UPLAND — Siblings Dylan and Emma Steinkruger like to race cars and chase storms.
Dylan, 20, and Emma, 12, of rural Upland have 17 years of racing experience between them and an impressive record of victories at KAM Raceway. And while they both love racing at the track southeast of Hastings, 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 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 toward a storm and attempting to get as close as possible towards the eye of the storm — is often deemed a perilous act.
But for Dylan, that danger and rush of 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 the two are now known around KAM Raceway for their driving prowess, it didn’t necessarily start out that way.
Dylan and Emma’s father, Jim Steinkruger, recalled how after Dylan’s first attempt on the track, Jim wondered if he would ever go back because it wasn’t good experience.
“The first night that Dylan and I went to the races, he went out there and it didn’t go very well,” Jim said.
But Dylan stuck with it.
For Emma, it was her first wreck on the track that cause her some panic.
“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.”
She, too, stuck with it.
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 to the classroom, and vice versa.
“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 the University of Nebraska-Lincoln — 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,” he said. “I think racing makes the classes I take less tedious when I can find a way to apply a theoretical concept, like Newton’s second law, to the physical affect that 15 to 20 pounds has on the acceleration of a racecar.”
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 to continue to be part of his future.
For him, it’s the rush that keeps him turning left on the track and driving toward 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.”