COLUMBUS, Ind. — Sprint car driver McKenna Haase has inked a deal with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports to pilot the team’s 11th and final entry for the 33rd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
Haase, who won two 360 sprint car features at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway last season and is the only female driver to win a race in the history of the half-mile, black-dirt oval, will pilot the No. 71x Bullet-Toyota for the team that has won the last four Chili Bowls.
The 21-year-old native of Des Moines, Iowa, ran several midget races for Tucker-Boat Motorsports in 2018, but called the opportunity to join KKM the biggest of her career.
“It’s actually a crazy story as far as how all of this came together, because it took a lot of things falling into place for me to get in the door with KKM,” admitted Haase. “It started back in July … I called the Larson family trying to find an avenue forward, because I wanted to get into the midget scene and I didn’t feel like I quite had my foot in the door the way I wanted to on the sprint car side of things.
“They called Keith after I spoke to them and I just kept talking to Keith from there even as I was getting other opportunities to run in a midget,” she continued. “We finally got together at PRI and Keith let me come to the shop afterwards, and now here we are. He’s been great to work with so far and I feel like he really gets my passion for the sport and the goals I want to accomplish. I’m excited to drive for him.”
“We’re really excited to have McKenna on board with us for the Chili Bowl and we’re hopeful of building her program with us even further,” added team owner Keith Kunz. “She’s certainly proven that she wants to advance in the sport and she has the desire to work toward those goals. We look forward to seeing what she can do behind the wheel for us in Tulsa.”
Haase told SPEED SPORT that she feels she needs to shift toward more midget racing in order to advance further up the racing ladder.
“I think a combination of sprint car and midget racing is something that I’m both passionate about and will help me over the long haul,” she explained. “I don’t feel like just staying in sprint cars will be the best choice for me; I do need to diversify and working with Keith is one of the top places a driver can go to build themselves when it comes to midget racing and dirt racing.
“People have talked to me about if I would go midget racing for a while, but it was just something I hadn’t had the opportunity to pursue more heavily until now.”
Haase’s new goal of finding success in midget racing begins at the discipline’s biggest event, but she feels like she is prepared to make some noise during next week’s Chili Bowl.
“I just think that being able to get track time and understand the midgets more has been huge,” she said. “Experience and having the opportunities I’ve had, especially with Chad (Boat) out west and in DuQuoin last month, has prepared me for what to expect going into the Chili Bowl with Keith.
“I’ve never been a driver that’s raced a whole lot in a season, so I’m used to having to learn quickly and feel like we’ll be just fine when we get going in Tulsa.”
Haase is hopeful that she’ll be able to run a full season with the Kunz team.
“It would be a dream come true to run the full USAC tour and contend for a championship, but it comes down to logistics and seeing if we can put everything together in the right way,” noted Haase. “Things are looking up so far, but we still have some things to work out before we put the game plan together.
“My whole journey to this point has been a journey — the RAMS ride came about from the Knoxville Nationals, the Boat ride came about from the RAMS ride and now Keith has come along after I drove for Chad,” she added. “It’s been one thing after another and I’m looking forward to this next step.”