Sprint Car Insider- Driver Exclusive. EASTON, Calif. (February 15, 2019) > Caeden Steele rounded out the 2018 season as one of the most decorated Restricted Class drivers in the nation.
Coming away with two track championships, twelve wins, thirty-three top 5’s, and forty-one top 10’s, in just 47 starts, Caeden Steele had a season to remember aboard his Tarlton and Sons, Hutchinson Equipment, #121 PMP in 2018. His results speak volumes about not only his driving talent, but his ability to withstand pressure. Being just his second full season in the Restricted class, he’s shown his ability to learn, and adapt quickly. Also, he clearly carries a champions persona, no matter how much experience he has compared to the field, he holds onto a champions mentality.
While his numbers were impressive, the adversity he overcame throughout the course of the season may be the determining factor in how he came out of 2018 with so much hardware.
Steele’s 2018 kicked off by missing the box by just one position at Dixon for Round number one of the King of California Series. While Steele came Into the KofC season as a heavy favorite the battle at the front materialized quickly between all the heavy hitters. National Champions, Corey Day, and Colby Thornhill, found themselves at the front of the back as Steele went right to battle with them, just as it was the three of them predicted to be the three of them in the title fight. However near the end of main at round one Steele wound up relenting third to eventual Hard Charger, Eli Bookout.
Steele quickly earned redemption by taking the runner up spot during his first appearance of the year at Delta Speedway the same weekend. A pair of fourths headlined Steele’s opening weekend on the home tracks before he broke through the next weekend.
Round 3 of the King of California series swept through Plaza Park on April 27. Steele picked up his first W of 2018. His early performance in the KofC series had him in the thick of contention. He rounded out that weekend third at Lemoore. Over the next two weekends Steele went undefeated by winning at Delta, and then Lemoore. As the King of California Series shifted back to the north, Steele was the hottest driver in the class. Everything was playing to his favor until that fateful night in Dixon.
Round 5 of the King of California series proved to be a pivotal turning point for Steele.
He was driving with supreme confidence, he had speed, and he had conviction. That was until the technical Dixon track reached up and handed him his first blow of the year. While battling Dylan Bloomfield for the race win, Steele drove it hard Into turn one and the car began to bicycle hard. He kept it on the gas, until the car bounced once more, and sent him up and over in a violent manner.
He was okay. But this would serve as his first DNF of the season, and the first major incident he’d have to rebound from.
Over the next several weeks Steele worked to gain his confidence back. In eight races after the crash, he finished second once, and only twice top three. Finally, on June 16, at Delta Speedway, he broke through and emerged victorious. Caeden Steele nabbed his 4th victory of the season. From that point it was apparent Caeden Steele was BACK.
He skipped the Outlaw Nationals and rolled into California Speedweek riding that wave of momentum once again. Night one of Speedweek ended with sixth in a hard charging effort. Night two at Delta he landed on the podium with 3rd. Going into night three, Steele put himself in prime position to grab ahold of the week. But, the hand of hard luck would reach up and punched him again.
While in position to claim the momentum it all unraveled. On lap number one, of the 25-lap main event, Steele tried to make a big move with only a little bit of room. Again he found himself upside down and tumbling into turn one hard. Just when he had his confidence soaring he was humbled once again.
However a 4th Place rebound to close out the 2018 edition of California Speedweek did wonders for his mentality moving forward. This time it only took him a week to find his way back to victory. He won night two of the Jet Bowl Classic at Lemoore Raceway. Overall the month of July was rather kind to Caeden Steele. Just a couple of weeks later he added another milestone accomplishment to his resume.
Caeden Steele is the 2016 Tulsa Shootout Jr Sprint Champion. Like most Driller winners it is considered his marquee accomplishment. But Saturday night of the 2018 Clay Cup offered a glimpse of what’s to come on the 600’s and beyond. Steele earned the nickname Iceman this year because he seemingly never lets the size of the stage, or the weight of the show, weigh on his shoulders. Grabbing third in one of the closest contended big races, lathered with superstar level talent, spoke to where Steele belongs on the list of naturals with uncapped potential.
⁃He is very high up on that list. Watch out.
Coming home for the months of August, September and October the home stretch represented the opportunity for Steele to close out stronger than he started while writing his own legacy.
He did just that.
Steele picked up two more race wins in August. This is alongside three top-fives, and two top tens, while he did not finish outside the top ten once. As September came, the very first race of the month was Steele’s lone blemish on paper. He finished 13th on the night at Delta, due to a mechanical issue. But he turned around and drove to victory the very next night. From there he stepped up his game by not finishing outside of the top 5 in the entire month of September.
The last race of September kicked off a very nerve racking stretch for Steele. His two track titles were on the line, and both very closely contested. September 29, was the Budweiser Grand Prix at Lemoore Raceway. Caeden Steele came in just a few points ahead of a surging Gauge Garcia. Garcia had been seizing the momentum everywhere he had gone leading up to this race. He was proven to be a very worthy combatant. Both would trade punches and take it down to the wire on this night.
Garcia nabbed Quick time just faster than Steele. Give the up to Garcia. Steele would have to turn in one special championship run to earn his title.
That run would come in the heat race.
Starting from the third row the heat race would come to be the difference maker. Steele was able to climb through the heat and take the win from the third row. Those points were pivotal. As the main event took off, Steele did everything he could to maintain the lead, but could not fend off the surging Garcia. Garcia did everything in his power to beat Steele for the title that night but it all came back down to those couple crucial heat race points.
After it was all said and done, Caeden Steele was crowned your 2018 Lemoore Raceway Restricted Class champion by just the slimmest of margins.
The very next weekend it was all on the line again at Delta Speedway. This weekend Steele had a gap but not nearly enough to be considered breathing room. When the main event when green all Steele had to do was finish ahead of, or keep Caden Stoll within sight. The two battled all main long as Steele kept Stoll right there In front of him to control his own destiny.
When the checkered flag waved Caeden Steele’s 7th place finish was enough to seal the deal. Caeden Steele earned his second title of 2018 by becoming the Delta Speedway track Champion.
The off-season exhibition races that close the season offered Steele the chance to silence his critics with conviction. If anyone doubted the crowning of Steele as Champion Lemoore or Delta, those sentiments would be quickly proven wrong with Cal Cup And Turkey Bowl. Caeden Steele came to play after the titles were won and the pressure was off.
The Cal Cup was perhaps the closest thing Steele knows to poetic justice up to this point. As Gauge Garcia seemed to be dominating the entire event Steele turned it on when it counted most. Garcia gathered a huge lead in the main And looked to be in control. But Steele got into second and started clicking off laps. Eventually the 121 caught the 21 and passed him for the win. It was redemption served.
The Turkey Bowl at Delta ended the same way. After the KofC finale there the talk of being the fastest driver of the season was in question to some around the pits. But Caeden Steele unequivocally destroyed those thoughts with his Steve Kinser type of domination of the Turkey Bowl. No Car on the property had anything for Caeden Steele on that night. His season wasn’t over just yet either. Steele completed the off-season sweep when he won both nights of Turkey Night at Plaza to round out the year.
The 2018 season saw Caeden Steele pick up two track championships, two major race championships, a national podium, and 12 victories. His ability to overcome adversity came to the forefront and he held his composure down to the wire. Caeden Steele earned every aspect of Championship accolades. He proved himself on all fronts.
All in all 2018 by the numbers says Steele won 25% of his races by taking 12 out of 47. His top 5 Percentage sat at 70% with 33 out of 47. Following the Trend his top ten was even better at 87% with 41 top 10’s in just 47 races. His average finishing position comes out as 7.531 including the fluctuating results from the few bad nights. He only finished outside of the top 10 a total of 6 times all season. That is how one wins a title.
The 2018 Lemoore Raceway track champion earned 4 of his 12 wins on the fast 1/5 mile. He earned three of his wins at Plaza Park And with an astound 5 wins on the surface of Delts Speedway his winning record boasts strong versatility as well. Caeden Steele is a true champion.
After just two years in Restricted, Steele feels like he had won all there is to win in the class, and it’s time for Further progression. See Caeden Steele mixing it up with the big dogs in 2019 as he embarks on his Rookie Super 600 campaign.
Caeden Steele would like to cordially thank all his sponsors and supporters for making 2018 so memorable as well.
• Special Thanks to:
Tarlton and Sons
• 2018 Season Stats:
Top 5: 33
Top 10: 41
Avg Finishing pos: 7.351
Win % 25%
Top 5% 70%
Top 10% 87%
• Wins by Track:
Plaza Park: 3
Lemoore Raceway: 4
Delta Speedway 5
2018 Lemoore Raceway Restricted Champion
2018 Delta Speedway Restricted Champion
2018 California Cup Champion
2018 Turkey Bowl XVIII Champion
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