Stepfather and stepdaughter enjoy friendly rivalry on the track
By Nicholas Dettmann
Full Throttle Contributing Writer
If Mike Mueller was going to continue to stay in the game, he was going to have to make the change.
Mueller, who grew up in Milwaukee, met a good-looking lady in Fox Lake. Her name was Carolyn.
They soon started dating.
He also quickly learned though there was something near and dear to her heart that he had to accept if he was going to stick around — racing.
Racing was an important part of now Carolyn Mueller’s life.
The two have been married for 11 years, almost 12, and both are still active in short-track racing.
Racing wasn’t something Mike Mueller ever envisioned doing. He started to do it as a way to be more involved with Carolyn’s way of life.
“Carolyn’s brother was racing Sprint Cars so we came out and helped,” Mike Mueller said. “Carolyn was involved in the (Midwest Sprint Car Association) at that time.”
“It was one of things ‘Well, this is what I do,’” he added, recalling how he learned more about Carolyn’s life and background. “I just started going along.”
He’s still at it and in contention for a championship in the Legends division at Beaver Dam Raceway.
Mueller had a strong 2013 season. He started it with a feature victory in the opener and two more top-three finishes. In the season’s fourth week, Mueller finished 18th, while Joe Johnson, the eventual track champion, finished second that week. Then at the season’s halfway point, Mueller finished outside the top-15 three times in five weeks, including missing a feature start.
Mueller, a track champion about 10 years ago in a Four-Cylinder car at Beaver Dam, thought that stretch might’ve cost him the championship. Johnson went on to win four features for the season, compared to just one for Mueller.
With Johnson absent from the opener, Mueller hopes this is his year to reclaim championship glory at Beaver Dam. He started it the right way: winning the feature in the opener May 3.
“Hopefully it keeps going,” said Mueller after his May 3 feature victory at Beaver Dam, which came a week after his 50th birthday.
Mueller finished second in the points to Johnson by 13 points. He also finished second in the Legends national championship race at Beaver Dam.
“It went real well,” Mueller said. “I can’t be dissatisfied with it.”
He does have some challengers for the championship. One of those challengers is his step-daughter, Kim Clover.
Clover is the daughter of Carolyn Mueller, the general manager at Beaver Dam Raceway.
Mueller was working at the track at the time she and Mike Mueller met, but wasn’t the one running the show like she is now.
Mike Mueller remembers his first night racing quite well.
He was at Oshkosh and Carolyn’s brother told him “stay away from the inside.”
Mueller got too far inside around the track and flipped over his car. First race, first lap, he was on his lid.
“Why not?” he said with a smile when asked why he got back into the race car.
The adrenaline has kept him inside a race car for more than 10 years now.
Growing up, Mueller wasn’t big into racing. He went to a couple races, but it was never a point of emphasis or a hobby for his family. That all changed when he met Carolyn.
“It is something neat to do,” Mike Mueller said. “When I was helping her brother, I didn’t think I was ever going to drive a car.
“When they came out with the four cylinders, I said ‘Well, if I’m going to be here every night at the track I might as well do something.’ If I didn’t race, she’d put me to work up on top.”
He was open to the idea of getting involved in racing.
“It was something to do on Saturday nights,” Mueller said.
Racing has been around for as long as Clover could remember.
“I went as much as I could,” she said. “It was something I was always interested in, but I never thought I would race.”
Clover is in her fourth year of racing in the Legends division at Beaver Dam.
The ambition was there to get more involved in the family sport, just not the support. There had to be some convincing done to mom in order to let her race.
Clover had never raced anything else in her life before she took on the challenge of a Legend car.
“The offer was out there for me so I thought why not try it,” she said.
And it was Mueller who convinced Clover’s mom to give it a try.
“I don’t know how he did it, but he convinced her,” Clover said.
Mike Mueller wants to win a championship at Beaver Dam. His goal in accomplishing the feat is simple: “Stay in front of her,” said Mueller, pointing at Clover.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he added. “It just depends on the luck. You’ve got to have luck.”
In a rapid period of time, Clover has emerged as a championship contender in the division after struggling to find her place.
“It was kind of rough,” Clover said of her first year of racing in 2011. “It took me a good year to get used to it that’s for sure. It was hard being on the track with everybody else who does really well and there you are just driving around.”
It was Mike Mueller who convinced her to stick with it.
“He just said you’ve got to keep trying,” Clover said, adding Mueller kept reminding her about getting seat time, practice.
In the summer of 2012, Clover competed in 67 nights of racing.
The practice paid off.
Mike Mueller has quickly taken notice.
“She’s getting to be too fast,” he said with a smile.
In just her second year in the division in 2012, she flirted with a victory, had three top-five finishes, and 11 top-10 finishes in 18 starts.
Last season, she won a feature on June 8. She was believed to be the first female to win a feature in track history. Clover went on to have a solid season. She had 10 top-five finishes in 21 starts on her way to finishing third in the points.
Clover also won six heat races.
“She needs to slow down a little bit,” Mike Mueller said with a smile.
At the same time, Mueller can’t help but be impressed with the progression Clover has made in such a short time span.
“She has no fear,” Mueller said when asked what he’s most impressed with regarding Clover. He added Clover winning a feature was equally impressive.
“It’s a really big accomplishment when people have raced in divisions seven, eight, nine, 10 years and have never won a feature.”
Early on, Mueller was kind of a coach for Clover.
“Not anymore,” he said with a smile. “She wants to kick my butt.”
(This article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Full Throttle Magazine.)