‘Speed ​​Addict’ New Lenox Native on track for motorcycle racing success

NEW LENOX, IL — A photo of a crying baby sitting up in a diaper might seem like an odd source to draw passion from. But for Kevin Horney, it was precisely when he apparently started his need for speed.

Horney, a lifelong New Lenox resident and 2020 Lincoln-Way Central graduate, points to that photo of himself as one of the reasons he is where he is today. Horney looks at the photo from decades ago that he captured him crying as he points to his father and his brother speeding by on dirt bikes as the moment he knew he was born to ride a bike.

Horney took his first motocross ride at age 2. Now, 18 years later and years after he started racing dirt bikes, the car enthusiast turned professional motorcycle racer finds himself in the infancy of a career that took off much faster than he expected. but that seems to have no limits.

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A sports career that began when Horney was 6 and lasted until just before he started high school has taken off in a way that Horney, who has been working as a local estate agent with the Wexler Group, faster than he could have imagined. The transition from his early track racing experience to his first professional race last fall at the famed Daytona International Speedway lasted just three months, quickly changing the way Horney viewed the sport.

“I’m not too sure about the normal route people take, but for me it’s been extremely fast,” Horney told Patch this week. “It has been an experience that has changed my life.”

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Kevin Horney won a national championship and posted four second places in his first weekend of pro racing at Daytona International Speedway in October. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Horney)

Horney had always kept up with the biggest names in the sport, but said he initially stopped racing dirt bikes due to the number of injuries he suffered between the ages of 6 and 14. Despite that, all of his childhood idols were motocross racers and he named his first dog after motocross and stock car racer Ricky Carmichael, further sparking his addiction to speed.

Horney bought his first street bike in 2019, but then quickly sold it before turning his attention to a trail bike that would change everything. He found his way to the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, where he found the safe, controlled atmosphere much more inviting to ride than on the streets, where he admits he had encountered problems in the past.

After testing his skills on a track, where speeds can reach between 150 and 200 mph, Horney saw his passion for track racing take off, launching him on a quest to take his racing career to the next level.

Much of the credit for Horney’s fast-paced jump to the pro circuit went to Owen Johnson, who took notice of Horney’s social media posts and encouraged him to take his bike to the Joliet track. Johnson, who serves as the director of northern racing Track Time, an organization that hosts track days for motorcycle and car enthusiasts to test their skills in a controlled environment.

Within days of Horney making her first track appearance in Joliet in July, Johnson pushed Horney to the next step, which was a huge leap forward in the competitive level at which she was competing. While moving up the Track Time event rankings and going from beginner to intermediate to advanced can take years, Johnson watched Horney progress in a matter of weeks.

However, the sudden progression did not come without effort.

“I saw that he could apply what he was told and he rose through the ranks very quickly,” Johnson told Patch on Thursday. “For someone to put in the time, the dedication and the money that he invested, you could say that he really wanted it.

“He was relentless about it. He really wanted it. …And it was worth it.”

Over the next three months, Horney visited as many tracks as he could, becoming familiar with various layouts and racing surfaces. He knew that expanding his knowledge base would only pay off in his quest to pursue the biggest prize in track racing.

Kevin Horney now has his sights set on reaching the highest levels of professional motorcycle racing. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Horney)

Johnson provided Horney with the schedule for the 39th Championship Cup Series/ASRA Series Race of Champions at Daytona in early October. At the historic Daytona track that also hosts the Daytona 500, Johnson captured a national championship and placed second in four other races in what was his introduction to professional racing.

Since then, he has made plans to expand his racing schedule and has secured a sponsorship from Olson’s Custom Detailing in New Lenox. He now has his sights set on chasing down the biggest names in the sport and knows the effort it will take to make a name for himself in the sport’s biggest events such as MotoGP, which hasn’t fielded an American rider since 2015 when Nicky Hayden represented the USA in the global racing event.

It’s a tall order, Johnson says, but based on the way Horney’s career has taken off, finding that level of success isn’t out of the realm of possibility, he said.

“It’s a tough business and there will always be someone faster than you,” Johnson said. “That’s just the name of the game. But (Horney) has the potential to (get there). You just have to want it and go after it and then put in the work and the effort, and it’s possible.”

Being so young in his professional career, Horney has no idea what the future holds for him and for now, he’s just holding on for dear life as he tackles what he knows could be a major curve. But after finding success at Daytona just three months into his track career, Horney is ready for whatever the world of professional racing throws at him.

“Just knowing that I can compete at that level has helped me a lot with personal things in my life,” Horney said this week. “This is the one thing I’ve ever been good at, so (success) really made me feel better about myself and overall it’s life-changing in every way.”

He added: “I’ve never had anything like this where I’ve sacrificed so much and put in so much time and effort and people really believe in me and support me. And that’s the reason why I’m going to make this happen myself, just because people have been very supportive of me and I want to give it back to the people who have helped me.”

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