Kaley gives a whole new meaning to the phrase often heard in association with young talented race car drivers who were “Born to Race”. Not only is she a third generation racer, she is one of three sisters who have enjoyed successful racing careers early on. Her first day home from the hospital her dad had her at his side in his Kart Shop, which at the time was a garage operation but before her first birthday the business had grown, moved into a full service race shop that offered track side support and service at the local club races each weekend. Kaley was literally raised at the race track choosing to play with the stagger tape over a rattle.
Racing was in her DNA, but not only did she find herself competing with the busy constraints of her crew chief running a family business her older sister Amber was enjoying a hugely successful run with her kart racing program wining a KART National Championship, being featured in a book about Kart Racing and winning a spot as a finalist in the 2004 Red Bull Driver Search. (Kaley did get a mention at least in the book, as well as winning her own KART National Championship in the Kid Kart class in 2002.)
By the middle of 2004 Kaley had a National Championship, a SKUSA Southern Regional Championship, set a track fasted lap record in addition to 4 track class Championships. Then she was forced to take a back seat again due to the family racing business, as the expanded operations moved to a new larger location and became the owners and operators of their own kart race track. This change also included a cross over from sprint asphalt racing to dirt oval kart racing with both parents running and promoting the new racing venture. As usual though, Kaley was right in the middle of it all. She couldn’t get enough and although the learning curve took a while she was determined to master dirt oval racing. But her Dad and crew chief was also trying to master the learning curve and Kaley was left to her own devices more than ever. But she soon won the hearts and respect of her new racing family and it wasn’t long before she was borrowing another Pit Dad to start her kart on the grid and check her 5-point harness before leaving the shoot. But she was, for the most part her own Crew Chief, tuner, mechanic, Pit Mom….(you get the picture….she did it ALL by herself most of the time!) But that didn’t seem to bother her. The fact that the family lived on the same property as the shop and race track it was racing 27/7 for her.
The following year Kaley had won 3rd place in points for the Inaugural Series at KAM Kartway, won the Fall/Winter Series Championship and was voted “Best Jr. Driver” by her peers. By end of the 5th Grade, Kaley had also built her own kart from scratch and spare parts in the shop, earned her nickname “The Machine” and placed 2nd, 1st, and 3rd in the school district’s annual Science Fair for 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade, respectively – with of course her subjects all being race related.
Then her other sister, Megan decided she cheerleading was boring and she too wanted to race karts like Kaley. Adding another racer to the team along with a declining economy the race funds were getting a little tight. With her vast knowledge of racing, chassis set up, product knowledge and fresh out of Lyn St. James’ Driver Academy Kaley started padding her own race budget by taking on clients at the track. She offered weekly storage, maintenance and track side support as well as Driver Coaching and new driver clinics. This is how K&K Race Services was born, a business that Kaley started on her own and still runs to this day.
Kaley’s racing passion; determination and success both on and off the track also caught the attention of the University of North Texas Broadcast Journalism department which lead to the Engstrom family being featured in class project documentary. That documentary ended up in the hands of TV Production executive and Kaley and her sister Megan staring in full blown production of a reality TV pilot called “The Dirt Life”. Unfortunately for “The Dirt Life”, Annabeth Barnes beat us to the punch and her show was picked up first.
The experience only added to her to her skillset and had become very comfortable being in front of the camera. IN addition to being a local media personality, Kaley has been featured on National Radio talk shows, various racing blogs, and numerous TV interviews she has also been featured in AP news reports.
She may not have been on a reality show, but she hopes to still follow Annabeth’s lead and become a NASCAR Driver 4 Diversity driver very soon. There is no doubt she has the driving skill to move to the next level. It was just three years ago she was competing with Kyle Larson at the Tulsa Shootout in the Open Outlaw 500 Class. She was the talk of the pits running in the class (at the last minute) with her 250 Outlaw kart competing with an entire class of 500cc Open motor, and not only did she make the “A Feature” she never lost a position nor the lead lap! (Kyle won!) She and her Chili Bowl Teammate, Hannah Adair were the top two female finishers – and this was Kaley’s first time to race this event and she only missed the A-Main by one transfer spot!
My Racing for a Cause charity is the YellowRibbon.com and Suicide Prevention Awareness. I have hosted a Yellow Ribbon race at KAM Kartway for a few years now to bring awareness to the forefront. You can donate to this cause by going to yellowribbon.com/donations and donating or by becoming a member today. This year’s K&K Race Services Yellow Ribbon race will be on September 12th.