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Todd Kluever at the Chili Bowl on Wednesday evening. (Brendon Bauman Photo)

Todd Kluever Having Fun Again By Racing Midgets

TULSA, Okla. — After Todd Kluever made his final NASCAR start in 2009, he virtually fell off the face of the Earth.

Kluever, from Sun Prairie, Wis., was one of several drivers to race for Roush Fenway Racing after competing in “The Gong Show,” a competitive series of tests that pitted multiple drivers against one another for an opportunity to race for Jack Roush’s operation.

He spent three seasons driving for Roush Fenway, making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in 2005. He earned six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes that year, which was enough to earn a promotion to the NASCAR Xfinity Series the following season.

Kluever struggled to find success upon his promotion. As an Xfinity Series rookie in 2006, Kluever failed to score a top-five finish and earned only four top-10 results. His best finish came in the opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway, where he finished seventh.

He also made four Cup Series starts for Roush in 2006, but did no better than a 32nd-place finish at Kansas Speedway. He returned to Roush for 16 Xfinity Series in 2007, but only earned one top-10 finish. 

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Todd Kluever (50) races Mike Skinner at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2005. (NASCAR Photo)

After that, his career was effectively over minus a single NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start for team owner Dave Malcolmson in 2009. 

What happened to Kluever after he departed NASCAR racing?

“I took a few years off after down south,” Kluever said Wednesday as he awaited the start of his qualifying night at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. “I moved home (to Sun Prairie) in March of 2016. I built a SportMod that year just to see if I could have fun racing again. I did a SportMod for a year and then I had an IMCA A-Mod I ran for a couple years.

“I always wanted to do a sprint car. Truth be told I grew up watching them and I grew up at Angell Park Speedway, that’s the first race track I ever went to and where I fell in love with racing in the first place.”

Instead, Kluever decided to try his hand at midget racing. With the help of friend Brandon Waelti, a veteran midget racer, Kluever assembled his own midget that he campaigned last year with the Badger Midget Racing Ass’n.

In his first season of midget racing, Kluever made 11 features with the Badger Midget Racing Ass’n, scoring four top-five results and nine top-10 finishes. Racing a midget at his home track helped Kluever find the joy in racing that he lost after his disappointing NASCAR tenure. 

“I’ve learned that if you do it with the people you want to do it with, you can find the fun in it again,” said Kluever. “The Badger guys have been great. Getting to race a few minutes from home in front of my hometown people, I’ve had a lot of fun with it that way.”

Kluever’s Chili Bowl debut was the result of his friends pushing him to try it. He was seventh in his heat race and was eliminated from competition Wednesday with a fourth-place finish in his D Main.

Despite that showing, the 43-year-old Kluever is thankful his friends and team believed enough in him to push him to make his Chili Bowl debut.

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Todd Kluever in action Wednesday at the Tulsa Expo Center. (Brendon Bauman Photo)

“This is the first time I think in my life I’ve loaded up a race car to go to a race that I honestly know I have no chance in hell at winning,” Kluever said. “That’s not really sat very well with me, but these guys were on me, and they helped me all year and they wanted me to come down and be a part of it. I’m grateful that they think enough of me that they want me to be a part of it with them.”

Looking back on his time in NASCAR, Kluever says he still doesn’t know how he feels about it. On one hand, the racing was fun and enjoyable. On the other hand, the business side of it was dog-eat-dog.

“I’ve had a lifetime to think about it. I still don’t know how I feel about it,” Kluever said. “I enjoyed the racing part of it, I enjoyed some of the people, I really did not enjoy being a part of … there is just a lot of backstabbing and a lot of things that go on in that world. I didn’t like that part of it very much.

“You always wish things went better, but they went the way they did and I have to be able to swallow that and live with it the rest of my life.”

That brings Kluever back to why he started racing again — having fun with a group of people he enjoys being around.

“I’m lucky to be around these guys,” Kluever said. “I didn’t know much about midget racing. They kind of took me in. Yeah, it’s my car, but Brandon helped me build it. All these guys work on it. They’ve been sprint car and midget guys their whole lives. It’s nice to be able to know the car is right and where it needs to be and I just need to drive it.

“I found my little thing right here that gives me some enjoyment and we’re going to enjoy it while we can,” Kluever added.

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