Nick Kirkegaard grew up idolizing sprint car champion Terry McCarl. Nick and his mom never missed a race, traveling to Hartford and Brandon throughout the summer months. Eventually, Nick began racing, and mom was his biggest fan. In March, Nick's mom, Kari Kirkegaard, was the victim in Sioux Falls' first homicide of 2014. Today, Nick continues to race, but with a heavy heart.
A few years ago, Nick Kirkegaard fulfilled a childhood dream, purchasing his first race car. A lifelong fan, Kirkegaard knew nothing about the inner workings of a race car.
"Absolutely not a thing (laugh). The best way to learn is to get your hands dirty," Nick Kirkegaard said.
Kari Kirkegaard wasn't initially a fan of her son's purchase, but quickly became his biggest supporter.
"Yeah, she wasn't the happiest person ever, because it's definitely an expensive hobby, but once we got it, she definitely supported it and came out and enjoyed watching us race," Nick said.
On March 15th, Nick's world was turned upside-down, when his 56-year-old mom was murdered. Nick was devastated. He considered not racing, as expenses were piling up, and Nick was wearing down emotionally. Ultimately, he opted to return to the dirt-track.
"Got to keep pushing through every day, and try to live life to make her happy, and know what she would like me to do, and living and doing what's right," Nick said.
On the track, reminders of mom are never far away.
"I've got multiple things on my car for her, that every time I'm racing I have them in spots that I can see while I'm racing to give me that extra boost. It's definitely reassuring when you're racing and knowing someone is looking down. You try and work hard for that special someone," Kirkegaard said.
In May, Nick notched his first-ever Micro Sprints win, claiming victory at Lonetree Creek Raceway in Scotland. Someday, he hopes to conquer Huset's Speedway.
"That's my dream track. So, if I can ever get a win out there that'll be a very emotional night," Nick said.
The healing has only just begun, but it's been expedited by the sport Nick and his mom shared.
"I'm guessing this is probably going to be the craziest season of my life. As long as we can get back out there it's just going to make me happy to be out racing, getting some more seat time, and hopefully get a victory for her. I started off racing while she was still here, and I want to get out and be successful for her and do it in memory of her," Kirkegaard said.
Nick says the racing community has been extremely supportive. A few fellow drivers are even sporting the "praying hands" logo on their cars in memory of Kari Kirkegaard. Nick has dedicated his season to his mom.