Right now, though, the younger Hirthler is content working as a carpenter during the day and turning quick laps at the controls of small-block and big-block powered modifieds at night.
"It would be great to do this for a living someday," said Kevin, a Perkiomenville, Pa., resident. "I'd like to have a shot to run a big-block modified on the Super DIRT Series," regarded as the top touring series for modified drivers.
To that end, Kevin has been studying his lessons with diligence. He watched intently earlier this decade when his father fielded modifieds for Duane Howard, an Oley, Pa.-based driver who has won championships at Grandview and Big Diamond raceways. Kevin took all the advice the veterans had to offer, then applied it to his own burgeoning racing career when he first slipped behind the wheel of a stock car at age 16.
"Duane and [fellow racer] Craig Von Dohren are the kind of guys I love talking to," Kevin said. "I can ask them a question, and they'll always give me an honest answer."
So far, Kevin has uncovered some of the most important answers on his own. In late April, he discovered the quick way to victory lane, winning his first career small-block modified feature at East Windsor (N.J.) Speedway, his team's regular Friday night stop.
For the better part of the last four years, Kevin has run cars owned by his father. "We ran 72 races last year at 17 different tracks," said Craig, bursting with pride. "Some people look at Kevin and say that he's only 19, that he's too young. But is he too young? All I know is that he runs his heart out every time he's on the track."
Kevin's enthusiasm for racing and his drive to succeed recently landed him a ride other than his father's for the first time in his four-year career. He has spent the last month driving a car for Atlantic City, N.J.- based owners Ron and Peg Anderson at Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway on Saturday nights, and the results have been encouraging. On July 24, he notched his best career Bridgeport finish with a fourth-place run in Anderson's No. 5A car.
"I'd like to get a big-block modified win before the year is out," Kevin said. "I started the year looking for a small-block win and got that at East Windsor, so now we're concentrating on the big blocks."
It's the kind of challenge that keeps Kevin Hirthler totally focused on his new-found craft.
TEN THOUSAND SMILES
Tom Mayberry's best Grandview Speedway season got even better last Saturday night.
The Sellersville, Pa., driver pocketed $10,000 for his win in the Forrest Rogers Memorial 50-lap NASCAR modified race, the second-richest event of the track's season. The win was Mayberry's seventh this year at the controls of Mike Kelly's No. 7-12 car.
Afterward, Mayberry offered a sentimental tribute to Rogers, the man who constructed Grandview's one-third mile, high-banked clay oval in the early 1960s.
"Forrest Rogers must have been quite a man to build this speedway," Mayberry said. "I wish I would have had the opportunity to know him."