PAOLA, Kan. — After several years of high-profile racing with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports in midgets, Tucker Klaasmeyer has been almost completely off the radar this season.
However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been behind the wheel, at least if one knows where to look.
Klaasmeyer moved home to Kansas following the 2019 season and has since spent his time building a winged sprint car program from the ground up.
He’s spent much of the pandemic-altered season racing weekly at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, with selected trips to other venues planned throughout the late summer and early fall.
While some teams were hit hard by the COVID-19 shutdown back in March, Klaasmeyer noted it benefitted his team, as it helped him put a very vital piece of the team puzzle into place.
“So, as far as what we’ve been doing this year, we’ve been trying to race Knoxville every weekend. We’ve been to Jackson a couple of times, but just when I got the cars put together … obviously we couldn’t race for three months or something like that,” Klaasmeyer recalled. “But it did actually help me find a crew chief. In that time, we were down and not able to race, we hired Scott (Vogelsong). So that was good. As unfortunate as the virus was and is, it helped me get more ready than I would have been.
“I feel like we’re getting better. I can lay down some laps by myself but racing in traffic is still kind of getting me a little bit.”
The team has taken shape with the support of many of the same sponsors that backed Klaasmeyer when he raced midgets. While the results haven’t necessarily been anything to write home about, Klaasmeyer knew from the start that his current plan would take time.
“It’s definitely hard to start from nothing,” said Klaasmeyer. “It’s hard to go out and buy all the equipment that you need right away. Luckily, I still have the sponsors that I had in the midget. But like I said, those couple extra months we had off really helped us get things accumulated and get things built like they should be and get the trailer ready. And to be honest, it was a pretty good break for me, too. It let me do a little bit of normal stuff. I got moved back home and I got all that lined out, and then was just working every day until it was time to go again.
“But I definitely wasn’t shy of the fact that I was going to be getting my teeth kicked in for a while. I don’t want to say renewed, but this has kind of brought back a lot of the fun for me in racing,” Klaasmeyer continued. “There’s a little more to the technical side of it, as far as getting everything ready and being a lot more involved with how the cars look. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do just for me, so I could live at home and I could race out at home and work a normal job during the week and all of those things. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
“I’ve got a lot of building and things left to do, but for now we’re just going racing and having fun.”
For Klaasmeyer, who started his major league dirt-track career in non-winged sprint cars and midgets before beginning to adjust to winged racing in select starts last year, running with a wing overhead consistently this year has been a shift compared to what he previously considered normal.
“It has been a bigger adjustment. I kind of was hoping they would relate a little more, but I think running Knoxville is probably the hardest way to get anything to relate to what I was doing,” he admitted. “But that’s why I wanted to run there. I feel like if I can get going to where I can pass some cars and get it right at Knoxville, I’m hoping that when we start going to other places and some smaller tracks we’re better off because we actually took one of the harder challenges and went straight into 410s at Knoxville.
“We’ve been putting down consistent laps and we’ve gone and tested a few times, and that’s helped us just getting everything lined out,” Klaasmeyer continued. “Scott brought a lot of knowledge with him, though, so we’re making progress.”
Klaasmeyer will step deeper into the pool this weekend by running with the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions in the Midwest, including a Saturday-night stop at Knoxville.
It’s all part of building a foundation with his operation and once he’s done that, Klaasmeyer hopes the results will begin to reflect off the baseline that he’s building.
“When I first started racing midgets, I would go out there and try like a crazy person to make a little more speed, but now it’s different,” Klaasmeyer said. “Now we have to approach things differently. We know we’re not where the established teams are yet. As of now, it’s rolled into the trailer every night and I haven’t pissed anyone off. I don’t want to go out there and make the guys that are doing it for a living mad. I don’t want to make it harder on them. If I’m slow, I stick to what I’m doing and don’t try to do more than I need to. I’m just waiting and learning.
“I feel like I’ve applied something different every night and we’re slowly putting it all together, and I think once it all starts coming together, we can click, and we can start turning some really good laps.”