Willie Kluss – Driver

Marty Pringle collection

Marty Pringle collection

By Chad Meyer

After a four year stint in the Navy, a trip to a local store set Willie Kluss on a path to a hall of fame racing career.

“I was 21 years old when I got out of the Navy in April 1953. Shortly after I was home, I stopped by the liquor store and one of the locals asked me if I was doing anything,” recalled Kluss. “I ended going to the races with them, and I was hooked after that!”

Soon after, Virgil Rink needed a driver for the car he owned and Kluss got the nod to be the pilot. “My first race was at the Wright County Raceway, which sat between Clarion and Belmond. I drove that car for Virgil three or four times, and then I bought it from them cheap,” said Kluss.

In the early part of his career, he raced mostly at Belmond track. “We went to Sports Park at Fort Dodge a few times, but they got huge car counts and only the top 32 in time trials got to race that day. It was hard for a beginning driver to make the show there.”

Kluss said he was close to his father, and he took an interest in Willie’s racing career, lending a hand and doing a lot of the mechanical work on the car.

Marty Pringle collection

Marty Pringle collection

The Wright County Raceway used to pay an extra $5 in rollover money if you flipped your car during the races. “One night I won the B-feature, and when I crossed the finish line, I rolled the car over on purpose to collect the money. Dad made it real clear that I shouldn’t do that again,” laughed Kluss.

As Kluss got better behind the wheel, they started to venture out to other tracks more. Kluss raced at Webster City a lot before they held weekly racing there, he recalls. Dayton was another track he frequented.

He also made his way to Algona, first with his own car, and then as driver for Daryl Arend.

“Daryl had great equipment. That modified of his on alcohol was something, it had so much power,” Kluss recalls.

“I loved racing with the guys at Algona. Les Wildin and Gene Schattschneider were fun to race against and a lot of fun away from the track too,” remembers Kluss. “I raced against them when they came down to Dayton, too.”

Marty Pringle collection

Marty Pringle collection

During his career, Kluss won the very first feature event at the old race track in Mason City. That track was located originally where Sears sits today. He also collected point championships at the Wright County Raceway.

“My favorite memory is from a season championship race at the old Dayton track. George Barton and I were tied in points heading into that night. They held a match race between us, and the winner earned the point title, and the top prize was a new 327 cubic inch Chevy engine, still in the crate,” he remembers. Kluss went to win the match race, the points and the engine.

After sixteen years, Kluss hung up his helmet after a race in Boone. “I just knew it was time to step away,” he said. “I had my fun, and was successful racing, but I knew I couldn’t go on forever.”

Once he stepped away, he was pretty well done with the sport. “I might attend a race a year, but for me the thrill was driving. Watching a race isn’t that exciting for me.”

Kluss lives in Belmond, retired from being a mechanic for the Iowa DOT for 33 years. At 83 years old, he stays busy helping his son Dean farm, and operating his stump-grinding business.

Kluss joins six others as inductees into the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place August 8th at the Kossuth County Ag & Motorsports Museum, www.kossuthmuseum.com.