September 11, 2001 was a day that changed America forever. it also changed a then 17 year old high school student and car enthusiast in Dodge City named Christopher Kruse.
“He worked in my shop from when he was in middle school, til he joined the military,” said Sprint Car owner Steve Hilker, whose race shop is in Cimarron. “When 9-11 happened he told his mom as soon as he was old enough to enlist, he was going to enlist.”
And Kruse did just that, joining the Army in 2004.
“He got deployed to Iraq and was a striker team leader leader,” said Hilker. “And was killed in Mukhisa, Iraq.”
Since Sergeant Kruse’s death, Hilker wanted to come up with a way to honor his friend. Earlier this year the idea finally became a reality in the form of the 9-11 Sgt Christopher Kruse 305 United Rebel Racing Series Sprint car.
“ He liked hot rods and he was always tinkering on them,” said Hilker. “This is kind of what we do for fun, so I guess that’s how these two ideas came together.”
Obviously a car numbered 9-11 turns heads when it turns laps and that’s kind of the idea, it’s all about drawing attention to Sergeant Kruse and what he sacrificed for his country.
“It brings a whole new meaning and motivation of wanting to win in a car that has so much meaning behind it because of Sergeant Kruse,” said Ty Williams, who piloted the 9-11 car this past weekend at the Belleville High Banks.
For Hilker, the reasoning behind the cars number is pretty simple.
“I want people to ask who is Chris Kruse and then we can tell who he was, why he went,” said Hilker. “It allows us to go race these race cars and they’re deployed. People will ask who was he we can tell his story.”
And that in its self is a victory for this race team.