Taegan Knowland Is Writing His Own Racing Blueprint

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Taegan Knowland is a rising quarter midget and Bandolero racer from Topeka, Kansas. (TKR photo)

TOPEKA, Kan. – If there does happen to be a blueprint for the process of climbing the motorsports ladder, 10-year-old Taegan Knowland is working on rewriting it.

Unlike many young racers his age, Knowland is a first-generation driver whose family had no prior knowledge of the sport when he came to them with big dreams and an unquenchable need for speed.

“My dad always tells people, and this isn’t a joke, that we knew absolutely nothing when we started,” the young Knowland explained. “To be where we are already … it’s amazing, honestly.”

“I knew most everything about every other sport he could have gotten into, just not racing,” noted Tanner Knowland, Taegan’s father. “He actually started asking us to start racing at age four, and we never even looked into it, because we knew nothing about it. And he just kept asking and kept asking … so finally [in 2021], during the COVID period, he asked again. At that point, he was playing competitive soccer, traveling to Kansas City, he was playing competitive basketball, he was playing football … all at a premier level, and his persistence finally got us to look into racing. One thing led to another from there.”

Taegan Knowland’s racing journey began three years ago with a launchpad in quarter midgets. That part of the story fits the general mold. What didn’t was how that launchpad came to be in the first place.

“We had a local deal in place for Taegan to get started in a quarter midget, and three weeks before the season started – after we’d been telling him for months he’d finally get to go racing – that plan fell through,” recalled Tanner. “I knew we couldn’t tell him he wasn’t going to get to race; that would break his heart. So, we got online and found a [quarter midget] for sale in the San Antonio area, and I asked the owner, ‘Can you send it to us race-ready? We have no experience … but our son wants to race.’

“He agreed and set the car up as a roller; I went to meet him halfway, at the Oklahoma-Texas border, and the rest is history.”

Six weeks after that purchase, the Knowland family made their way to Albuquerque, N.M., for a national quarter midget event. They came into the pits with one car in a U-Haul trailer that they’d rented out for the weekend.

“It was funny; people looked at us like, ‘Who are these guys?’” Taegan noted with a laugh.

They found out the answer to that question quickly, as Taegan found the lead in his very first red-rookie class quarter midget start, going onto a victory and opening plenty of eyes in the process.

“You want to talk about a surreal moment? That was a shocker, especially for us,” Tanner admitted.

Before the end of that season, Taegan captured a USAC.25 National Series (now NASCAR Youth Series) victory at the iconic Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway, cementing in his mind a desire to turn racing into a long-term career.

“When you win at Daytona, especially as a young kid, you realize just how big a deal that [motorsports] really is,” said Tanner.

“That’s still one of the biggest wins of my life,” added Taegan. “Daytona … it’s just special.”

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Taegan Knowland (right) receives instructions from his father, Tanner, prior to a quarter midget race in Topeka, Kan.

The 2022 season brought with it another swath of highlights, including several accomplishments that were impressive for a second-year driver. Taegan earned the NASCAR Youth Series regional championship in Front Range, Colo., and also took his first Topeka Kansas Quarter Midget Ass’n (TKQMA) title in the Junior Honda division.

The cornerstone of that year for Taegan was a third-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during a NASCAR Youth Series national event.

Early quarter midget success as 2023 got underway afforded Taegan the chance to take his first step up the racing ladder into a Bandolero car.

While some might think that “getting his feet wet” would be the way to go, Taegan – determined to challenge himself – went right to the top level of Bandolero competition by tackling races at the prestigious Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

Much like the start to his quarter midget career, Taegan found victory lane quickly in a Bandolero as well, earning two Summer Shootout wins in the Beginner Bandolero class last summer.

Meanwhile, he advanced from the junior quarter midget classes to the senior level, ultimately earning 11 wins during a “year of learning” on the quarter midget side.

Taegan looks to continue that growth in both classes this year, putting a larger emphasis on racing in Bandoleros while still racing in larger quarter midget events when his schedule permits.

That means adapting to a different driving style than what has brought him success on the quarter midget side, something that Taegan admitted was a challenge at first.

“The first time I went out on the track at Florence [Motor Speedway in South Carolina], I learned really quickly that you can’t hustle a Bando like you can a quarter midget,” Taegan laughed. “With the quarter midgets, it’s a momentum car and you can run flat out around the track, but in a Bandolero you can’t do that. When I tried the first day, I hit the wall hard … and sat there saying to myself, ‘Dang, this is a big difference.’

“None of this is easy, though,” he added. “You have to fight for where you want to be, and that’s part of what’s kept me pushing forward throughout this whole process so far.”

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Taegan Knowland (17) in action in Bandolero competition at the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

Taegan will drive Bandoleros this year for Race Driven Performance, the team based in Kannapolis, N.C., which purchased the assets of Legend car powerhouse Devo Motorsports after the passing of DeVaughn “Devo” Keith in May of 2022.

Taegan’s first major Bandolero event is planned to be the INEX Spring Nationals at Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway, April 17-20, and he also looks to contest the full 10-race Summer Shootout schedule at CMS in the Bandit division through the months of June and July.

When not at the wheel of Thomas’ Bandolero cars, Taegan will race his quarter midget in a majority of the local TKQMA races this year, as well as several touring dates between the NASCAR Youth Series and the All-American Clash Series.

Staying connected to his quarter midget roots is something that Taegan circled as important to his continued development in racing.

“I feel like there’s still a lot that I can learn from quarter midgets,” he said. “When I first started [racing], passing other cars was one of the most difficult things for me to master. And quarter midgets, I think, help teach you how to get through the more technical things in racing, like how [corner entry] affects your lap time and what line will give you the most speed.”

Away from the racetrack, Taegan is a fan of NASCAR racing in addition to being an aspiring stock car driver. He also pays avid attention to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, and other sports-related activities as well.

One of his main hobbies is iRacing, using the motorsport simulation service to hone his race craft, and Taegan harbors aspirations of competing in the premier eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series when he comes of age to do so – similar to current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Kaden Honeycutt.

In addition to launching a podcast – Fast Track Chats with Taegan Knowland – Taegan is also a charitable supporter even at his young age, working with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation in the fight against pediatric cancer alongside his main sponsor, Fortune 500 company and non-profit financial advisor Thrivent Financial.

In fact, during a Thrivent members’ fundraising event last year, Taegan helped raise more than $5,000 for Friends of Jaclyn to aid their efforts in assisting families affected by childhood cancer diagnoses.

“It’s been something that has become very close to his heart,” said Tanner of Taegan’s charity work with Friends of Jaclyn. “It’s special when you see your child wanting to work so hard to help other kids.”

Taegan’s on-track efforts have been supported by the guidance of Race Face Brand Development founder and CEO Rod Wortham, who has worked with the Knowland family over the past two years since Taegan was selected to the Race Face NEXT Class of 2022 – highlighting young drivers on an ascending trajectory in motorsports.

“We are thrilled to have witnessed Taegan’s remarkable journey since joining our Race Face Next initiative,” said Wortham. “His rapid on-track progress, highlighted by his significant Bandolero victories at Charlotte last year, has truly showcased his exceptional racing prowess.

“Taegan’s off-track talents, well beyond his years, have been nothing short of astonishing as well,” Wortham continued. “As he prepares for Pro Truck testing at the end of this year, Taegan has proven to be a dynamic force both on and off the track. He effortlessly checks all the boxes, and we anticipate witnessing the continued growth and success that lie ahead for him.”

While Taegan Knowland’s journey has already come a long way in a short time, the young racer knows – as is the case with others his age in motorsports – that there’s still a long way to go to reach the threshold of “racing for a living,” which is his ultimate goal.

“I have to put in the work to get there,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy, and it’s still not going to be easy, but our goal is to get to the top in racing … whatever that looks like in the end.”

For more information on Taegan Knowland, visit his website at https://taeganknowlandracing.com.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.