How Kale Drake Earned His Place at Keith Kunz Motorsports

Joining the driver roster of one of Midget racing’s most successful teams by way of hours in the shop is rare. But that’s the story of Kale Drake’s arrival at Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports (KKM).

The 18-year-old national Micro Sprint champion from Collinsville, OK, joined the Indiana-based organization as a full-time employee in the spring and has since become the team’s only current driver/crew member, competing full-time with the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota.

With 17 national Midget series championships since KKM’s formation in the 1990s, a plentiful roster of crew members, countless Feature wins and a partnership with Toyota Racing, Drake’s decision to pursue a spot on the team was easy.

“Since day one, I’ve wanted to be a part of a team like that,” he said.

A regular of the Micro Sprint world for 12 years, Drake won his first national championship with the POWRi 600cc Outlaw Micro League in 2023. That October, he was runner-up to Gavin Miller in the annual KKM Giveback Classic event for Micro Sprints at Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway – an event that traditionally awards the winner with their choice of either a large sum of cash or a Midget with their name on it at the next running of the Chili Bowl Nationals in January.

Since Miller was already a full-time KKM Midget racer, team co-owner Keith Kunz made the offer to Drake. He elected to take Kunz’s offer for a car at the 2024 Chili Bowl and made the most of his debut in the famed event, qualifying for Saturday’s A-Main in his first attempt and garnering the Rookie of the Year honor following his 14th-place finish.

But Drake wasn’t done with Midget racing or being in the KKM environment. So, a few weeks later, he picked up the phone.

“I called Keith and told him that I wanted to take that next step in my career,” Drake said. “He told me that the best option for me was just to get out to Indiana and start making new connections, so that’s what I did.”

“I told him that if that’s what you want to do, I’ll actually hire you, you come back here and work for me,” Kunz said. “I really want to try to run [him] a couple races here and there in the Midget. And he decided to make that leap.”

Soon, Drake packed his things and made the one-way trip out to Columbus, IN, to join the team in the shop. Kunz immediately put him to work with KKM’s Micro Sprint division as a mechanic, working on and maintaining the fleet of cars for upcoming events.

Right away, Kunz noticed his natural ability and determination.

“For [not a lot] of Midget experience, the kid works really hard,” Kunz said. “He works on the stuff; he absorbs all the knowledge and what’s going on. He’s not just your typical show-up-and-drive, he gets it. He has that understanding of race cars. He works late; whatever it takes.

“I think everybody has taken such a liking to him because of his work ethic, but then he’s talented on top of it.”

As promised, Drake got a few chances for more time in the seat of a Midget, starting with a POWRi-sanctioned three-race weekend in Oklahoma in March, posting a best finish of seventh at Port City. It was a solid first showing in his home state, but one that paled in comparison to what came next.

When Miller was injured in a Micro Sprint crash in late March, Drake got the nod again, replacing Miller in the KKM No. 97 for the next Xtreme Outlaw Series weekend on the schedule in Missouri. After a seventh-place in Friday’s main event at US36 Raceway, Drake pulled-off the unthinkable on Saturday, reeling in teammate Taylor Reimer in the final laps and executing a last-lap, last-corner pass for the win at Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.

“Even midway through that main, I didn’t think we were gonna be able to pull it off,” Drake said. “Right toward the end of it, I was able to find another gear and just click-off really solid laps, and even that last lap, it was so perfect. It was crazy how well everything came together toward the end of that race in my favor.”

With a first career national Midget series win now in-hand, Kunz had once again taken notice of his skills behind the wheel.

“It really showed Keith that I was capable of winning races, and that’s what KKM is all about,” Drake said. “After that, it kind of rolled into, ‘You’ve proven you can win, so now you have a seat on the team.’”

“He has earned his ride, that’s the thing,” Kunz said. “Once he won that first race, we were like, ‘Well, we’ve gotta keep going now.’”

Now at the halfway point of his rookie season in the national Midget ranks, Drake continues both his crew member and driving duties in the Midget and Micro Sprint. When he’s not in the car at the track, he’s taking up duties such as adjusting stagger, changing torsion bars and preparing tires, among many other tasks on both he and his teammates’ cars.

He said that knowledge he gains from working on the same cars he races is invaluable.

“I think coming in and being a part of the team like that has also shown other drivers that it can be done, and it’s also shown others not to take things for granted,” Drake said. “I feel like there’s a lot of guys on the team now that are more hands-on than they were before, and it teaches them more than just what they know from driving the car.

“You can only learn so much behind the wheel. But once you get hands-on, it really opens a lot of doors and you see things from a different perspective, and it just makes everything come together a lot better.”

It’s not every year Kunz comes across a driver who understands as much about the inner workings of the cars as he does driving them, which he said makes Drake unique.

“His feedback’s really, really good in knowing when we make decisions of what to do, he’s in on that,” Kunz said. “He gets the things we’ve already done, and he remembers all that, so he can kinda lead us. That’s good for a driver that has some input and understands the changes you’re gonna make on it and what it’s gonna do.”

Drake and KKM return to Xtreme Outlaw Series competition Friday-Saturday, July 19-20, in a two-day event at Spoon River Speedway in Lewistown, IL. Tickets are on sale now at the link below and will also be available at the gate on race day.


If you can’t be there to watch in person, stream every lap live on DIRTVision.

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