McKenna Haase made history at Knoxville Raceway in May 2015 when she became the first female to win a Sprint Car feature in the 100-plus year history of the famed Iowa half-mile oval. Since that night, she has made herself a standout at Knoxville, with three 305 feature wins in 2015 and 2016 and two 360 feature wins one season ago. Now, she has another accolade she can add to her list of accomplishments: American Ninja Warrior competitor.
The Des Moines, Iowa driver announced on Wednesday she will be competing during the 11th season of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior in May in Tacoma, Washington. She will be taking on a series of obstacle courses, with the chance of moving on to the finals in Las Vegas and competing for a shot at one million dollars.
The call inviting her on the show came as a surprise to Haase. As phone calls came pouring in throughout that day, she was excited to receive word that she had been selected to compete on American Ninja Warrior.
“It was super exciting,” Haase told Speed51.com. “I actually had some health issues the day that the call came in, and so I was getting all these phone calls from doctors and stuff. But then I got one from Los Angeles and I like freaked out. It’s crazy because we went from being all worried about my health to being on American Ninja Warrior, but we got good results from the doctor and that was good. I also get to be on the show.”
Haase first became acclimated to American Ninja Warrior after watching the show on television with her parents. She decided to give it a try as a way to help her train for her racing, and it has led her to an opportunity to compete on national television.
“My parents were watching it on TV and I was just watching it with them,” Haase recalled. “Ever since I was little, they would always call me their monkey because I would pretty much climb on everything. I don’t know, I just thought I’d be good at it, so I went and started training at a local gym, then they opened up a big ninja gym and I started training there. Now I train in Indiana.”
Haase’s ninja warrior training has parlayed into her improving behind the wheel. She says the biggest thing it has helped her with is her mentality while competing in a Sprint Car.
“It really, really helps me, especially mentally because I tend to overanalyze things and overthink things and ninja helps me focus on making it across an obstacle and not doubting myself and also having confidence going across an obstacle, which is kind of the same thing as on the race track. When you’re trying to run really hard and things like that, like hitting the cushion, it’s kind of the same mentality.”
The show has seen NASCAR represented with Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, and Ben Kennedy, as well as the IndyCar Series with Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Conor Daly. As the first dirt racer to compete on the show, Haase is excited to represent Sprint Car racing and introduce the world to her discipline.
“It’s a huge honor,” Haase said. “I think dirt racing is really competitive within the sport, and so I think it’s a really big honor to get to represent my sport and get to share that with the world and have people learn about Sprint Car racing that don’t know anything about it.”
Haase has modest goals for when she makes her appearance on American Ninja Warrior. While she is looking to complete the qualifier course, she is ready to prove what she can do on the ninja course.
“It would be a huge honor to make it to the buzzer for the first round of qualifying,” she said. “Beyond that, I would like to at least make it at least through a few obstacles and show what I’m capable of and have my hard work pay off.”
Tapings of the show will take place on May 11-12 at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. The Tacoma qualifier will be aired in June or early July on NBC.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: McKenna Haase Twitter