Timothy Steele Is on the Road to Indy
From an early age, the compass in Timothy Steele’s North Star has been gently directing everyone’s attention to auto racing. As a toddler, he only played with Matchbox cars that had a number or a stripe on them, he designed race tracks out of chalk on the driveway so that he could race his Big Wheel and pop it up on two wheels. Then when it rained that meant it was time for a new track with a different shape. As he hit the ripe old age of four, he was beginning to time his laps.
Parents Robert and Kim Steele knew that this was his focus and as they continued to invite him to try new activities, he continued coming back to the race cars. Over the next few years, he continued to change the track layout after each rainstorm. Eventually, he wore down the plastic tires on the Big Wheel and it broke, rendering his pre-school racing days over. Sometimes it is hard to see a message in plain sight.
But one day, family friend Kenny Mikesell stopped by and saw Timothy in action and he offered to let him drive one of his race karts at the Ben Hur Speedway in Crawfordsville, which is a 1/3-mile dirt oval track. Eventually, Robert and Kim accepted the invitation.
Timothy drove 60 mph like he had been waiting his whole life for the invitation. When the session ended he continued driving.
“We were thinking that he just missed the cue to come in, everyone laughed as he kept going, but actually the brakes failed and he was unable to slow down enough to enter the pits,” Robert says.
Rather than fear all they saw was pure joy. Plans for a quick test drive turned into an opportunity to stay and race the kart.
Happy to accept the invitation, Timothy calmly responded, “Sure, but can you do something about the brakes?” His brakes were fixed, he entered the race and finished in 5th place. Timothy reacted to the “brake failure shenanigans” saying, “After the weekend was over, I thought, ‘this was fun, I want to do this more!’” Now the North Star was shining brightly, and it seemed that they had found their answer. He was only 10 years old.
After several months, Timothy had more success and became more competitive. So Robert reached out to IndyCar and Formula One Race Car legend, Derek Daly to ask him for guidance. Daly arrived and brought Canadian National Champion kart racer Garett Grist. It seems that Timothy knew that he was ready to move off the dirt oval and race on asphalt road courses, so Daly offered to set up a test drive at Whiteland Raceway Park. With the help of the Indy-based Top Kart race team, Daly set up the drive and Timothy loved everything about the turns and the grip of the asphalt.
Knowing that Timothy was becoming stronger and interested in competing at the next level, Robert spoke with Daly and they talked about the expense. As a small business owner with a young family, Robert expressed his concerns about cost.
“You need to find a way because Timothy is really good,” Daly said.
Daly was equally enthused about Timothy’s work ethic, attitude and especially his “willingness to ask a simple, yet important question, ‘What can I do to get better?’”
In the interim, Robert established a small business around Timothy.
“We found a way to race competitively on a limited budget,” Robert says. “And one of the ways that we do that was to drive used karts.” In a world of big budgets, big sponsors and expensive new equipment, the Steele family has put their investment in a secret weapon, their friend Graham Quinn who was a race engineer for Andretti Autosport and is now IMSA LMP3 Team Manager.
Quinn advises Timothy Steele on the art and science of racing, they watch on-board videos, and he coaches Timothy on his driving technique. The strategy seems to be working. Quinn has been instrumental in the development of his race craft over the last four years. In that time, “Timothy has moved from mid-pack to lead pack, and he’s won many races thanks to Graham’s effort,” Robert says.
“He is forever trying to be better,” Daly adds. “He watches, listens and studies every aspect of the sport to give himself an opportunity to become the best he can be. He’s in the unusual position that I think he could become a successful driver or an engineer. He’s a great example of someone who stretches for what might be possible.”
Apparently, he has taken the advice to heart. In the 2020 Stars Championship Series, Timothy was the Series Champion. In the previous season, Timothy was the Class Champion in Yamaha Supercan Junior at New Castle Motorsports Park, and he had podium finishes in the last three USAC Battle at The Brickyard races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the meantime, Timothy is still in school at Westfield High School. He is a straight-A student, takes honors classes and was invited to join the National Honor Society. He did not join due to conflicts with his racing schedule.
He is committed to excellence and is willing to put in the time necessary to be successful. He takes the same detailed approach when preparing for a race. Currently, he races two times a month locally or does one national event.
But to be successful at this level, it takes a family team. The entire family is involved and everyone makes sacrifices to keep Timothy on track, literally. Robert owns Kennedy, LLC and, as a small business owner, he is engaged in all aspects of both his business and the business of racing. Timothy’s mother, Kim, is a special education teacher and is not always able to travel. His sister Kennedy is in the seventh grade but they travel to the races when they can and believe in him. Timothy’s fans span both coasts and every race track in between.
Team Timothy is definitely moving in the right direction. Currently, they are actively seeking sponsors that are interested in being part of Timothy’s road to Indy. For more information about Timothy Steele and his race team, contact Robert Steele at SteeleCarreras@gmail.com