Kris Hool knows his racing career on the Top Alcohol Funny Car circuit could have been easier, and probably more successful, if he would have left Wyoming. But Hool, who was born and raised in Casper, and his brother Kevin, who serves as the crew chief for the No. 7 dragster, couldn’t bring themselves to leave their home state.
“We thought that we should have moved to Vegas or Indianapolis years ago,” Kris Hool said during a phone interview Monday, “but we were born and raised in Wyoming, and we love it here. We want to put Wyoming on the map on the drag racing tour.”
The Hools are starting to do just that, although it’s taken nearly two decades.
Kris Hool enters this weekend’s National Hot Rod Association event in Brainerd, Minn., tied for 11th in the Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Funny Car national standings and is second in the Central Region standings. Hool is also coming off his second career win last month at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
“We had some tough luck earlier in the season,” the 47-year-old Hool said, “but the car is running good now. At Norwalk, we didn’t have the fastest car, but we had the most dominant and consistent car there.”
Hool’s racing career began in 1986 after purchasing a 1978 Trans-Am from a friend.
“I bought it from him, and that’s right when the track in Douglas had opened up,” Hool said. “I had never been keen on drag racing; I was always big on monster trucks. Kevin and I rebuilt it and started bracket racing down in Douglas.
“That’s where we got our start.”
Three years later, Hool bought a 1969 Camaro and ran Super Street. Then, in 1994, Hool joined the Funny Car circuit, competing primarily in Douglas and at Bandimere Speedway just outside of Denver. Today, Hool's No. 7 dragster sports a Grimace-purple and white color scheme, but the brothers also have a concept design for a scheme that features the Wyoming state flag.
But with the next closest track -- Brainerd International Raceway -- more than 800 miles away, financing their racing career hasn’t been easy.
“That’s one of the tough things about racing out of Wyoming is that we do have to travel so far,” Hool said. “We always felt that someone from Wyoming would step up and help us, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“We always went after the one big sponsor, so that they could have their name down the side of our trailer. But we’ve been trying that for years, and it just hasn’t come about.”
After the win at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals last month, Kris and Kevin devised a new business model. Instead of pursuing one large sponsor, the Hools are diversifying their approach and seeking multiple sponsorships at smaller monetary levels. It would fund a full national tour for 2014, Hool said, and the new approach has been well received.
With the new business model in place, Kris, who, along with Kevin, owns K&K Motorsports in Evansville, is ready to refocus on racing. It helps that this week’s race -- the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals -- is at the Brainerd International Raceway.
“There are a lot of firsts for me in Minnesota,” he said. “That’s where I finished my license passes, and that’s where I got my first round win. It’s also where we won our first national event in 2011.
“And coming off the win in Norwalk, we feel like we’ve got the car running well, and we can get another win.”
Even though the wins haven’t come as frequently as Hool would like, the thrill of racing a dragster that can reach speeds of 265 miles per hour on the 1,000-foot track remains, even after 19 years on the circuit.
“Every run is a new challenge,” Hool said. “I’m still nervous before every pass, but once the car starts, the adrenaline gets going, and I just tune everything else out except for what I have to do.
“I still remember my first run. I started the car, did a burnout, backed it up, staged the car and hit the throttle and took off. Even doing that ... just hitting the throttle for a second and coasting through the pass, I was two seconds faster than I had ever been in my Camaro.
“I was hooked.”