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HomeBusinessMontana BusinessUM Law Alumnus Races to Success

UM Law Alumnus Races to Success

UM law alumnus Kyle Fickler is chairman of the board of the Specialty Equipment Market Association. By Phil Stempin, UM News Service

MISSOULA ­– Kyle Fickler grew up in Drummond, Montana. From a young age, he was always drawn toward motorsports and racing. He loved tinkering on cars and figuring out how to make them go faster and with more power.

“My cousin took me to my first drag race in Spokane when I was around 14 years old,” said Fickler. “I was hooked and wanted to do whatever it took to be a part of this world.”

After graduating from Drummond High School, it was time for him to move on to college. He ended up picking the University of Montana, just down the road from his hometown. During his undergraduate days, Fickler continued his passion for motorsports.

“I wanted to be the next Richard Petty,” said Fickler. “But I knew that continuing my education would help accomplish any goal I set for myself in the future.

Graduating with a business degree, he wanted to continue his education. This is when he met with Martin Burke, dean of Montana’s Law School at the time.

“He asked me why I wanted to pursue a career in law,” Fickler said. “I told him it was for me to become a better drag racer. This must have piqued his interest because he let me into school.”

Fickler was always business-minded and focused his legal studies in ways that would help him in the future. The skillsets he learned during law school have continued to serve him well into his career.

“Law school instilled a different kind of confidence in me,” said Fickler. “Or rather, removed any lack of confidence I had in working with people and operating businesses.”

After graduating, Fickler moved to Missouri where he co-founded a small firm representing small businesses. He continued drag racing and working on cars. This was around the time he started going to the Specialty Equipment Market Association and Performance Racing Industry (now owned by SEMA) trade shows.

The SEMA trade association consists of a diverse group of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, publishing companies, auto restorers, street-rod builders, car clubs, race teams and more. They focus on all things car parts, including lobbying efforts around keeping the right to modify and repair automobiles.

“SEMA puts on the biggest aftermarket automotive trade show in the world, and the biggest trade show of any kind post-Covid,” said Fickler. “With over a million square feet of auto parts manufacturers, I was in heaven.”

Fickler started meeting business owners and players in the industry.

He continued to drag race, winning two NHRA National event wins to add to the AHRA World Championship he won while in law school. His big break came meeting Steve Matusek, the founder of what became an industry leading fuel systems brand Aeromotive, followed by the opportunity to bring in private equity to acquire Weld Racing Wheels. These experiences helped him grow in leadership roles within SEMA.

Fickler currently serves as chairman of the board for SEMA and is director of business development at ProCharger. This puts him in the position to follow his passion for racing.

“Fixing up and modifying hot rods is the American Way,” said Fickler. “I work every day to help people keep the right to modify, the right to enjoy and the right to repair.”

Fickler says his law degree touches everything he does.

“I consider myself a ‘recovering attorney’,” joked Fickler. “Getting your law degree opens doors and creates opportunities, no matter what you go into.”

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