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Jase Kaser wants no part of becoming too popular with his new neighbors.

Sorry, but the reaction the just-turned 18 Norris High graduate is looking for when he shows up to race his No. 15J late model has nothing to do with winning friends.

It's more about making them think, "Oh, crap, Kaser's here."

Granted, the Lincoln driver acknowledges in the same breath that it's "going to be a long time" before he achieves that goal. But he makes no bones about his intentions.

"I want to be the guy to beat," he said.

Don't be surprised if Kaser, who will be in a star-studded Tri-Fecta Challenge field Friday night at I-80 Speedway, gets to where he wants quicker than he's letting on.

The son of former pro-am and late model racer Jay Kaser, he won the junior mini-sprint track title at Wavelink Raceway Park as a rookie in 2002.

By 2007, at the age of 14, he'd become the youngest Nebraskan to win a dirt late model A feature, and the next season, as a 16-year-old, was the youngest to win a dirt late model track championship when he topped the Grand National division at Mid-Nebraska Speedway.

Last year, Kaser moved up to a full-blown late model and mainly raced on the Nebraska-based SLMR series. But this year, he's branched out further and is currently third in points on the NCRA circuit, with four top-10 finishes in eight events.

Friday, the NCRA racers will be trading paint with those from the MLRA and MARS, making the I-80 show one of the most competitive of the season. ASCS Midwest Region sprints and modifieds are included on the attractive card.

At I-80's May 30 Alphabet Soup race, an event that paired MLRA and NCRA drivers, Kaser came from the 27th starting spot to finish 13th.

Most recently, at an NCRA show at Junction Motor Speedway on June 19, he came from far back to finish third behind Henderson, Colo., driver Kelly Boen and Aurora's Mike Wiarda. Boen, who won the Alphabet Soup race, is the NCRA points leader with five wins.

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"I was happy that, finally, I could see him," Kaser said. "Usually, he's lapping me. He's so good. He's going to be a threat this weekend."

So should Kyle Berck, the veteran from Marquette whom Kaser considers his mentor.

"Right when we got into late models, we got hooked up with Kyle. That's why I've been so successful," Kaser said. "I can call him and ask, if I'm struggling, ‘What do you think I should do?' He's a great help."

That said, there's no driver Kaser wants to beat more than Berck, the owner of multiple national series titles.

"It'll be awhile before that happens," Kaser said, "because he's just too good."

That said, Kaser's sponsors have reason to think they've made a wise investment in someone who's headed to college at Nebraska this fall to study mechanical engineering as a means to better racing.

"At the beginning of the year, I was getting really frustrated, because it seemed like we'd have a mechanical problem or I'd make a mistake on the setup," Kaser said. "But we've been getting progressively better each week.

"That (finish at Junction Motor Speedway) basically starts my season over again. But I try to take a step back and remember, ‘You're racing guys who have been racing late models 20 years or more.' It's hard, because I want to win. I want to run top five every night. Right now, where I'm at, it's not realistic."

Just the same, the neighbors have seen enough of the new kid to view him with a wary eye.

Just like he prefers.

Reach Curt McKeever at cmckeever@journalstar.com or 402-473-7441.

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