AMERICAN McKenna Haase owes her emerging sprintcar racing career to a chance meeting as a child.
The Iowa-raised, Indianapolis-based driver, now 22, will make her South West Conveyancing Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic debut on Saturday night.
Haase, nicknamed 'Sassy' to complement the pronunciation of her last name, has been racing for 10 years, the past five in sprintcars.
"I met a NASCAR driver in a shopping mall on vacation when I was in third grade. I started following his career, that's kind of what sparked the passion," Haase told The Standard at Allansford's Premier Speedway on Friday.
"I also had some relatives that got their son into it too when I was younger.
"I started my own team when I was 13 and I just go out and get sponsors and fund my program and race as much as we can."
FOLLOW IT LIVE:2020 Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic blog
Haase said it took dedication to fund her racing dream.
"We're always looking for sponsors," she said.
"My goal this year is to run at least 40 shows. Historically we've only ever run 10 to 20 races per year.
"It's hard to do it for a living that way but I've never been able to afford to do more than that. I am hoping this is the year we can fit more races in."
Haase's first visit to Australia, which has included visiting landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, has featured her maiden drive in a 410 sprintcar.
She mainly raced 305s and 360s in America.
"It was definitely (daunting) because we didn't get any hot laps or practice," she said of her first 410 drive.
"It was straight into qualifying and Parramatta is a tricky place to race and tough competition so it was definitely tough to get thrown out there like that in a car I have never driven but it worked out pretty well.
"We finished every night and got better every night and I had some really good moments so I was pretty happy with how I went."
Haase said she was grateful race in Australia.
"The Thomas family reached out and offered me this really incredible opportunity," she said.
"I didn't think it was official until it was official. It was far beyond I could ever imagined and it's been a really good experience."
The classic will cap off a life-changing month for Haase.
"I want to finish and get all the laps in. If I feel like we did the best I could and left it all on the track then that is success for us," she said.
"I have been following Australian sprintcar racing for a long time and it's a big thing in America too.
"Any of the big names are exciting to race against, learn from them and see what they do."
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