Last fall on an episode of “The Dale Jr Download,” NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. touted Kyle Weatherman as an underfunded driver who he wishes he could put in an additional JR Motorsports entry. That hit the 25-year-old right in the feels.
“I’m a driver that stays humble and quiet, keeps my head down, works hard and digs,” Weatherman told NASCAR.com last week. “I’m going to do that no matter what, but just to get some reassurance is nice every once in a while.”
This season, Weatherman remains a part-time competitor in the Xfinity Series after running much of the schedule in each of the last three seasons. In addition to his part-time on-track schedule, he’s freelancing for teams to help get their cars to the track. He’s also working on the Chevrolet simulator with Hendrick Motorsports.
Last year, Weatherman put an emphasis on assisting Jesse Iwuji Motorsports in its first year of existence. He drove the car to an eighth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and posted 10 top-20 finishes in 18 starts.
Tracking top 20s isn’t desirable, but when it’s for teams that are fighting funding, it stands out. And with some of these teams, like DGM Racing, he’s had remarkable runs, including an eighth-place result last year at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Some people in the racing industry have noticed that Weatherman is making the most of every opportunity.
“I just prepare really hard and take it very personally,” Weatherman said. “I’m always hands-on with whatever car I’m driving. I’m to a point where a lot of people respect what I’ve done and am capable of doing and are willing to give what I need.”
On the driving side, Weatherman didn’t see the track this year until the third race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Vic Reynolds, co-owner of Our Motorsports, handpicked Weatherman to be the driver of the No. 02 Chevrolet. In Weatherman’s first two outings, he posted a pair of top 20s. In the team’s other nine races that Weatherman hasn’t competed in, it only has two other top 20s.
Collin Fern, owner of the new FRS Racing team, which is running a partial schedule, also wanted Weatherman behind the wheel. So much so that he tabbed the Missouri native as the team’s first driver, originally set for Richmond Raceway until qualifying was canceled due to weather. Instead, he waited one more week at Martinsville Speedway to hop in the No. 96 car.
“I knew we were going to have to qualify into the race to make the show, so it was a no-brainer when he was available,” Fern said. “He is very handy with the cars, so it was like having another set of true mechanic hands on the car to prep it for Richmond and Martinsville. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else.”
Weatherman qualified 27th and finished 34th in FRS’ debut, falling 52 laps short of completing the full distance due to a suspension issue.
When Blaine Perkins was ruled out for Dover Motor Speedway after a vicious crash at Talladega Superspeedway, Our leaned on Weatherman at Dover. And though he finished a season-high 14th, Weatherman doesn’t count that result as his highlight of the season thus far.
“We had good speed [at Dover], but there was a time and place at Phoenix where we passed two JR Motorsports cars and was running ninth in a solid field as well with no falloff either,” Weatherman said. “As far as a full race put together, Dover is probably the best and completed where realistically we finished as good as we could have.”
After using Brett Moffitt as its primary simulator driver last year, Hendrick Motorsports sought Weatherman for the role this year. It’s a new gig for him over the last six months, as he’s been in the Chevy simulator a handful of times on behalf of Hendrick.
“We recognize that Kyle overachieved in some of the equipment he was in and had some good runs on the Xfinity side,” Kevin Meendering, competition development manager for Hendrick, said. “He was doing some simulator testing for JRM, and those guys spoke highly of him, so we gave him an opportunity.”
Weatherman’s role is to give Hendrick feedback and work on the correlation to make the team’s sim model more accurate. The team then looks at his data and compares it to the on-track SMT data to improve its model.
“I strive at giving really good feedback of what the car is doing, how it’s handling and reacting,” Weatherman noted. “I think the opportunity that I’ve got there this year to help diagnose different setups and situations and make that even better.
“I like being a part of what Chevy has going on and being a part of that family,” he said. “Hopefully a home opens up shortly where I can have a full-time home and showcase what I’m able to do.”
While Weatherman isn’t giving up on making starts in 2023 – his next race is scheduled to be at Atlanta – he’s putting more of a focus on how to be full time in 2024.
In previous years, Weatherman believes he’s made some fundamental errors while trying to overachieve. Now, he’s at the point where his awareness is on point.
“I’m at a point in my career where it’s lining up to where I’m waiting for that next good opportunity or the correct funding to come through and go to this next level, is where I’m at,” Weatherman said. “My race craft is ready for that situation where if I were to get in one of these race-winning-ready cars that we would fire off the truck and be ready to go.”