WHEATLAND, Mo. – It’s shaping up to be a memorable year for Tucker Klaasmeyer, who has already served notice that he is one of the rising stars in the national midget ranks.
The 22-year-old from Paola, Kansas, is second in POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League points, just 30 behind Californian and Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate Ryan Robinson.
Klaasmeyer captured his first national midget wins last month on back-to-back nights, claiming both the Arnie Knepper Memorial in Belleville, Ill., and a win at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo.
“That was pretty cool. It was probably the best weekend of my life,” Klaasmeyer said of his breakthrough wins. “It’s been a long time trying to get them. It was pretty cool to get it done.”
Klaasmeyer, in his first season driving a Toyota-powered car for the Keith Kunz Motorsports team, is eager to return to Lucas Oil Speedway on Saturday night for the seventh annual Impact Signs Awnings and Wraps Open Wheel Showdown.
“It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year,” Klaasmeyer said. “I think this will be my fourth time at Wheatland. Last year, we broke a motor leading the heat race and had to run the B. We made the (A) Feature and it was pretty slick, so we just couldn’t really get anything going after that.
“But I always enjoy going there. I get a lot of family and friends because it’s fairly close to home.”
Returning to Lucas Oil Speedway with his new team gives Klaasmeyer a certain swagger that might have been missing in the past. He said driving for Kunz, who has helped launch the careers of young drivers like Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, “is pretty awesome.”
“He has a hell of on operation,” said Klaasmeyer, who moved to Indianapolis full time earlier this year. “They really do things right and they keep everything maintained good. Keith … he’s a pretty cool guy.”
Klaasmeyer said being based in Indiana and focusing on racing full time has made a huge difference in his mindset.
“I don’t have anything else going on than racing and being at the shop,” he noted. “That helps because your mind is in it all the time, rather than skating off to something different. I think that really makes things stronger.”
Klaasmeyer grew up a race fan, admiring open-wheel stars Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Joey Saldana and Brian Brown. But unlike many youngsters who aspire to get into the sport, he didn’t begin racing until the age of 15.
Trips to the Chili Bowl Nationals with his dad and uncle further fueled his desire to get behind the wheel.
“We stepped into the racing world a little late, I guess, but then we got pretty hooked,” Klaasmeyer said. “I’ve never raced anything with a fender on it, on pavement or on dirt. I ran micros and a few sprint shows. But mainly midgets the last couple of years and before that, micros.”
After finishing second in POWRi National Midget League points a year ago, Klaasmeyer’s early success in 2018 has him thinking about chasing a championship.
“The first goal was to get a national win,” he said. “I guess now the goal is a USAC win and a points championship. Those things are definitely in my thoughts. I think it’s doable with these guys and this team. I just have to step up.
“I know that I have the right car. It’s definitely (two things) worth pursuing.”