McKinney Eyes Next Chapter With Late Model Debut at Davenport

Mike McKinney looks to transition from Modified racing to Late Models in 2020. (Tyson Graves Photo)

May 28, 2020 (Modified Standout to Debut in Curless Motorsports Entry with World of Outlaws)

(Article by Tyson Graves)

Friday night Mike McKinney will make his childhood dream come true. Since getting behind the wheel of a street stock at Kankakee County Speedway at the age of 16 he has had his sights set on competing in late model racing. The Plainfield, Illinois native has quickly rose to one of the top Modified drivers in the Midwest. Mix that in with the past couple months of grabbing national attention in iRacing and many have come to know the name Mike McKinney.

Friday night Mike will strap into the seat of the late model owned by Doug Curless. The seat has seen some well known talent before including last weeks World of Outlaw Late Model winner Ricky Thornton Jr. "I’m extremely excited to tackle this new challenge of Late Model Racing. It’s been a dream of mine since I started racing when I was 16. Extremely grateful to Doug Curless for giving me this great opportunity to make my dream a reality. We have great equipment and are surrounded by even greater people. I can’t wait to start this journey and see where it goes," McKinney told us.

Mike's biggest season in modified's was 2018 where he won 20 features and finished second in DIRTcar points. (Tyson Graves Photo)

Mike has had a lot of success behind the wheel of his #96 Elite Chassis Open Wheel Modified. His 2018 season was his best by far picking up 20 wins and a second place finish in the National DIRTcar points standings. This included 8 wins on the grueling Summer Nationals tour.

In 2019 Mike scaled back his racing schedule due to taking a full time position working for Bell Racing Helmets. This included a relocation to Indianapolis that limited his action behind the modified prepared by his father. Even with the scaled back schedule it did not hinder his performance on the track. Multiple feature victories early in the year at Fairbury Speedway during the inaugural #FALS Cup proved McKinney had not lost his touch. McKinney closed 2019 strong with big wins including a $5,000 payday in the Casey's Modified Nationals at Fairbury, a dominating $7,000 win at Shadyhill Speedway, and the FALS Frenzy win in October once again at the Fairbury Speedway.

This laid the ground work for Mike to get a serious look from teams looking for someone to fill the seat in their late model. Doug Curless is excited to see what Mike can do behind the wheel of his Rocket XR1 as they make their team debut for 2020 this weekend in Davenport, Iowa during the 2 day World of Outlaw Late Model Series event. Mike told us, "To debut with the World of Outlaws against a ton of guys I have so much respect for will be a lot of fun. I’ve been a World Racing Group competitor from day one and have grown very close with all of their staff. It’s means a lot to me to make my Super Late Model debut with the top series they have to offer in the World of Outlaws."

The last two seasons Mike has been working for manufacturer Bell Helmets. (Tyson Graves Photo)

Mike will turn his first laps in the Curless owned machine this weekend at Davenport. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic they have not been able to test or get him some seat time. Mike has said they will use this weekend as a test session to work on getting a baseline for the team to work from as far as set ups go. This will not be the first late model seat time he has had. A couple years ago McKinney jumped behind the wheel of close friend Frank Heckenast Jr second car for some testing at Kankakee County Speedway. But this weekend will be the first time time the C&W Trucking race team will be together at the track with McKinney as the pilot.

During the recent COVID-19 pandemic the 27 year old has kept his skills sharp behind the wheel of his simulator competing in national televised iRacing events. Mike a long time participant in online racing was able to show the nation he can wheel in the virtual world as well. Mike picked up three wins in World of Outlaw Late Model iRacing action over the past couple months. Having won those events makes it even more special to Mike to begin his Late Model career in one of their series events.

Mike McKinney wheels his #96 machine during a DIRTcar Summer Nationals race at Brownstown, IN. (Tyson Graves Photo)

Mike plans to run his modified on a weekly basis if racing gets back to normal close to home. But he will run the Curless machine in select events throughout 2020. This will be a mix of a couple Crown Jewel and regional events across several series in the Midwest. McKinney fans and the racing world will be anxious to watch him cut his teeth in Davenport this weekend. In closing Mike told us, "Excited to go back to the bottom of the totem pole so to speak and adapt to this whole new world. Hopefully one day we can be a threat in these races all over the country."