(2/5/2022 – Alex Nieten) … Last year, Tim Kaeding added two more NARC Fujitsu General USA Sprint Car feature wins to his illustrious career and created a special victory lane celebration for car owners, Joshua Bates and Roger Hamilton, in doing so.
“Tim got his 70th and 71st NARC wins last year at Watsonville and Petaluma,” Hamilton reflected. “Well, for Josh and I, it was our first wins in the series. It was pretty emotional for me.”
With those victories and a full season of NARC racing that resulted in a third-place finish in points under their belts, Bates-Hamilton Racing will return to the tour with TK again behind the wheel in 2022 with their focus squarely on a championship.
Though this will only be their sophomore attempt in their joint effort at a NARC title, Bates and Hamilton are a pair of Californians with deep roots in the West Coast racing circuit that ultimately led to their paths crossing.
Bates began racing quarter-midgets at four years old and followed the familiar path into micros as he entered his teenage years. Around that time, he linked with a friend of his who owned a sprint car and began to lay the foundations of where he’s arrived today.
“We were the same age, so when I was like 16 or 17, I started working on that car and helping him,” Bates said. “I was still racing the micro and then helping on the sprint car. That’s really where I learned how to work on a sprint car, how to set up sprint cars, how to build one, how to square a front and rear end, all of the basic stuff.”
After working with his friend’s team for a handful of years, Bates took a brief break from racing to earn a college degree but quickly returned to the racetrack upon graduating. He began to get more driving experience and picked up a few notable wins including a night before the Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial. In the mid-2010s Bates shifted back to a more mechanical role ultimately leading to his current position.
Well before Roger Hamilton became co-owner of the car Tim Kaeding drives, his earliest days at a racetrack signaled the beginning of his lasting connection with the Kaeding family.
“I started as a fan from about six years old when my uncle took me to the races at the old San Jose Speedway where Howard (Kaeding) was racing super modifieds on the asphalt track,” Hamilton explained. “I started following the Kaeding’s from a pretty young age. When I was about 19, I went to work for Brent (Kaeding) at the shop and started working on Howard’s car for a couple seasons.”
Eventually Hamilton purchased his own sprint car and began to race. In 1991 he earned NARC rookie of the year honors. Shortly after the ’92 season, Hamilton backed out of the pit area and back into the stands as a fan as he needed to focus on his family.
The duo connected in 2018 when, after his kids had grown up, Hamilton had an itch to get involved again, specifically with Tim Kaeding’s career. Conveniently, Bates had just hired the two-time NARC champion at the beginning of that year, so Hamilton approached him at an early season race.
“There’s a lot of people in the pits that I don’t know who they are,” Bates said of the crowd Kaeding draws. “And this guy is standing there, he’s staring at the car. We’re getting left-rears on, getting loaded up a getting ready to go home, and this guy has been in the pit almost the whole time and everyone else has left. So, I went over there and said ‘Hey, did you have a good time at the races?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been following Tim a long time, and I’ve helped him out in the past… I want to help you guys out.’”
In their first year of Hamilton assisting the race team, Bates Racing claimed the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360 Sprint Car owner’s championship with Kaeding driving most of the year until an injury. Justyn Cox filled in to seal the title. With Cox in the seat, they nearly claimed the Trophy Cup as well.
In 2020, they created an official partnership, birthing Bates-Hamilton Racing. That same year they made the decision to prioritize 410 sprint cars and the NARC tour.
“Josh and I, we thought about how most of Tim’s experience was in a 410,” Hamilton said of the swap. “He liked the horsepower and the feel of the car with a 410, so we decided after running the 360 series after a couple seasons that it wasn’t the challenge that Tim needed or that we needed. We were ready to move up.”
Also motivating the move to chase the West Coast’s premier championship was a united confidence in Kaeding’s unparalleled abilities behind the wheel of a sprint car.
“When Tim is focused, he has the ability to do things with a racecar that I’ve never seen,” Bates said. “You see him do things, and for me as a driver I say, ‘You can’t do that. That’s not possible. How do you cheat the corner on the bottom and then still come off faster than the guy that ran the top?’”
“He is such a talented driver,” Hamilton said. “He’s done so much. He’s been racing sprint cars for 25 seasons. He’s accomplished a lot in that time frame. It’s kind of amazing just to see how he’s still can do the things that he does. There’s not a lot of drivers that can. He still has that desire and ability, obviously.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shrank the California racing calendar in 2020, limiting their chances at 410 races. The NARC campaign only managed to complete five features. TK wheeled the BHR machine in four of them and collected top-fives in every race.
Last year they completed their first full NARC tour together, collecting two wins, seven top-fives and 17 top-10s, leading to a third-place points result.
This year, they’ll not only tackle the full season again with hopes of moving up two spots in the standings to claim a title, but they’ve also put together a solid schedule outside of NARC. A handful of World of Outlaws and select 360 events complete their nearly 50-race calendar. Bates and Hamilton agree that the added seat time for TK in their car should lead to an even better performance in 2022.
“That’s one of those things we’re talking about this year is how to maintain that focus, how to build regularity and consistency in the racecar,” Bates said. “This is something we’re going to focus on a lot this year, and I’m super excited. We have a very full schedule.”
“I think it’ll be big to build continuity,” Hamilton agreed. “Tim, being one of the premier drivers out there, he gets requests to drive multiple cars for multiple people, and keeping him in our car for most of the year, I think, will build some continuity and get him some comfort.”
The days until the 2022 NARC campaign begins continue to dwindle, and Bates-Hamilton Racing are prepping for a strong run at Tim Kaeding’s third series title and their first as a team. The co-owners who head the operation, Bates and Hamilton, along with crew members, Bobby Bumgarner, Brad Kennedy and Scotty Taylor, have been busy in the shop readying for the season and what would be a meaningful championship if they can pull it off.
“It would be hard to put into words what that would mean,” Hamilton said of a potential title. “It would be really special, especially for me and my family because of our ties to the Kaedings. It goes back almost 40 years.”
The 2022 NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car season begins April 2nd at The Stockton Dirt Track. All races can be viewed lived on floracing.com. To view the full schedule, visit https://narc410.com/schedule/
Bates-Hamilton Racing would like to thank Teichert Construction, Vinyltech PVC Pipe, Clow Valve, Dan Ewart Sales, Advanced Drainage Systems, Custom Pipe & Fabrication, Tigre, North Bay Waterworks, SIP, Kaeding Performance, Kistler Engines, Maxim Chassis, Wilwood Brakes, Astro Titanium, Bell Helmets, K1 Racegear, B Scadden Design, Warehouse Paint, ARBO Tech, Performance Power Coating, Sellers Race Wings, Rod Tiner Racing, ART, Tiner-Hirst Enterprise and Vanlare Steering Repair.