Since he was born, Kasey Kleyn has been at the race track watching his dad race. Now, 10 years later, the young fifth grader from Quincy, Washington is making the trek with his family 900 miles south to race Junior Late Models at Madera Speedway (CA).
Kleyn has spent the last few years racing Bandoleros full time at different tracks across the west coast and captured multiple wins along the way. Now, he will strap into a full size 300 horsepower Late Model and rip around one of the most nationally-known Junior Late Model tracks in the country.
For Kleyn, he’s been waiting for this moment for a long time.
“I’ve spent almost every Saturday night of my life during the summer at race tracks. I’ve dreamed about one day driving a Late Model and now that day has finally come,” Kleyn told Speed51.com. “I’ve watch my dad race and win in his Late Model and now hopefully we can do the same.”
Kleyn is a second generation racer. His dad Mitch is a winner on the Northwest Super Late Model Series and three-time championship runner-up.
“It’s very nerve-racking as a dad having him go out there in a Late Model, but we wouldn’t have him doing it if we didn’t think he was ready,” Mitch Kleyn said. “He’s shown a lot of improvement as a driver and has a lot of drive to do better. It will take him a little bit to get used to the car but once he has seat time, I think he will be contending for wins.”
The Junior Late Model program at Madera Speedway has gained national attention from being the first in the nation to allow 10-16 year olds to race full-size, restricted motor Late Models. Drivers have flocked to the track from around the country to get experience and exposure with all the races being televised on MAVTV. Some of the top rising stars in NASCAR came through the program, such as Hailie Deegan, Jeese Love and more.
With his whole family behind him, Kasey hopes that he can add his name to the list.
“My dream is to hopefully make it in NASCAR,” Kleyn said. “It’s a long ways away but getting the start now at Madera will help me get closer.”
Racing at a young age is nothing new to the Kleyn family. Mitch started racing at his local short track of Ephrata Raceway when he was in his teens. Kasey and his sister Brooke started kart racing at five years old.
Even his mom, Rhonda, has nerves about the big jump but knows that as a racing family, this was the next step.
“We’re a racing family, some families spend their weekends on the lake, traveling, theme parks and other stuff but we spend ours at race tracks with Mitch or Kasey racing,” Rhonda Kleyn stated. “I was nervous the first time he raced a kart, first time he raced a bando and I’m sure I will be the first time he races a Late Model. We have Travis Sharpe on board, so knowing the car is safe and put together well makes me feel better.”
With close to 20 Junior Late Models expected this weekend and this being Kleyn’s first race, he’s set some goals for himself.
“I just want to run well, keep the car clean and learn as much as I can this weekend.”
-Story by: Jeremy Anders, Speed51 Northwest Editor
-Photo credit: Rhonda Kleyn