Life on the Road: Clyde Knipp Racing
New to the Outlaws this year is Clyde Knipp Racing, which boasts two full-time employees in driver Clyde Knipp and crew chief Andrew Korte. This season, Knipp is competing for the 2016 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year title against Greg Wilson.
“We figured out we were going to run with the Outlaws at the PRI [Performance Racing Industry] Trade Show in Indianapolis,” Knipp, a California, Mo. –native, said. “We talked to [series director] Carlton [Reimers], [tech director] Tom [Devitt] and [race director] Mike [Hess] and basically told them we were all-in and ready to go.
“We made everything happen in a short amount of time.”
At the start of the year, Knipp brought on veteran help from Korte, who at the time had created and managed the Wingless Auto Racing [WAR] Series in Kansas City, Mo.
“I was with Jesse Hockett for five years, up until he died [in 2010],” Korte said. “I then took a year off before going to work for Brian Brown for almost a year.
“I went home after that and stayed there for about four years and started up the WAR Series. I did that for a while and kind of built that up and got non-wing sprint cars going in Missouri. I had the opportunity to sell the business to Casey Shuman and get back on the road, so I sold it and put this thing together with Clyde. I’ve always wanted to run the Outlaws, so here we are.”
At the beginning of the season, Knipp, in the Roush Construction/Red Onion Lounge No. 13, struggled to compete against the stiff competition that comes with racing with the World of Outlaws. His weekend with the series, at the 45th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., Knipp failed to make the feature in all three nights.
Following the DIRTcar Nationals, Clyde Knipp Racing voyaged with the series to The Lone Star State where he improved but again did not make the feature race at both Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, and Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.
As the series moved further west, Knipp and his team chose to stay home in Missouri, as the young driver attended his last semester of high school. Once the series returned back from the west coast swing at the end of April, Clyde Knipp Racing rejoined the action.
Knipp again went back home just a few weeks later, as he concluded his final semester of school and attended his high school graduation.
“I stayed home and graduated high school, got my diploma and all that good stuff,” Knipp said. “Literally the day after I graduated we left for Pennsylvania to race at Lincoln Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway. We have been out here ever since.”
Clyde Knipp Racing has raced full-time with the series since May 19 and has made four features with his best finish of 17th coming at I-80 Speedway on June 22.
Knipp and Korte, much like Shark Racing, do not have the luxury that some of the other teams enjoy. They compete on a very tight budget, which is compounded by the fact that they are the only full-time employees that travel to each race.
“For right now it’s just Clyde and I out here, so it is a bit tough,” Korte said. “We do have another guy who is coming from Australia next month, so that will help. But it’s just us, so we are always driving together, meaning you’re up all the time and that gets a bit tiring. The Outlaws do a good job of placing the schedule where you’re rarely at one track and absolutely have to be at another track the next day; we usually have a day’s time to get there.”
“It’s very rare we get a hotel room,” Knipp added. “Usually, if we have family with us or a sponsor comes by, then we will get a hotel room, but as the budget goes, we try to keep that out of the books.
“We will sleep at a truck stop, like a Love’s, so we can get free showers. Also while we’re there, we can fill up the generator and do whatever truck maintenance we need to, so it’s better to sleep at a truck stop.”
Life on the road got even more difficult for the duo after the Circle K/NOS Energy Drink Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte on May 27. In that race, Korte decided to bring out the backup car, as not enough cars had signed in to complete a full field of cars. Unfortunately for the team, more cars showed up, pushing the backup car, driven by Korte, to the Last Chance Showdown.
In the Last Chance Showdown, Korte lost control of his car on the final lap and was hit by a passing car. The decision to run the backup car not only impacted the financials of the team, but also the health of their full-time employee.
“I’ve drove a few races in my life, probably 20 races total – mostly 360 sprints and also some non-wing sprints,” Korte said on his experience behind the wheel. “At Charlotte, for a while, there were only 22 or 23 cars, so we went ahead and pulled down a backup car. We were only going to make one lap and get the starting money.
“There were a couple of cars to roll in late, so we ended up with 25 cars there. We had to race the Last Chance Showdown, so I was just out there to cruise around and hope someone would drop out. If no one did then I’d just collect my money for the LCS, just because we already went through the trouble and had the backup car down. I was just cruising around coming to the checkered flag in turn three and four and got crossed up there and got turned sideways. Another guy then came in and hit his right rear on my nerf bar and the pitman arm broke and came in and hit my leg and broke it.”
The decision to run an extra car came down to the hope of placing two cars in the feature and collect the additional revenue, which is useful for any team, no matter their budget.
“I have to be in a cast for a few weeks,” Korte said of his injury. “Running the second car wasn’t really a necessity, but it helps. In hindsight I wish I wouldn’t have done it.”
The Charlotte accident wasn’t the only issue the team has faced in the few short months they have been on tour with the series. The team has also experienced issues on their hauler, which they both can laugh about now.
“We found a Walmart in Freemont, Ohio that was just close enough to the race track, that we thought “okay, let’s get some ice here”,” Knipp said. “Well there was a Lowe’s Home Improvement across the street that had a parking lot big enough for tractor-trailers, while the Walmart didn’t.
“Andy was like “Go to the Walmart, go to the Walmart”. Well I was driving at the time, because of his broken leg, and knew I couldn’t make it in there. But I pulled in anyways and jumped the curve and blew a tire. So I am mad, he is mad, and I’m just like “Don’t talk to me right now, let’s get this tire changed and get to the track.” We ended up making it for hot laps and motor heat, so everything was good, but I learned how to change a trailer tire. Maybe that’s God’s way of saying that I am ready for this, that was just a test and now I know how to do that.”
As the season continues on, both driver and crew chief have continued to learn and improve as they battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year title. Both admit they enjoy what they do, and even more so, enjoy the life on the road, which can become brutal at times.
“I told Andy that I want to do this until I die,” Knipp said. “If I am too old to race, then I would want my son to get involved in any way possible so that way I am still in it.”
“Once you get it in your blood, you can’t get it out. Once a roadie, always a roadie is what I have always said.”
Life on the road may be grueling for the drivers and crew, but for you it can be as easy as entering the World of Outlaws contest! Use the form below to enter for a chance to win: