Corvette racecar driver Danny Kellermeyer got used to carrying a checkered flag during the 2016 racing season.
He won a whopping 70 percent of his 30 races – 11 in SCCA and 10 at the Waterford Hills Road Racing course, a record that resulted in him winning both the SCCA Great Lakes Division T1 Championship and the Waterford Hills T1 Championship.
“The No. 37 Matick Chevy Corvette won all the races and I also managed to set two track records along the way,” says Kellermeyer, now 70 and racing since he was. 8. “It was a fantastic season.”
The Michigan-based racing veteran started with testing his Corvettes on the tracks in April, but his most memorable moment came at Waterford Hills in metro Detroit on Sept. 11 when he and his crew were able to change a broken steering rack in a speedy two hours instead of the normal six.
“Everyone just jumped in and started tearing things apart,” says Kellermeyer. “A steering rack is a pretty serious thing and we didn’t have one with us. My wife, Michaelle, jumped in a truck and drove to our home and brought us another rack. She made it just in time.”
His Matick Chevy-sponsored Corvette made it to the grid on time and Kellermeyer and top rival and close friend Tony Mac battled it out to the finish, with Kellermeyer winning.
“We had margins of victory this season that were within hundredths of a second,” says Kellermeyer. “It was mind-boggling.”
The off-season means Kellermeyer might have more time to ride horses at his Oakland County farm with his wife. He’ll work on his race cars in his shop.
Reflecting back over the race season, Kellermeyer says if he could redo any moment, it would be during races where he chose to turn one way instead of another to move forward in a race.
There were times, he says, when the “competition snuck in beside me.”
Here's more of Kellermeyer's take on his summer racing schedule.
What a season. How do you do it?
“Winning isn’t everything, but driving to your limit is. At competition school that I teach at Waterford Hills, I always ask drivers 'Who is your competition?' They will name people they know. But YOU are your own competition. You have got to figure out how much you can push yourself."
What drives you to keep racing?
“A lot of things – the relationships with people and sponsors. You get to sit down and talk about Matick Chevy. We have the Matick car there at races and people talk about that. I’ve made friends in racing over the years. I’ve always said if it’s not fun, I’m going to do something different.”
Who is your favorite driver and why?
“Paul Newman is my hero. He raced and set records when he was 78.”
You do your own work on the cars. What will happen in your shop over the off-season?
“I want to work on the C7 Corvette. I’ll rebuild the C6 I have. Most of it is fresh, but I still look at it all. All the suspension and bushings have to be relubed or replaced. We’ll go back out to start testing again in April.”
You are a member of the Flint Corvette Club. Will you see them again soon?
“We are doing something all the time. We have a large Daytona 500 party at my place (next one is Feb. 26). We have a big screen TV and we set up tables in the shop. About 100 or so came out last year. We break out the pizza and soft drinks and talk cars again. The racing Corvettes are there. Everybody likes to see something being built, especially the C7."
Ever worry about the danger that comes with racing?
“Well, at the last race at Mid-Ohio, I had to start from the back of the pack. We’d run half the race when another competitor had something break up ahead. He went left and right and then into a wall, and it knocked him unconscious."
"They bought the ambulance over and black-flagged the event. (In my position) I sat across from the ambulances and watched them cut the top off the car and helicopter (the driver) out. As I was sitting there, I was praying and hoping he was fine. But you look at that. That broken piece could happen to me."
“It’s a dangerous sport and that’s why you prep the car. I feel my prep work is top-notch and I don’t seem to be scared that could happen to me. I believe in God and so does Michaelle. (Someday) God will pull my number. Until then, that’s the way I’m going to live my life."