VINTON — West Branch-born U.S. President Herbert Hoover said “Children are our most valuable resource,” and kids like 11-year old Chase Brunscheen could have been who he was talking about.
Born on Sept. 3, 2008, the 11-year-old Bruncheen will enter seventh grade this fall in the Western Dubuque school district with seven years of racing experience, having started in go-karts when he was just 4 years old.
“Some drivers don’t start until they are 14 or older because that’s the IMCA age limit,” Brunscheen said. “A lot of the better drivers are able to start when they are younger with go-karts before moving into an IMCA class.”
Brunscheen got into the mini late-model he currently drives thanks to help from his father and former racecar driver, Brian, and one of his sponsors, Justin O’Brien of Rage Chassis, who is the local dealer for the cars and is trying to build the racing class for when his own son is old enough to drive.
“It’s a bigger car with a bigger engine, but you still have to drive it like a go-kart,” Brunscheen said. “It’s really about being smooth and fast.”
With a 600 GXR “crotch rocket” engine, the car gets moving.
“It looks like a late model, but they aren’t as skinny and tall as a Micro Mod,” Brunscheen said. “They are harder to roll over.”
While Brunscheen and his father try to get three nights a week of racing in when and where they can, Chase has other interests and talents that rival his passion for racing.
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“Engines and how they work interest me, but my main goal is to become an NFL player,” he said. “If I can accomplish that, my plan is to race once I retire.”
The soon-to-be-seventh grader plays tight end on offense and enjoys defensive end, as well.
“I’d like to think I’m pretty athletic for my age,” Brunscheen said. “I like P.E. and I’m really good at math and science. I still have a lot to learn about race cars, but I think once I get into physics it will help teach me more about racing. It is math and science, but a lot of it is physics and I think the more I learn about that stuff the more I can learn in the garage, too.”
If you’re starting to think he sounds like a young Dale Jr. or a mini George Kittle, you wouldn’t be wrong.
“Some people think it’s just a lazy man’s sport and all you have to do is drive it,” said Brunscheen, defending one of the sports he loves. “If you just drive it, you might win one here or there, but you really have to set the car up. First you have to set it up right, then you have to finish the race, then it’s just about being smooth and not over-driving the car.”
Brian raced at Farley and Dubuque from 1995 to 2000 and again in 2006-2007 before Chase was born in 2008.
“I always push hard that we win our races by working on our cars because we can’t afford to buy all the parts,” Brian said.
Chase appreciates the help he gets learning about life and racing from his family.
“It’s definitely easier when I have a great mechanic like my dad by my side,” he said. “He was great at setting up cars when he raced and it’s just a big help from him and my mom.”
Chase is enjoying his current widespread love affair with sports.
“We’ve never really raced for track championships,” Brain said. “Chase is busy with a lot of other sports and he does a lot of training in the summer for wrestling and football.”
That being said, racing gives Chase something football and wrestling can’t.
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“I love the fact that it can make you nervous and gives me a little heartbeat,” Chase said. “Racing and getting that adrenaline, I like the driving part of it, too. Going fast and having the wind in my face. Sometimes I’ll get hot and open my visor and get some air. I’m just trying to live life the best that I can.”
Team Brunscheen will need some aesthetic work on the car and about $600 in repairs after banging up the car Sunday at Benton County Speedway.
“We got fortunate that is just cosmetic and can be bent back into place,” Brian said. “We might need a new right side door but I think a lot of the other panels we can save.”
Worst case scenario, Chase will just have a little more wind in his face, something he’d be fine with.
Class winners at Benton were Tom Berry Jr. of Des Moines in the Modifieds, Dallon Murty of Chelsea in the Stock Cars, Tony Olson of Cedar Rapids in the Sportsmods, Kaden Reynolds in the Hobby Stocks, Jake Benischek of Durant in the Sport Compacts and Cole McNeal of Dysart in the Micro Mods.