*This story was featured in the June 29 edition of the Hastings Tribune.
For siblings Dylan and Emma Steinkruger, racing is just a stepping-stone for grander plans.
Dylan, 20, and Emma, 12, have 17 years of racing experience between them and an impressive resume of victories at KAM Raceway, but have aspirations that extend far from the racing world.
While they both love racing, they also enjoy a hobby that many might deem a bit more obscure: storm chasing.
“The first time we ever went…I started crying,” Emma Steinkruger said. “It was one of the really big storms where one of the tornados touched down and we were really close to it.”Storm chasing — the act of traveling towards a storm and attempting to get as close as possible towards the eye of a storm — is often deemed a perilous act.
But for Dylan,that danger and adrenaline, much like in racing, is part of the allure.
“It probably has something to do with the adrenaline rush. More so, I think they are just related by the fact they are two things that I’ve been passionate about since I was young, and have been lucky enough to be able to pursue,” he said.
While both are now known around KAM Raceway for their driving prowess, it didn’t always start out that way.
Dylan and Emma’s father, Jim Steinkruger, recalled how after his son’s first attempt on the track, he wondered if he would ever go back.
“The first night that Dylan and I went to the races, he went out there and it didn’t go very well. He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to go back out there and do this’,” Jim recalled.
Cooler heads prevailed and Dylan stuck to his racing plans. For Emma, it was her first wreck that left a lasting mark.
“I spun out, then the first car hit me and another car hit me,” she said. “I was kind of scared, because it hurt and I flew against the side of the seat.”
Both overcame those initial obstacles and never looked back. Emma races in the Jr. Karts class and has two straight second place points finishes under her belt. Dylan is the defending champion from the Wingless 600’s class and after three first place finishes already this year, is eyeing a second title.
Their success on the track means different things for both of them. For Emma, it’s about taking pride in being one of the few girls competing on any given night at KAM. For Dylan, it’s about applying what he’s learned on the racetrack and applying it to the classroom, and vice versa.
“There have been a lot of things I have been able to apply. I think I’ve learned a lot about having expectations, dealing with failure, dealing with success — you name it,” he said.
Applying what he’s learned in the classroom — specifically his physics courses via his course load at UNL — has equipped him with a different perspective on how to approach Friday night races.
“It’s given me some guidance in terms of making adjustments I’m making on the car…I think racing makes the classes I take less tedious when I can find a way to apply a theoretical concept, like Newton’s 2nd Law, to the physical affect that 15-20 pounds has on the acceleration of a racecar,” he said.
That non-traditional perspective hs certainly paid off in the form racing results.
“He’s an excellent driver,” said Kim Hermann, Secretary/Treasurer of KAM Raceway. “He’s one of those guys who can get to the front and not have confrontations with anybody.”
As far as those grander plans go, Emma plans on attending college in hopes of becoming a veterinarian. By her own admission, she already has some practice taking care of animals.
“I love animals,” she said. “I’ll take in any animal. We have tons of cats we take in and feed every morning.”
Dylan has his eyes set on becoming a meteorologist and plans on chasing storms for sometime to come. For him, it’s the rush that keeps him turning left on the track and driving towards the eye of the storm.
“Each of them provide unforgettable moments that keep me coming back,” he said. “Just like there is no better feeling than winning a race on a Friday night, the feeling of the wind behind your back getting sucked up into a developing super cell is indescribable.”