NASCAR Driver McKenna Hasse Sprints to Become America Ninja Warrior

Dani Ben-Ari

Twenty-two year-old Sprint Car racer McKenna Haase recently switched lanes competing on America Ninja Warrior during city tryouts in Tacoma, Washington in May (seen on TV June 24). Although she had been training as a Ninja for more than two years, the rookie was only able to make it to the third obstacle before crashing into the water.

“All of a sudden, I was trying to hit the mat and I just had a bad dismount. It was really, really upsetting because it’s something if I had just taken my time, I could have easily done it,” Haase said during an after event interview.

In fact, Mckenna’s family nickname is “Monkey” due to her incessant love for climbing on rocks, jungle gyms and other daredevil stunts, according to relatives.

While making it through the course and hitting the buzzer would have been a dream come true, Haase stated that one of the main reasons she decided to become a Ninja Warrior was to improve her driving skills on the track, by helping her develop full body strength. In turn, she feels that her training as a driver also helped prepare her for the physical and mental rigors of the games. Not only does driving race cars at top speeds require a lot of upper body, as well as core and neck strength to steer the cars, it also involves a great deal of cardio exercise to keep them under control.

Keeping things under control on the trace track is something McKenna Hasse has been learning to do well, ever since a chance encounter with Kasey Kahne at a shopping mall inspired her to begin racing on the dirt and then Go-Karting st the age of 13. Today the Des Moines, Iowa native is now a 360 division racer, who also operates her own team, Team Haase Racing (THR) LLC , as well as runs Compass Racing Development LLC mentoring kids on how to become race car drivers, managing safety gear, and how to obtain sponsors.

Her own sponsors presently encompass a wide variety of businesses including: MidAmerican Energy, Wyckoff Heating & Cooling, Wreckamended Collision Center, Iowa Select Farms, Casey’s General Stores, Hooker Harness, Larry Huff, Klug Insurance Services, Eagle Motorsports Inc, Pro-Line Building Co., Bell Helmets, Nice Curbs & Concrete, Lamo Footwear, My Race Pass, Champion Signs, Trixies Salon, Drain Tech Plumbing, Des Moines Industrial Products, Tom and Terry Wilson, MPI Steering, Essentia Water, Bubbl’r Water, Auto-Jet Muffler Corporation, Vinyl Cup Records, Shade Tree Auto, Gabus Automotive Group, Delta Dental of Iowa, K&C Drywall, and Lutheran Church of Hope.

While becoming the first and only female feature winner at Knoxville Raceway in over 100 years (2 times) is currently the highlight of McKenna’s racing career to date, other 360 Sprint achievements over the past seversal years include: 2 Sprint Invaders trophy dash wins; Breaking the Knoxville 18-lap track record ; Becoming Knoxville Nationals B-Main Qualifier, and being named Junior Fan Club Driver of the Year. Before that she won 3 heat wins as a 2017 Rookie; 1 quick time w/ASCS National Tour Knoxville Nationals B-Main Qualifier; Junior Fan Club Driver of the Year (3 years in a row) in 2017-2018. In 2016 McKenna earned 1 quick time; as well as 6 podiums; 10 top fives; 13 top tens and 4 heat wins in 305 Sprints at Knoxville Raceway.

Note: While McKenna is the first female race car driver to compete on America Ninja Warrior, she is not the first to NASCAR driver to try and race for the buzzer. Previous contestants during past seasons have included Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ben Kennedy, while Indy drivers have included Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden. Meanwhile, it should be mentioned that American Ninja Warrior co- hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila acted as joint-grand marshals of this year’s 103rd  Indianapolis 500.

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