Like father, like daughter |

Like father, like daughter

Rhonda Costa-Landers

For 17-year-old Katie Crome, playing with a “boy’s toy” has its advantages. She gets to drive race cars and with one of her favorite people — her father, Kenny.

Kenny has had an interest in racing most of his life. You could say he started his racing career living vicariously through Katie. Two years ago, Kenny asked Katie if she would be interested in going to a Legends driving school in Las Vegas. She said “yes.”

But Katie was somewhat disappointed, it wasn’t really a driving school.

“They just put you in the car and told you to go out on the track and have fun,” she said.

She did have fun, but it’s been her dad who has taught her the most important skills in racing.

“He’s told me how and when to accelerate, how and when to brake, when to turn, everything.”

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Katie is in her second season as a Legends driver at Champion Speedway. She says she enjoys it and is having a lot of fun.

“It’s frustrating at times,” Katie said. “But you’ve got to have guts. You have to take chances. I am having a lot of fun.”

Kenny saw his daughter, a senior at Galena High School, having so much fun, he chose to buy a late model sportsman and go racing himself.

“I took the Richard Petty driving class in Las Vegas and Fontana (Calif.),” Kenny said. “I asked Katie if it was OK for me to be out there racing, too. I didn’t want to take anything away from her. And she’s OK with it.”

So the family heads out every Saturday afternoon to the track. Rose, Katie’s mom, her grandmother, Margaret Bertucci (one of Katie’s biggest supporters), Kenny and Katie.

“We’re having fun,” Kenny said. “It’s a family thing.

“And when I’m hot lapping or driving my race, Katie’s pretty self-sufficient. She does her own fuel and tires.

“But I don’t like having to sit in my car lined up in the pits. I would rather watch her race.”

Katie admits racing is a trying sport, but her dad is a good partner.

“He’s a little overwhelming at times,” Katie said. “He’s got so much adrenaline. It’s hard to keep up with him. I’ve never seen someone with so much adrenaline.”

It may be good for Katie to learn how to keep up. She has aspirations of becoming a fifth-grade or kindergarten teacher.

“I want to inspire kids,” she said. “I want them to be able to go home after having learned something. Not be sent home crying.”

Kenny, 57, said he may switch to driving a Legends car in due time, after he gets a good feel for the late model he’s driving. And Katie has a late model car when she’s ready to switch.

“I don’t want to be in a Legends car competing against my own daughter,” Kenny said.

“Maybe she’ll move up and then I may switch to Legends. But I like racing. It’s a little intimidating at times, but I like the competitiveness.

“I also may not be as aggressive as others, but I like to race clean.

“And if this is how we spend our quality time, then I will. If this is how you spend time with your 17-year-old daughter, I think it’s great.”

“Being able to get through the difficult times makes me stronger and a better racer,” Katie said.