From family’s Perry Hall auto shop to NASCAR, crew chief John Klausmeier finds his calling

At age 5, John Klausmeier would dismantle worn-out carburetors in his family’s Perry Hall auto shop to examine their innards. Now, at 37, he is crew chief for one of NASCAR’s top race teams.

As a kid, Klausmeier raced rusty old riding mowers at 10 mph around a banked dirt oval on his grandfather’s farm. Now, he builds sophisticated cars that roar down high-tech tracks at 20 times that speed.

Clearly, he has found his calling.

“I’ve reached the level where I want to be,” said Klausmeier, one of the youngest crew chiefs on the NASCAR circuit. “The job is like that of a head football coach; the work is demanding and it never stops. But you pinch yourself sometimes to make sure that you’re really doing what you love — and getting paid for it.”

A graduate of UMBC with a degree in mechanical engineering, Klausmeier runs Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford team in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs, a grueling 10-race countdown for 16 drivers to determine the 2018 champion. The second race is Saturday night, a 300-lap event at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

Last week, at Las Vegas, Klausmeier’s driver, Aric Almirola, placed sixth — a credible finish even if this weren’t Klausmeier’s rookie year as a crew chief.

“A lot of my success stems from the fact that Johnny is doing a helluva job,” said Almirola, 34, a seven-year veteran who is having his best season (a dozen top 10 finishes in 28 races). “He’s really smart and an incredibly hard worker who leads by example. He doesn’t just talk the talk; he’s in the thick of it every day, coming up with new ideas, and our guys look up to him for that.”

Klausmeier, who rose through the ranks, calls the shots for the 30-man team composed of engineers, shop mechanics and a pit crew of five who, perhaps six times a race, are expected to gas up Almirola’s Ford Fusion and change all four tires — in 12 seconds or less. Crises test their mettle and that of the crew chief, who responds like a triage doctor at the front.

“Things don’t always go as expected, and you’ve got to stay calm and cool while cars around you are going 200 miles an hour,” Klausmeier said. “Last week [in Las Vegas], with 120 laps to go, Aric hit a wall and creased his right front and rear fenders. We banged them out and used duct tape. It was crude but effective.”

Last month, during a race in Bristol, Tenn., their car developed a pin hole in the oil line, spraying oil on the front tires and blowing smoke out the rear. Repair time? Five minutes. Almirola finished 31st.

“You can’t just crack hot lines right away; some are pressurized,” Klausmeier said. “It’s the fluke things that drive you nuts — and they only happen when you’re having a good race.”

Pit stops breed chaos, and it’s his job to settle both driver and crew.

“The big thing is to stay relaxed, speak in a monotone and coach them through it,” he said.

That he has done, to date.

“In a very emotional sport, Johnny stays even-keeled,” Almirola said. “He never gets overly worked up. There’s no doubt he’s passionate, but he doesn’t allow that passion to override his composure.”

The son of an auto repairman, Kalusmeier took to cars early on. Junked parts were his LEGOs, and he’d tinker for hours in his father’s shop on Belair Road.

“I wanted to learn how things worked,” he said. “I was six when dad took my brother Michael and I to a NASCAR race in Dover [Del.], and I remember the smell of the track, tires and exhaust. The cars were so loud that when they went by, the sound of the percussion made your chest pound. As a kid, you think it’s cool — and racing affects me the same way today.”

As a youngster, he bought eight-inch model cars and raced them on the kitchen floor and in the driveway.

“I’d pretend I was the mechanic,” he said. “Never had much interest in driving.”

In middle school, he puttered at the repair shop after classes, changing tires, oil and brakes. Klausmeier, who attended Calvert Hall, spent weekends honing his skills by helping friends who raced cars at Lincoln Speedway (Pa.) and Capitol Raceway, in Crofton.

“John has always been pretty car-centric,” Carl Klausmeier said of his son. “He’s always had toys with wheels; as he got older, they added motors and oil. I knew [racing] was his goal from that first trip to Dover, when I sat in the stands complaining about chunks of rubber flying off the track and into my beer, while he looked like he was watching the Super Bowl.”

Nowadays, Klausmeier, who lives in Mooresville, N.C., dissects races from the top of the pit box, flanked by computers, revising strategies and speaking with his driver via radio.

“I try to talk to Aric on straightaways and not when he’s in a corner pulling two G’s and going 200 miles an hour,” he said.

“You might have little arguments, but it’s like a marriage — the driver is always right,” Klausmeier said.

Their alliance has blossomed, Almirola said.

“We don’t have to tiptoe around, or worry about hurting each other’s feelings, because we have mutual respect for each other,” the driver said. “Johnny doesn’t rule with an iron fist. He listens to people and is very open-minded, not set in his ways.”

Klausmeier’s knowledge has impressed Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I mean, he just gets more confident every week,” Stewart said. “I think the engineering background is really the biggest thing that makes Johnny so good right now and having an understanding of how the car works, why it works that way. It gives him the ability to make very educated decisions on what changes need to be made to the race car.”

Crew chief and driver often hang together away from the track. On off days, the two ride bicycles, along with several others on the team, sometimes pedaling 60 miles down country roads wherever the NASCAR circuit has taken them.

“You get to breathe fresh air and clear your head,” Klausmeier said. “We need a Zen-like sport outside of this pressure environment to balance out the chaos of racing.”

Employed by Stewart-Haas since 2009, he was lead race engineer on the 2017 Daytona 500 championship won by Kurt Busch. It earned Klausmeier a champagne shower, on the spot, and a ceremonial ring.

“It [the ring] is a bit gaudy for me, but really cool,” he said.

Though he shepherds race cars from start to finish, Klausmeier doesn’t drive sporty models himself. His first set of wheels was a Chevrolet S-10 pickup; he now drives a Ford F-150 truck.

“I do have a black 1968 Camero back home [in Perry Hall],” he said. “Some day I’ll fix it up, but right now, there’s no time.”

Married, he has a son named Cam, who wasn’t named for the hot rod engine.

“It’s short for Camden,” Klausmeier said. “We had our wedding reception at Camden Yards.”

Other Marylanders actively working in NASCAR

Derrell Edwards (East Baltimore), 26, is the tire carrier and jackman for the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team piloted by playoff driver Austin Dillon, who captured the sport’s Super Bowl event – the season-opening Daytona 500 – in February. Edwards starred in basketball at Dunbar.

Shane Wilson (Edgewater), 32, was jackman for the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team driven by Kyle Larson, who is currently competing in the playoffs. An injury in August sidelined Wilson for the remainder of the season. Wilson attended Anne Arundel Community College.

Cory Baldwin (Severn), 27, is rear tire changer for the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota team driven by Regan Smith, who failed to qualify for the postseason.

David Charpentier (Havre de Grace), 59, is technical director for JTG Daugherty Racing’s two teams: the No. 47 Chevrolet driven by AJ Allmendinger and the No. 37 Chevrolet piloted by Chris Buescher. Neither made the playoffs. A Navy veteran, Charpentier is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College.

Brett McCutcheon (Barton, Allegany County), 31, is the front end mechanic for the No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet team driven by Ty Dillon, which failed to make the postseason. McCutcheon attended Westmar High.


TPMS System – Ricks Free Auto Repair Advice Ricks Free Auto Repair Advice

TPMS System

What is a TPMS System?

A TPMS System is required on all passenger cars, light trucks and light buses built after September 1, 2007. The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) detects tire pressure in one of two ways; direct and indirect.

History of TPMS systems

After a series of fatal sport utility vehicle crashes that resulted in 271 deaths, Congress passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement Accountability Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000. The deaths were attributed to vehicles being driven with low tire pressure. The legislation required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a rule requiring all new vehicles to be equipped a warning system to alert the driver when a tire is significantly under-inflated.

The rule stated that as of Sept. 1, 2007, all new passenger vehicles, trucks and light buses are required to have a sensor-based TPMS system that alerts the driver of a condition where one or more tires is under-inflated by 25% below the car maker’s recommended tire pressure.

Prior to this legislation, some car makers voluntarily installed TPMS systems that were either indirect or direct. So the legislation ended the voluntary compliance are required all car makers to move to direct TPMS

Indirect TPMS

An indirect TPMS system uses the ABS system’s wheel speed sensors to detect an under inflation condition. An under inflated tire has a smaller diameter than a properly inflated tire. Since the ABS braking system compares the rate of rotation of all wheels, it can also detect when a wheel is consistently rotating fewer times per mile than the other tires. In these systems, the ABS system can light the low tire pressure waring light based on revolutions per mile

Direct TPMS

In a direct TPMS system, a tire pressure sensor with the valve

TPMS system sensor

Types of TPMS system sensor mounting: stem mount and band mount

stem is installed on the wheel rim in place of the older style rubber valve stem, or the sensor is installed on a band connected to the center of the rim.

The TPMS sensor reports via radio frequency to a receiver in the vehicle if the tire pressure falls below 25% of the car maker’s recommended tire pressure for that particular vehicle.

What is a TPMS sensor?

Most TPMS sensors are mounted in place of the valve stem and are held in place by a threaded nut. However, other types are held in place in the center of the wheel with a band. The TPMS sensor holds a pressure transducer, radio, battery and electronics. The battery has a projected lifespan of 7-10 years and is not replaceable because the entire unit is sealed in epoxy.

When the battery approaches its end of life, it sends a low battery signal to the receiver. At that point it must be replaced.

TPMS replacement cost

You do NOT have to return to the dealer for a TPMS replacement! Any tire store can fit an aftermarket sensor in your vehicle and program it to your car or truck. Aftermarket TPMS sensors typically cost about 1/3 less than an OEM sensor and they’re almost always made the same vendor. A TPMS sensor replacement from a tire store usually costs around $60 for the part and the labor is often free if it’s installed when you’re getting a new tire or a tire repair.

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


TPMS System

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