BELLEVILLE, Ill. — After scoring his first two national midget wins for Keith Kunz Motorsports earlier this year, Tucker Klaasmeyer is hoping to continue his strong start to the season during POWRi’s annual Illinois Speed Week, June 6-10.
Klaasmeyer was victorious in mid-April in back-to-back POWRi races at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill., and Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo., helping him to second in points with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League.
Those performances did more than just put up a lot of points for the Paola, Kan., driver. They helped him prove to himself that he could perform for one of the most well-known teams in midget car racing.
“It’s was unreal, honestly, to get my first two wins the way we did … doing it in the same weekend,” said Klaasmeyer. “The first one was pretty special, because it was that moment where we finally broke through and got the job done the way we needed to. It took me long enough – probably a little too long, truthfully – but then to back it up with another clean, smart race and win again was amazing.”
“If anything, that probably opened my eyes up to what was possible as much as anyone,” Klaasmeyer admitted. “It’s not that I didn’t believe I could do it, but until you actually go out and prove that and seal the deal, it can be hard to see that it’s possible. I have a lot more confidence now than I did before that, and we had some speed during Indiana Midget Week as well, so I’m feeling good going into these five nights that we can make some moves and hopefully accomplish some pretty cool things.”
Klaasmeyer got the opportunity to join Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports during the offseason and as soon as he got comfortable in the No. 27 Toyota-powered midget, the results began to materialize quickly.
He noted that while he was driving his own equipment, thoughts of driving for a premier team were in his mind but never quite seemed possible due to one circumstance or another.
“I always thought that I could run at the front with a team like Keith’s, but it just seemed like I could never find the speed all the time … I would just periodically have it and run well here and there,” Klaasmeyer explained. “Now, as I’m getting more confident at some of the places we’re going to and I know I have cars that have the speed every time we hit the race track, I feel like it’s in my hands more to be able to go out and perform. As a driver, that’s always the feeling you like to have and it really has me optimistic that there’s a lot more to come as we go through the summer.”
Klaasmeyer hopes to secure the Kunz team’s fourth Illinois Speed Week title and first since 2016, when Tanner Thorson claimed the crown. NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell won a pair of Illinois Speed Week championships in 2013 and 2015.
However, he knows he’ll likely have to fend off his teammates, including POWRi national points leader Ryan Robinson and current USAC points leader Logan Seavey, to do so.
“My teammates seem like they’re my toughest competition; all eight of them were, really, going back to Indiana Midget Week,” said Klaasmeyer. “We all have top-level equipment and we know what we’re capable of as drivers. Any of us can win on any given night, I feel like.”
Is a championship in the cards for Klaasmeyer?
He certainly hopes it could be, especially given his hot start on the POWRi side of things.
“I believe we can do it; obviously the resources and the pieces are all there,” noted Klaasmeyer. “The USAC stuff hasn’t started out too well, but I feel like I put myself in that position. I’ve been up front in most of the races I’ve ran and different things have just prevented us from getting finishes. Missing the feature at DuQuoin was a big blow.
“Overall, at the end of the day, I feel like I’m at Keith Kunz Motorsports to try and win races … and if the points put themselves together then we’ll do all we can to capitalize on that. We’re obviously in good position on the POWRi side, but this week can change a lot of things. We just have to race our race and see what happens.
“I’m excited though,” Klaasmeyer emphasized. “I feel like this is the best position I’ve ever been in during my career. It’s a great feeling.”
Illinois Speed Week kicks off Wednesday night at Belle-Clair Speedway.