A career in dirt track racing spans 36 years.
Harlin M. Kittleson, 75, of Edgerton, Wisconsin has been interested in all forms of auto racing since 1982. In 1982, he became a crew member for the #97 team owned by Hans Lein. Harlin and his wife Linda started Edgerton Floral & Garden Center in 1968.
Their oldest daughter Kimberly, 51, remembers spending many nights at the track in Sun Prairie when she was little.
In the 1990s, Harlin would use some of his business earnings to purchase two midget cars of his own. Midgets are small racecars run on both dirt and asphalt surfaces. They have a high power-to-weight ratio and have been around in the United States since the 1930s. Today they are raced on tracks all over the world.
New cars, race-ready can cost between $40,000 to $60,000. They are capable of speeds of up to 150 mph depending on the size of the track, and the setup of the car. Harlin has spent his entire career as an owner and mechanic. His racecars are always fast and have run in the top 10 in points almost every season. His mechanical expertise has gained him three, mechanic of the year awards
Harlin won his first championship in 1996 with driver Randy Koch in the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association’s (BMARA) series. The series primarily hosts events at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Angell Park has been hosting the events, put on by Sun Prairie’s volunteer fire department since 1946.
In 2000, Harlin became the president of the BMARA, a position he maintained until 2014. The series prospered under his unflinching leadership, but it was no easy feat. Sponsors, other car owners, and track supervisors come with their share of challenges.
Harlin has also crossed paths with many former NASCAR drivers who cut their teeth in dirt track racing including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley, Jason Leffler, and Kasey Kahne. Kahne even drove Harlin’s #2 car for a short period in the early 2000s.
In addition, to running his cars in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma almost every year, Harlin has also traveled overseas to New Zealand. Auckland driver Michael Pickens drove Harlin’s #2, painted black at the time in the New Zealand Midget Grand Prix in 2008.
After retiring from the family greenhouse business in early 2012, Harlin sold his cars to a long-time friend, and former driver, Hans Lein.
Lein’s father Lars was a champion driver in the early years of the BMARA, and the Lein Acres farm outside of Edgerton served as a sponsor on Harlin’s cars from the beginning. However, racing is expensive and without a steady stream of income, the cars needed new ownership. Harlin stayed on as lead-mechanic.
Harlin’s brother Dwayne Kittleson, has also been a long-time member of the #2 race team.
Later, Lein wanted to get into the Silver Crown and World of Outlaws sprint car series, so he made a deal and sold the midgets. Harlin then went on to become lead mechanic on the #15, for Huston Solution Racing with five-time BMARA champion, Scott Hatton as the driver. Harlin stayed on with Huston for a few years, but Hatton was difficult to deal with as a driver, and conflicts of interest in car setup resulted in Harlin parting ways with him. Huston would later sell Harlin the same midget chassis from the number 15 car. Huston stayed on as a sponsor and with some string-pulling, Harlin hired veteran driver Brandon Waelti in 2015 to drive the car. In 2016, Waelti would dominate the season and win Harlin his second BMARA championship 20 years after his first.
Waelti retired from racing after that season. In 2017, Harlin repainted the car in its classic red color and gave it the #2 once more.
Driver Zach Boden came on to drive the car in 2017. However, Boden struggled to gain confidence in the midget series. Boden came up from the Badger 600 Micro Midget series. The Micros are much smaller and slower than full-sized midgets. After three seasons and only one victory, team disputes resulted in the purchase of a new car by Boden’s father.
Harlin sold his Huston chassis and the Bodens parted ways midway through the 2019 season. Harlin has since purchased a new chassis with the financial support of the Hustons and is currently scouting for a new driver for the 2020 season.
Harlin’s career in the local racing scene has spanned over three decades and has connected him with racing’s best all the way to the NASCAR level. He’s garnered praise from local communities and sponsors through his vast array of connections in racing and business. Over the course of his career, he’s accumulated approximately 35 awards and is spoken highly of by those who know him. With the help of his loyal team, 2020 looks to be another great season.