Kaden Harrill had experience on his side with a second straight trip to the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Summit SuperSeries World Finals at Memphis International Raceway.
The 15-year-old from Madisonville, Tenn., used it to his advantage for his biggest victory ever in the Junior Dragster division final.
With that, he took home $25,000 in cash and prizes including $3,000 from Summit Racing Equipment as well as the world championship Ironman Trophy, a world championship diamond ring and an IHRA Gold Card.
In addition, he won a custom-built IHRA Junior Dragster built by Half Scale Dragster featuring a custom paint scheme from Imagine That Customs, a car cover from Summit Racing Equipment, tires from Hoosier Racing Tire, tach from Digatron USA, digital dial board from Digital Delay, seat belts from RJS Racing Equipment, a powerful 7.90 engine from Nic Woods Racing Engines and a gift certificate from Keizer Wheels toward the purchase of front and rear wheels.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I really wanted to win that car after it got unveiled last night and now, I get to bring it home. After the second round, I was like the Good Lord was with me and I got through some more rounds.”
Harrill has been racing since he was eight years old. It’s a family affair with his cousin Keenan Myers tuning the car for him. He also has the support of his brother Keith Thomas, mom Kristie Harrill, uncle and aunt TJ and Tonya Harrill, and grandparents Tommy and Mary Harrill. In addition, Tyler Caheely built the engine in the Allied Underground Junior Dragster powered by Sunoco Race Fuels.
For the second year in a row, Kaden qualified for the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals by winning the championship at IHRA-member track Knoxville Dragway. After an early exit in the 2018 World Finals, he raced at Memphis again in the IHRA Division 2 Summit Team Finals where he won a Gambler’s race and advanced a few rounds.
After red-lighting in Friday’s Gamblers Race prior to the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals, he was ready to get on track again Saturday.
“I went to the World Finals in 2018, but turned it red in the second round,” he said. “I went to the Team Finals this year, had a good run, won three rounds and then I got beat. When we went back to the Worlds, the first day I turned it red again. I was like, ‘We’ll try it tomorrow.’ I expected to win a few rounds, but not the whole race.”
After meeting his expectations, he didn’t feel the pressure of racing for a world championship. Instead, he pedaled down the track in 8.389 seconds at 66.65 mph to win as final-round opponent Taylor Hansen, representing Onawa Racing and Events Complex, broke at the start.
“I went up there with the attitude of what happens, happens,” he said. “I hated that he had problems. It was a huge accomplishment, but I would have rather had a good race than him break in the finals.”
Harrill is used to good races. He explained a driver has to be on his or her toes to win at Knoxville Dragway. It has been that way for a few years now.
“We’ve got really good competition,” he said. “We average about 120 cars per weekend at a bracket race. Our junior class is big with 20-25 juniors every week. In 2015, I won team finals and out of 10 cars, there were five Knoxville kids left. There were two of my best friends with me in the semis and I ended up winning it.”
There is one more prize Harrill wants to win this season.
He’s leading the points in the Southeast Six-Shooter Series, which involves IHRA member tracks London Dragway, Crossville Dragway and Brainerd Motorsports Park. All use it as a supplement to their strong IHRA Summit SuperSeries programs. However that turns out, it’s been a year to remember driving a car which his cousin had enjoyed previous success.
“My cousin Keenan drove it before me and he won two track championships and got down to the final 16 at the Worlds,” Harrill said. “I’ve won two track championships and won worlds, so it’s been a good run for us.”