘re capable of finishing inside the top 15, top 20 every week. We just have to do it, prove it and be there.”
Regardless of how the season ends, Weatherman wants to keep trending the right way. Though very thankful to MHR for giving him his first big break in NASCAR, there’s no telling what this current opportunity could lead to.
“[Harmon] knows, as a racer, I want to move forward with my career,” Weatherman stated. “I‘m really thankful and blessed to have the opportunity and hopefully this is just a stepping stone to get experience and show people that I‘m here to work hard, willing to do whatever it takes to make it there and it‘s going to make it that much sweeter once we get to that opportunity.”
The Xfinity Series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course this weekend, where both cars must qualify into the show. Eight cars won’t make the race.