Klutt Shows Growth in Most Recent Pinty’s Series Campaign

The Pinty’s Series is one of several international racing series that is run by NASCAR. Gary Klutt is one of several drivers who has become a fixture in this series, racing for the Legendary Motorcar Company for over 10 years now and placing 9th in the Championship Standings in 2022. Klutt has grinded his way up through the years and hopes that his passion and dedication will eventually land him a ride in the Cup Series someday. Klutt took the time to speak with us towards the end of 2021 about a variety of topics pertaining to the sport, including his thoughts on the Next-Gen car, the impact of the different international racing series on the sport, and the importance of staying physically and mentally prepared for competition.

Q: Where are you originally from and how did you first become involved in racing?

A: I’m originally from Fishtown, Ontario. I first started in racing by racing go-karts when I was seven years old. I went and watched a big race the year before, which was the Air Canada Grand Prix. And then my dad bought a go-kart and we would take it out to the Go Train Station parking lot. I ran it around there until I was old enough to race.

Q: You started off in go-karts, and you’ve raced in a variety of different series and different types of vehicles. Walk me through the different series. What are the major differences between each one?

A: The primary series that we run is the Pinty’s Series, or the Canadian NASCAR Series. Compared to the Truck and the Cup and the Xfinity Series’, the biggest difference is the track arm in the rear and then the bias ply tires as opposed to the radial tires, as well as really the Pinty’s Series having pretty cheap shocks and non-adjustable shocks compared to kind of how you can tune on the car in the Trucks and Cup cars. So those are kind of the biggest differences for sure. And then, you know, they definitely drive differently.

Photo Credit: https://timscorner.ca/archives/10106

Q: So you’re based up in Canada and you race in the Pinty’s Series—is that the main series that you focus on?

A: Yeah, that’s the main series that we focus on and, you know, just building relationships with sponsors up here. It kind of makes sense for us to be running close to home, you know. And it’s exciting to be able to chase the whole championship in the competitive series, so it works out well with a 12- or 13-race season—the season being a little bit shorter in Canada. Yeah, that’s definitely the one that we’re focusing on and probably the one that we’ll run full-time next year.

Q: So let’s say it’s the week of a race. What’s the average week like leading up to the day of the race?

A: Well, I guess it really depends. So in the Pinty’s Series, you kind of have two cars: your road course car and your all-road car. So depending on how bad you wreck it the weekend before and what you need to repair, you’re just working in the shop and trying to get everything organized. As far as logistically with the crew and everything, you get everything booked. I drive the rig and none of the tracks are too, too far from home, so I kind of load our guys in and we all head out together.

Q: How has COVID impacted your race prep, in terms of preparing for a race practice, traveling to and from the event, and even the race day itself?

A: Over the last two years, it’s impacted us a lot—well it has a lot more than racing down in the States. In 2020, we didn’t really have a season. We ran three races. And I didn’t run that season, it was almost totally cancelled. That kind of just hurt the growth of our program. And then last year, they ran almost the whole deal. But again, they kind of condensed everything. We still had some pretty severe restrictions in the springtime here, so that pushed the start of the season until much later in the summer. But then things ended on kind of a more regularly scheduled programming. We should be back to normal for next year.

Photo Credit: https://www.motorsportweek.com/2021/08/07/canadian-tire-motorsport-park-returns-to-imsa-calendar-in-2022/

Q: What’s your favorite type of track? Are you more of an oval guy or are you more of a road course guy?

I mean, as far as far as tracks go, probably my favorite track is Canadian Tire Motorsport Park at MoSport. It’s such a significant track, you know, with the Canadian Grand Prix being there, and it’s a really kind of old school type of track with the elevation change through the woods. So probably there, and obviously, it’s the most fun to drive. I don’t think anyone’s going to tell you that driving an oval is the most fun track. It might make you better at racing, but as far as enjoyment, you know, you can’t help but smile coming up the back straight at MoSport.

Q: What’s your favorite part about racing in general?

A: Just how competitive it is. You know, every race driver is probably a pretty competitive guy and I’m no exception to that. You know, just having a season and having a common goal with the teams throughout the summer to go and win races and there’s a lot of purpose. There’s nothing like having a common goal amongst a bunch of guys. That makes for a meaningful summer.

Q: How do you stay in shape physically in order to drive? Do you do a lot of gym exercises?

A: Yeah, I do a lot of gym exercising and I do CrossFit. I ride my bicycle a lot and do some bicycle races in the summer. As far as just conditioning and stuff like that, I try and get in a go-kart every once in a while. And believe it or not, the sauna, to really get acclimatized for operating at high heat.

Q: How do you stay in shape mentally to prepare for races? How important is the mental side of the sport?

A: I think the mental side is probably the biggest aspect to it. You’ve got to stay focused. So running some laps on iRacing for sure. And then just a lot of watching races from years past and just visualizing kind of where you need to be on the track. It’s really, really kind of taking the time to think about how long the race is going to be and getting in the right mindset beforehand.

Klutt on track. Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/garyklutt/status/1128715387170959360

Q: A lot of athletes, they kind of have like their own zone, like when they shift into race mode; they shift into the zone and they’re ready to go on race day. What’s your own personal zone like?

A: You know, really just kind of sitting quietly a little bit before the race, but it’s a little bit different. You know, in racing, you’re working hard with the team and on the equipment and stuff beforehand. It’s not like golf or tennis where all your stuff is your equipment. It is what it is, you’re not making any changes. You’re just sitting there focusing on your performance. Racing’s a little bit different. You’ve got to be able to kind of get in the zone quickly. You know, you’re doing an autograph session or you’re talking to the press or you’re working with your crew chief making that last-minute adjustment and talking about strategy. You kind of have to just take your moments when you can. Just strapping in there waiting for the national anthem or for the driver command and kind of really just trust that you’re going to be able to focus and execute what you need to.

Q: Let’s say you are the president of NASCAR. They make you the president, and you can make any changes you want on the first day. What would you do?

A: I think, generally, I’d probably pull some downforce out of the cars and slow them down a little bit just to try and see some better racing. You know, I like how in the Pinty’s Series, the cars are really squirming and moving around. And it’s some pretty close racing. You know, some of the mile-long tracks in NASCAR, cars are working so well that they just kind of get spread out and it’s really just about pace and track position. You’re not seeing as much racing. So whatever it would be, in my opinion, it would be pulling a little downforce out of the cars and it would be to try and make the racing closer.

Gen-Seven vehicle. Photo Credit: https://m.nascar.com/news-media/2021/12/17/drivers-make-strides-with-two-day-next-gen-test-on-edge-which-is-a-good-thing/

Q: What are your thoughts on the new Gen Seven vehicle that’s going to be making its debut next year?

A: I don’t really know a whole ton about it. Obviously, I haven’t driven one. But whatever makes for better racing, I’m a fan of. it So if it makes make things better, that’s great. It’s a big change. They kind of revamped the whole thing and we’ll see how it goes. You know, maybe they could have worked off what they had and that might’ve helped with the cost of everything instead of everyone kind of throwing out everything they had and starting from scratch. That can’t be cheap.

Q: What are your thoughts on the recent changes in the NASCAR schedule? They’ve added a lot more road courses on the schedule, they’ve raced on dirt now. They’ve changed up the schedule quite a bit over the last few years. Do you enjoy seeing more variety on the schedule?

A: Oh, absolutely. I think that the reason for it. I’m a racer, but I’m also a fan. You know, I think the biggest race forever was Watkins Glen, and for good reason. They just need to keep adding road courses. And it’s good racing and the fans obviously like it. The fans hate when there’s a green flag run for an hour at Dover or something. They want to see it, they want to see good racing and the road courses and the dirt courses bring that. That’s obviously more racing, and then the Trucks. That was probably a pretty successful race as far as viewership goes at Eldora and Bristol and Knoxville there. I mean, I hope they keep expanding the road courses and go to more dirt tracks and other cool stuff.

Q: Are there any tracks that you’d like to see added to the schedule in the coming years?

A: I think in the coming years, it’d be awesome to have the Cup cars come up to Canada with the Trucks and with the Xfinity cars at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. You know, that’s got to be Truck’s biggest race of the year. So I think it would also be a pretty big race for the Cup Series. Street courses can be cool as well. I think having NASCAR in a downtown street course atmosphere like the Pinty’s Series runs and the Honda Indy Toronto with the Indy Cars. You could have a doubleheader weekend with Indy Car and Cup. I think that would be spectacular.

Q: NASCAR has the Euro Series, the Pinty’s Series, and Mexico Series. How important is it to keep broadening NASCAR’s reach to bring in a more international audience?

A: In the Euro Series, I’ve got some friends who drive over there and they obviously, you know, everyone in Europe loves racing. I think it’s important just to grow the Pinty’s Series and the Euro Series and the Mexico Series as viable options, as kind of entities within themselves as far as careers go. You know, you’re not going to necessarily get a guy from Italy or a guy from Spain or even some Canadians to try to make the move full-time, but if they can compete and make a living in their own right, I think that that certainly strengthens the NASCAR property. And those series, as you know, obviously, they’re stepping stones, but they should also be entities in themselves.

Q: How does NASCAR continue to grow the sport? We kind of touched on it earlier with international racing, but how does NASCAR continue to just try to keep making progress?

A: I think social media is big. I think that’s where the eyeballs certainly are. So kind of strategic partnerships with people who have big platforms, you know, and obviously premium, good sponsorship dollars. So in places like the Pinty’s Series and the Euro Series, you increase the prize money, but if you double the purse win, I think you’re going to get a lot more people showing up and a lot more competitive cars and just a bigger field, and I always think that leads to better racing. Racing is certainly about the money to some degree.

Photo Credit: https://www.allpar.com/threads/srx-series-news-discussion.238504/

Q: So this next one is kind of another hypothetical. So I don’t know if you followed Tony Stewart last year, but he had SRX Racing. He had all these different drivers from all these different series racing similar types of vehicles. Do you think NASCAR would be able to pull something off like that to bring people in from Cup, people in from the Euro Series, Canadian Series, Truck Series, or even crossing over into like Indy or F1 and have all of these different types of drivers all in similar types of equipment for a race? Do you think something like that would be feasible?

A: Yeah, I think SRX Racing was a good example of that. Doing stuff like that, running those short tracks and on dirt. You know, if you throw a road course in there in the mix, I think yeah, absolutely they can do something like that. And those series, obviously they’re a good show. They play well, chopped up in their little clips on social media. It’s important to get big names out there and have a diverse group of people racing against each other.

Q: When you’re not racing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I’ve definitely been riding my bicycle a lot this summer, so doing long rides on there and riding all day. Skiing in the winter. Being a Canadian, we get a bunch of snow in winter. So I get to go skiing, and those are kind of my two favorite pastimes right now.

Q: What kind of music do you like to listen to?

A: Oh, I like all kinds of music. Really depends on the mood.

Q: What sort of TV shows do you like to watch, if any?

A: I don’t really watch a whole ton of TV. I’m more of a podcast guy.

Q: What sort of podcasts do you listen to?

A: I listen to Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, and Joe Rogan.

Photo Credit: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/talladeganightstheballadofrickybobby

Q: What’s your favorite auto racing-related movie?

That’s a tough one. It’s got to be Talladega Nights, that’s an all-time classic.

Q: Did you play any other sports growing up as well?

A: Yeah, I played hockey growing up, that was kind of the main one that I played competitively. Being in southern Ontario, everyone sort of does. And I skied a little bit in high school. I did a lot of other stuff, but nothing as competitive as that.

Q: Okay, what hockey position did you play?

A: I played defense.

Q: Very nice. Get to shove all those people down to the ground, get that tolerance built up.

A: {Laughter} Exactly.

Q: Who do you think is the best driver in the three major series right now, if you had to pick one in each series?

A: That’s a tough one. I think it’s probably easy to say that Kyle Larson is the best guy who’s got the best feel right now for the Cup cars. He’s obviously in a great car, and watching him last year do his thing on dirt was super impressive, with an astounding winning average percentage. The Xfinity Series, you’ve got to look at a guy’s performance like Allmendinger last year. That was super impressive. The guy’s been a pro racecar driver for a long time and kind of keeps getting better and learning those cars. So I’d have to say him for the Xfinity Series. Truck Series, I don’t really know. You know, there’s so many young guys coming in there and it changes all the time. So I don’t really have an answer for you in the Truck Series.

Photo Credit: https://www.si.com/fannation/racing/auto-racing-digest/news/herta-first-practice-back-after-crash

Q: Who is the best driver out there today that most people don’t really know about?

A: Yeah, that’s tough to say. A couple years ago, I would have said my buddy Robbie Wickens. He kind of had that breakthrough year, and then his unfortunate accident. He’s got to be the best driver I know. The guy just has so much talent. I could see him hopping in anything, like when he made that switch from DTM to Indy Car, and just, you know, put the car on the Pole and he’d go lead the whole race, having spent really no time in an Indy Car. I could have seen him doing that in any series. So hopefully they figure out hand controls for him in some sort of series so he can get back to winning races.

Q: Have you ever given any thought to what you want to do if you ever decide to retire? Would you want to become a broadcaster or a crew chief or anything in the realm of racing?

A: Certainly. I’d probably do some broadcasting. I’m probably better at talking than being a crew chief. I don’t pretend to know enough to set up a car, having grown up racing stock cars like a lot of guys have when they were quite young, working in the shop. So yeah, probably broadcasting would be fun. I certainly know enough about the Pinty’s Series to be able to talk about those races.

Q: What sort of goals have you set for yourself moving forward, both for 2022 and several years out from now?

A: My 2022 plan is to be a full-time racer in the Pinty’s Series and really try and win that championship. We had a really good road course program last year and there’s more guys out for those races. So it’s important to really kind of be in contention for the win there. The oval stuff, it’ll be good to return to the oval races. Again, I think we’re going to have a really good package. So we’ll try and get our first oval win, to really be in contention to win that championship. Going forward, we’ll continue to build on that and race in the Pinty’s Series and get back in a Truck or Xfinity car, in a winning car at a road course when the trucks hopefully come back up to Canada. I’m going to keep chasing that race until we finally win it.

Q: Would you like to give some of your sponsors a shout out right now and brag a little bit on some of them? Also with that, if anybody would be interested in sponsoring you, how would they go about doing that?

A: If anyone’s interested, they can just reach out to me on social media or through Legendary Motorcar, the family business there. And then I’ve got to thank Trailcon Leasing, they’ve been a supporter of me over the past few years. Scott Sports Canada, they’ve been on board since last year. Toronto Digital Imaging. And then we’re looking to bring a few more partners on for this year to round out the car for the whole season.

Q: We touched on this earlier about iRacing. How much of an impact does iRacing have both on race prep and just bringing new talent into the sport?

A: I think it’s incredible for bringing new talent to the sport. You know, you can spend a million hours on iRacing and be pretty up to speed, comparatively speaking, to how it used to be. I still don’t spend a whole ton of time on it. I’m just kind of busy and don’t really have a great setup, but I know I could spend some more time on it. And bringing new talent into the sport, I mean, you look at William Byron and you look at Ty Majeski?Those guys are iRacers, and there’s lots of sim racers.

Q: You mentioned earlier you played hockey growing up. Who’s your favorite hockey team?

A: Oh my, it’s got to be the Toronto Maple Leafs. I’m about 40 minutes from Toronto, so growing up, it was always the Leafs.

Photo Credit: https://www.pioneerfamilypools.ca/gary-klutt/

Q: What sort of advice do you have for young racers who are just starting to pick up the sport?

A: I mean, it depends on where they’re starting and what they want to do with it, but really focus and—learn about setting up your equipment and what needs changed and what it feels like, and think about what you want to change going through each weekend as far as the setup goes. And just really be precise. And from a young age, kind of make notes, whether it’d be mental, but probably write those notes down and start building your notebooks of knowledge early on.

Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or is there anything that I should have asked?

A: Not really. I mean, I think for a lot of kids, kind of starting out with a plan to be a professional racecar driver, kind of really think long-term. You know, you’ve got to be talented, but anyone can go racing if you have a sponsor. So that’s what everything kind of hinges on. Obviously you want to be good. You want to be competing for wins, but you don’t get to go racing unless you have sponsors that you can bring with you. So again, starting on your notebook early—start on your notebooks for potential sponsors and building relations early as well. That’s key.

Please note that this interview took place in November 2021.

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