Spike Kohlbecker races toward his goal of competing in the Indianapolis 500
It wasn’t long ago that Spike Kohlbecker thought going 30mph was fast. His first racing car – a go-kart that his grandfather gave him when he was 4 years old – only had a tiny engine, but it was his exposure to an adrenaline-pumping hobby that quickly became his passion. In the beginning, instead of a pit crew, Kohlbecker had his parents who crammed his fun racing driver into the back of their SUV and took him to one of the tracks in the St. Louis region. Now at the age of 18, the Kirkwood native is driving around 200 km / h on the track with professional assistance. He pursues a career on the IndyCar circuit through Ignite Autosport, a local program that helps promising young drivers become champions. This year Kohlbecker is driving in the USF2000 series, the first rung on the ladder that will one day take off in IndyCar – and in the Indianapolis 500.
Has your family always been as excited as you are about racing? My grandpa and grandma honeymooned at Elkhart Lake, a very famous stretch here in the US. After all, when my mother was born, her family vacation was supposed to be on racetracks. They did, so Grandpa was the one who got me to run.
How did you come up with the name Spike? When I was in kindergarten, I sharpened my hair. I came back from break and my friends called me Spike or Mohawk or whatever it was. It eventually evolved into Spike and got stuck. Not only did it stick for my name, it stuck in people’s minds too. There aren’t many people named Spike.
What is your training like between races? There are two different parts; on the track and off the track. It’s almost more important to train off the track than on the track. When I’m not on the right track, I work with a company called the Central Institute for Human Performance in Kirkwood. They train their training around my body, but they also help me improve my brain so that I juggle and read when I am away from the facility where I train with them.
What if you’re on the line? It’s the stuff that is natural in everything we do. We have test dates where we can familiarize ourselves with the cars, new tires and different settings. It’s all about being in the moment. You try to feel the car and what it’s doing, and get everything else out of your head. It all comes from practice and concentration. That’s what I do with juggling and reading off-track. It’s about being in the present.
What power does it take to navigate a car at top speed? We have a lot of g-force, and something that helps with the feel of the car is a specially shaped seat. That keeps me in place so I don’t have to use my core or leg muscles as often to keep from sliding around. like you would on a regular tram.
Where is all of this training going? My goal not only for this year, but also [also] In the future it should go on and win on the IndyCar ladder system and finally get to the IndyCar series.
Do you only drive in the Midwest or has the race already helped fill your passport? I’ve definitely made a lifestyle change with racing. I have lived in Canada, New Zealand and the UK. I love travelling. I’ve been to some amazing places.
Which places are at the top of your list? One of my favorites is Ireland. It’s super pretty. I’ve also ridden a circuit called Anglesey in the UK. The water is right there. They went over that hill and couldn’t see the road because it was a blind hill. But over the hill you could see the Isle of Man directly.
What are your proudest achievements so far? One of my proudest accomplishments was at the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand last year. I competed against some of the best drivers in the world and was named “Most Improved Driver” at the end of the season. That was absolutely great. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled as big as I did that night at the awards ceremony.