MERCED, Calif. – Venturing into a variety of racing disciplines has long been on Kaylee Bryson’s radar.
The USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series seventh-place points finisher in 2022 received multiple opportunities to do so this year, and she doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.
“Doing something other than just midgets has been something I’ve always wanted to do,” Bryson told SPEED SPORT. “The more you can race, the better you’re going to be. It’s just like practicing makes perfect, so the more opportunities I get I’m going to go take them.”
Bryson had a strong year aboard her primary ride, the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports No. 71 midget.
She made history to start the race season by becoming the first female to secure a spot in the Chili Bowl Nationals finale. In USAC midget competition, Bryson was a consistent force with five top-fives and 15 top-10s.
Her campaign was highlighted by a near-victory at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway. After leading 18 laps, she settled for second behind KKM teammate, Buddy Kofoid.
In between midget starts, Bryson dabbled in multiple other kinds of race cars including the historic USAC Silver Crown Series.
A partnership with Sam Pierce Racing resulted in Bryson making a handful of 2022 Silver Crown appearances on both dirt and pavement. She debuted with the series in June at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, making her first feature start in August.
Bryson made her presence felt with a memorable performance at the Illinois State Fairgrounds’ mile located in Springfield, Ill.
On that October day in Springfield, Bryson put down the second fastest lap in qualifying, lining her up on the front row of the 100-lap feature. During the main event, the Muskogee, Okla., native put on a show, wheeling the Pierce No. 26 around the treacherous topside as the field chased her on the bottom. Bryson led 72 laps before slipping back to fifth after a late caution. Her efforts caught the attention of the entire racing community.
With Silver Crown cars being so different from midgets and the longer races typically requiring a different approach, it’s natural to wonder how Bryson managed to adapt so quickly. However, she believes her midget experience actually played a beneficial role.
“Honestly, I feel like midgets have helped me so much in the Silver Crown car, which is kind of backwards to say,” Bryson explained. “If you think about it, in midgets you have to give it your all. You go out there and you qualify and you give it your all… When I went out there and put it all on the line we were second quick, and that’s a lot going into a Silver Crown race.”
After making four feature appearances with the series this season, Bryson plans to be even busier in the future.
“I got the opportunity to go run a Silver Crown car, and that’s what we did, and we’re going to do that for the next couple of years,” Bryson said. “We’re going to go full-time in Silver Crown cars.”
Also included in Bryson’s 2022 experiences was a winged sprint car start on pavement at Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, Fla., where she finished fifth in the main event.
Her pavement resumé will grow even more in 2023 courtesy of some planned TA2 races, a car she spent some time testing this year.
Despite the strong effort in Florida on pavement and even owning a few pavement late model wins, Bryson has found the transition away from dirt to be difficult at times. She hopes that with more laps she’ll get more acquainted and continue to become a more versatile threat as a driver.
“Pavement is where I struggle a little bit more,” Bryson admitted. “I’m not very familiar with it. I grew up racing dirt, so going and racing pavement is definitely a learning curve for me, but anything that I can jump in and go get behind the wheel is something that is giving me experience. It’s just something I’ve got to keep practicing.”
Shifting back to the surface she’s most familiar with, a winged sprint car on dirt is also on her agenda. Earlier this year Bryson planned to compete against the Pennsylvania Posse at Lincoln Speedway, but rain halted that attempt. A sprint car on dirt won’t be Bryson’s biggest priority in 2023, but she intends to at least get her feet wet.
“We’ll be running a handful of (sprint car) races next year,” Bryson said. “But our primary focus will probably be Silver Crown Cars, the TA2, and midgets.”
After another year of growth and development, Bryson is eager for next year. The 21-year-old is a proven force in a midget, and she’s not shy about stepping into new race cars at new racetracks against new competition. If recent history is any indicator, she’ll continue to impress no matter what she buckles into.
“It’s pretty exciting to get to do that many different kinds of racing,” Bryson said. “I think every single type of racing helps me in some type of way.”