By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR
September 23, 2015 – 2:30pm
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Gary Klutt is no stranger to cameras and bright lights, and that will serve him well when he ascends to the awards stage to accept Jostens Rookie of the Year honors for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1.
In one of many ventures he’s currently involved with, the 23-year-old Klutt serves as a co-host on the reality television show “Legendary Motorcar,” which features the family business by the same name that restores and sells classic and high-performance cars. The show is in its third season, and airs on Velocity in the United States and everywhere else on Discovery World.
With another television show in development in addition to his dabbling in real estate and working at Legendary Motorcar Company, Klutt somehow found time to race stock cars. The Monday-to-Friday certainly didn’t distract from success on Saturday and Sunday.
Klutt turned in seven top 10s in 11 events in his first full-time season of Canadian Tire Series action to capture the hotly-contested Jostens Rookie of the Year Award by a mere two points over Marc-Antoine Camirand.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Peter, who competed part-time in the Canadian Tire Series since 2007, the Halton Hills, Ontario, driver got his start in the series with a lone appearance in 2010. He didn’t make his second start until 2013, however, and followed with just four more in 2014.
With sponsorship backing finally in place, Klutt decided to attempt to compete full-time in 2015 with the Jostens Rookie of the Year Award the stated goal.
“It was our intention to do it and after winning the first race we were kind of hooked,” Klutt said. “It was kind of like ‘OK, now we really do have to run the full season’.”
Klutt shot out of the gate by winning from the pole in the season-opener at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He finished in the top 10 in the first five races and ranked third in the championship standings at the midway point. The second half was more challenging.
“The biggest learning experience for me was to realize how important your car is on the ovals,” Klutt said. “If you’ve got an ill-handling car on a road course you can finesse your way through it and salvage a pretty decent finish. On an oval you can go backwards in a hurry if your car is not working well.”
Klutt did earn a pole at Sunset Speedway in just his third oval start, and finished in the top 10 in five of seven circle track events.
“I’m definitely still more comfortable on the road courses, but we learned a bunch on the ovals this year,” Klutt said. “We’re looking to bring that knowledge to next year. We had a quick car at a bunch of specific points throughout the season, but working on a long-run package will be what we want to bring into the 2016 season.”
At the same time Klutt experienced challenges, Camirand caught fire. With four top fives in a five-race span, Camirand edged ahead of Klutt in the rookie standings entering the season’s penultimate event at CTMP, but Klutt was able to re-emerge with the lead with only the finale at Kawartha Speedway between him and a goal achieved.
“We were leading by five heading into Kawartha, but there were a lot of rookies there – quick rookies – so we knew we needed to have a good finish,” Klutt said. “The car wasn’t working real good at the end so we had to get up on the wheel and salvage a good finish to get the Rookie of the Year.”
In the end Klutt edged Camirand 90-88 in the Jostens Rookie of the Year standings and 383-382 in overall championship points as they finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Rookie points are earned on a 10-to-1 system with the highest-finishing first-year driver in a race scoring 10, the second nine, and so on down to one point for the lowest finishers.
“It was our No. 1 goal throughout the season,” Klutt said. “It was an honor to win it amongst so many other good rookies and racing against world class drivers.”
In addition to an expanded television portfolio, Klutt also hopes to broaden his racing horizons in 2016. He’ll return full-time to the Canadian Tire Series, but also wants to explore opportunities to compete in NASCAR national series road course events.
Between then and now, he’ll have to settle for collecting the hardware earned. Klutt will receive the Jostens Rookie of the Year Award on Dec. 12 as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The season finale Pinty’s 250 from Kawartha Speedway will debut on TSN in Canada on Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. ET while the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Year In Review show will air on the same network on Nov. 28 at 12 p.m. ET.