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NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Kirk Pfannenstiel is piloting the sport compact owned by Gary Haselhorst this season.

Pfannenstiel now behind the wheel of red-rocket sport compact

It was only a matter of time. That's what Kirk Pfannenstiel was thinking.

For most drivers, that's what they are thinking when getting behind the wheel of a different car.

In Pfannenstiel's case, though, that thinking -- and adjustment period -- lasted all of one race. That's how long it took him to find the winner's circle this year in the sport compact class.

The Hays High School senior is no stranger to the class. He's competed in it the last few seasons.

He was no stranger to victory lane either.

But when he got behind the wheel of the red sport compact this season, he already knew what the car was capable of.

That's because he had watched it win multiple races last year at RPM Speedway in Hays under the piloting of Ellis' Monte Honas.

When Honas moved up into the hobby stock class after last season, the driver's seat was open in Gary Haselhorst's car.

Pfannenstiel was more than happy to oblige when asked to drive it this year.

"I knew it was fast from the beginning," Pfannenstiel said. "I didn't know it was that fast and how low you can run your tires on that car without rolling them over. It kind of surprised me. But Monte Honas' setup he told me to run on it is really working well for me right now."

Pfannenstiel won his second night out in the car, and the race wasn't even close. He jumped to the lead and pulled away for the win Saturday in the red rocket -- sporting the No. 86 this year as opposed to Honas' 19H the last few seasons.

"I'm really excited now after getting that win,"  Pfannenstiel said. "It kind of showed me how much I can play with yet and how fast I can really go. I can set my limitations by that."

Having a capable driver behind the wheel doesn't hurt. And Honas filled that role last year while dominating the sport compact division in Hays.

"It's built lower to the ground, and the shocks have come from the factory," Honas said. "That helps with traction and how the car handles."

Now, it's Pfannenstiel's turn to pilot the car to victory lane and leave other drivers wondering what just flew by them.

"This one is significantly faster," Pfannenstiel said about the comparison of his car this year compared to the one he drove last season. "It's the car type and how it is. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's been fast from the beginning -- and it's still fast now."

He hopes to parlay that into track titles at Hays and WaKeeney this year, something Honas accomplished in Hays in 2012. Honas missed the first points race last season while recovering from a back injury, spoiling his chances at repeating the track title.

But he won 10 consecutive races before finishing third at Fall Nationals VII, the best finish by a driver from northwest Kansas.

"I like going and watching him and seeing how he does in it,"  Honas said.

Pfannenstiel toyed with the idea of moving to the hobby stock class this year as well.

"I was seriously considering going up to hobby stock this year," Pfannenstiel said. "But after some thinking and having family stuff, I figured I would just stay in this class because I will be going off to college next year and need to save up as much money as I can. ... Plus, if I moved up to hobby stock and wouldn't be able to race for four years with me being in college, it wouldn't make much sense going into a hobby stock and running it for one year and coming back four years later and try it all over again. It just made sense to stay in this class, then jump right in to hobby stock."

Now, he's glad he stayed.

"It was a very good offer to take," Pfannenstiel said.

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net