Next year will look much different for Clyde Knipp. After seven years traveling the country in Sprint Car racing, the 25-year-old is stepping off the road.
The last decade of his life has been spent crossing state lines in pursuit of racing; Competing on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car tour as a teenager; Filling a role on the Buch Motorsports crew in 2019; And then back to The Greatest Show on Dirt for the past four years as a Jason Johnson Racing team member.
But next year, the travel will slow for Knipp. Last July, he and his girlfriend – Taylor – welcomed their daughter Briella to the family. At the time, Knipp knew he’d need to settle into a more at home lifestyle in the future. So, he began to lay the foundations to pursue another passion within the sport – manufacturing carbon fiber parts.
“I found out about the process of carbon fiber back in 2019 whenever I was living in Pennsylvania,” Knipp recalled. “I just didn’t know how I would go about it. There’s a guy there that took me under his wing. His name is Bill Smith. He owns 717 Innovations. I just kept hounding him. I’d say ‘Hey, can you teach me how to do this? Can you teach me how to do this?’ because he’s really good at it.
“I kind of gave up on the idea whenever I got the job at JJR,” Knipp continued. “But in the back of my mind, I knew if I was to go into the manufacturing side that I wanted it to be composites. So, with my girlfriend and I having a baby last year, it forced me to sort of take another approach on what my future was going to consist of. I knew I wanted to stay in Sprint Car racing, but I knew that the traveling life was going to come to a close because I needed to be there as a father and a boyfriend. That’s when I started thinking about my exit as a crew member. I got ahold of Bill, and I said, ‘Hey, can you teach me how to do this stuff because this is something I’d like to go into business for myself?’ He started training me last year.”
Knipp’s new business will be located near where he lives in Missouri, meaning he’ll be able to be home more often. Since Smith began training him, Knipp has also been putting more pieces in place to make for a smooth transition.
“I have a business partner involved. His name is Doug Hetrick, and he’s the co-owner and founder of C&D Rigging,” Knipp said. “Him and I started Prime Composite Innovations. With the help of Bill Smith getting me started and Doug, we’re going to be in full production come November 10. So, a week after the World Finals will be our first day in production. I’ve been getting our building ready and getting material ordered and training off and on when I can.”
And while the new endeavor will allow him to stay within the sport and be home throughout the year, the transition will be bittersweet. Racing on the road is the only life Knipp has known throughout his adult life.
“The thing that I’ll miss the most is the racing,” Knipp said. “Watching the World of Outlaws night in and night out, you can’t put a dollar amount on that. I’m extremely blessed to do what I do and to do it as long as I have. I know I’m still young at 25 years old, but I’ve been in 45 different states racing these things and Canada. It’s just provided a really cool life.”
Knipp has also built a strong bond with his JJR crew – Carson Macedo, Philip Dietz, and Nate Repetz – and the team will miss the effort and charisma he brings.
“Over the course of the last three years, Clyde has become one of my best buddies,” Macedo said. “He’s a really good dude who obviously brings light to everybody’s life. He’s always lively and just a great person to be around, fun guy, always funny, always looking to lift the mood, and just an extremely hard worker… I know he’ll do a great job. Clyde’s got an incredible work ethic. He’s driven. I think he’ll be success and knock it out of the park.
“I’m happy for him, but it is bittersweet. I feel like I’m losing not only a crew guy but my buddy full-time. But at the same time, I’m very happy for him. I’m happy to see him move on and pursue something that’s a dream of his.”
But before Knipp goes anywhere, he and his team have the unified goal of a championship on their minds. Macedo sits third in points with 11 races to go. David Gravel sits 18 markers ahead in second while Brad Sweet is still within striking distance – 98 points in front of Macedo.
What better way to leave the World of Outlaws tour than going out on top?
“To win the championship and go out on top would be the icing on the cake,” Knipp said. “That would be tremendous. And ultimately that’s why I wanted to do another year on the road with these guys. I knew the potential of being a championship team was there. I know if we show up night in and night out then the rest will take care of itself.”
Knipp and the rest of the Jason Johnson Racing team continue their championship pursuit at this weekend’s Champion Racing Oil National Open at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, PA (Sept. 29-30). For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.