Sigmund Freud reportedly believed that “love and work were the cornerstones of humanness.” While it is a hypothesis impossible to test, most would agree these two activities are essential in the quest for meaning in life.
However, it’s doubtful 23-year-old Chase McDermand has time for such heavy thoughts while muscling a midget around a midwestern bullring.
But in quieter moments it’s likely an easy idea for him to grasp, as McDermand has never shied away from work and that trait alone enhances his credibility with the key players at Mounce/Stout Motorsports.
Given his level of on-track success, it is no surprise that McDermand dreams of being a full-time racer. After all, nothing can replace that adrenaline rush. Then, he emerges from a moment of reverie and realizes that while he has a wrench in his hand, it isn’t there to work on a race car.
When he isn’t at speed, McDermand is earning a living at the family-owned McDermand Plumbing. It’s a busy three-person operation headed by his father, Kevin, while his mother, Shelley, serves as secretary and scheduler.
When one takes a deeper look at McDermand’s life, words like grounded and stable come to mind.
He’s lived in the same house his entire life, an abode just doors down from the parents of NASCAR star Justin Allgaier. He went to high school in Riverton, Ill., and has yet to feel the urge to leave the greater Springfield area. Why should he?
Not only is he rooted in the center of a racing hotbed, but his hometown has also produced a plethora of open-wheel racing legends. Will his name be added to this list?
While it is impossible to predict just how far his talent can carry him, early indications suggest we may be hearing from McDermand for years to come.
McDermand’s entry into racing was paved by family members who came before him. His grandparents, Bill and Sandy McDermand, were drag racers, and legend has it that Sandy competed while pregnant with Chase’s father.
When Bill McDermand wasn’t going in a straight line, he could be found at Springfield Speedway, known to locals as Shaheen’s, helping with sprint car teams.
When it was time for Bill and Sandy’s son to give the sport a try, he gravitated to full-bodied cars. Kevin McDermand was a fixture at tracks such as Jacksonville and Spoon River Speedways for years.
Work and family responsibilities required a recalibration of priorities and Kevin McDermand eventually took the helmet off for good. Yet, just one year after he called it quits, he watched his 11-year-old son strap into a quarter midget for the first time. Father and son traveled around Illinois and occasionally slipped over the border to Indiana.
He stuck with the quarter midgets for three years and considered it time well-spent.
“I think I won 40 or so times over that span,” Chase McDermand said. “I also won a regional championship and several track championships. Because we stayed on dirt, we didn’t do any of the huge races out East. We just stayed around here but it was a good stepping-stone.”
It was time to move up and there were plenty of opportunities in the region to compete in what is now commonly called a D2 midget. A family trip to visit Chase’s sister, Chelsea, who was away at college, led to a significant detour on the way home. Heading to Indiana they visited fellow racer Tyler Kendall, who had a lightning sprint car on the market.
They knew they could race it as a D2 midget and the next week they returned to pick it up.
Chase McDermand found victory lane while still a teenager and within a few years he was cutting a wide swath through the heartland, seeking opportunities to race. In his travels, he discovered that he enjoyed the competition and camaraderie found in the Badger Midget Auto Racing Ass’n.
“In 2018, we wanted to travel a little bit, so we took our D2 car up there and raced with Badger. In my very first race at Sycamore (Ill.), I was leading the feature but got up in the fence and flipped,” McDermand recalled. “It was a good and bad night at the same time.”
Yet, with each race he felt he had found a home.
“We really enjoyed racing up there,” he said. “We liked the people. They had more cars than the other places we went and looking back it was cool to race with Scott Hatton, Kevin Olson and those guys.”
His first Badger championship came in 2019 with the family car. Then, Dave Estep’s RMS team provided a mount for the 2020 campaign. Another title was added to the résumé. Then, before the 2021 season, McDermand rolled up his sleeves and built his own car. Same song, new verse.
In the history of Badger, which dates to 1936, only Hall of Fame drivers Billy Wood and Olson had previously won three titles in a row.
“When you go back and look at the list of champions it is cool to be on that list,” McDermand said. “I beat Christopher Bell as the youngest Badger champion and now am a part of that history.”
Beyond the wins and losses, the most important aspect of this period in his career was how he grew as a driver.
“We were very fortunate to have good success with Badger and I wouldn’t have had the success I am having today without those three years of experience,” he noted. “It really helped me make the transition to the national ranks.”
McDermand was ready to move forward. The question was how?
A plumbing, heating and air conditioning business can provide a comfortable living, but rarely does it offer the cushion needed to enter the major leagues of midget racing.
“We were at the point where we needed to move up and broaden our horizons,” McDermand said. “But I really don’t remember how I started talking to Jay Mounce. We didn’t have the funds to go out and buy a national midget engine, run it all year long and keep up with the maintenance. So, we worked out a deal with Jay.”
The deal, according to Mounce, is straightforward.
“The roller is his; the engine, driveline and setup is ours,” Mounce said. “We collaborate on the setup because they have a pretty good understanding and a good baseline from their time in Badger. There is just a difference in horsepower.”
The basic outline of the deal is clear, but that doesn’t explain how a kid from Illinois and an Oklahoma-based car owner got together.
“We met through Facebook,” Mounce reported. “He had reached out a couple of years ago to see what it would take to get in our car when he was running Badger.”
That’s one piece of the puzzle, but with a bit of prodding, the picture becomes clearer.
“They are a working family just like we are,” Mounce said. “I was trying to help him get in the national scene without it costing him a fortune. So we shared some messages back and forth and developed the relationship.
“It got to where they could spend a little money in a different direction from where they were at. By the time you are three championships into something and the fastest car every week, you need to do something else, or you are going to quit learning.”
Perhaps Mounce and Stout saw a little of themselves in McDermand’s situation.
Gavin Stout grew up in Wichita, Kan., and progressed from karts to sprint cars. By the time he graduated from high school he knew he needed to decide on a career. Racing was fun, but he couldn’t count on that to pay the bills.
Stout studied to be a lineman and was soon in Oklahoma working for a major power company. He surmised he might have a chance to race a bit more if he acquired a midget. He purchased a car from Casey Shuman but when he searched for parts for his powerplant he quickly realized they were nearly impossible to find.
Just before the Chili Bowl Nationals a Facebook post caught his eye.
“Jay wrote that if you needed help getting ready for the Chili Bowl he had garage space,” Stout said. “The rest is history.”
Mounce was also doing what he could do to stay in the game.
“When I first moved to Oklahoma, I was building cars out of my garage,” he said. “But I had a 9-to-5 job. I could put cars together for guys who didn’t have the time to do it. Gavin called and he had a midget he was getting ready. From then on, we have been joined at the hip. We took his race cars and my cars and put them together. We kept swapping stuff and kept getting better.”
Many of today’s aspiring midget racers have made their way through the micro ranks and outlaw karts.
Mounce is pleased McDermand bypassed those steps.
“The micro deal teaches you bad habits and when you get in the midget it is a completely different deal,” Mounce explained. “Now, in the last year and a half or so the non-wing micro side has taken over, so down the road I might have a different perspective. With a wing you are flat to the floor. In a midget you must learn what throttle control really is and you must learn to use both feet all night.
“If I had a kid in racing, I would put them in a quarter midget, then in a D2 or Badger car and then in a midget. I would skip the micro scene. I liked that Chase came from a competitive midget series.”
Stout saw something in this young driver’s character, family and work ethic.
“Chase is one of the most whole-hearted guys we have ever had come through here,” Stout said. “He is not in for himself. He isn’t a guy who came in looking for fame. He’s a racer. He wants to win. He is very grateful. He is a good kid from a great family.”
Stout understands all that the McDermand clan juggles to make this work. Stout and his wife, Kaci, have welcomed three children into the home in the past four years. Sixty-hour work weeks are not unusual, and afterward he heads to the shop to get cars ready for the next race.
While Mounce is more public facing, the work Stout does is indispensable. While there are weekend warriors who lend a hand, for the most part this is a two-man operation. Because of his work schedule it is rare that Stout gets to the track, but it is still a thrill to be a part of the operation.
“I have 100 percent faith in Jay and Chase at the race track,” Stoudt said. “When we push the car into the trailer, I know the car and driver are capable of winning.”
This team doesn’t spend much time in the limelight, but like McDermand, they are proud of what they have accomplished.
“Gavin and I have really worked hard,” Mounce said. “We are just a mom-and-pop team as compared to everybody else. We have put in a lot of hours to get this program to where we can compete.”
Last season demonstrated that Mounce/Stout Motorsports was ready for prime time. Jacob Denny nailed down the team’s first USAC national win at Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway, while McDermand scored three major victories, including a win with the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series at Davenport (Iowa) Speedway.
McDermand carried high hopes into this season.
“You have all of your fans and family telling you that you can do it,” McDermand said. “But to be able to win one helped me know that I could do it.”
If he needed further affirmation that he was where he belonged, McDermand got out of the gate quickly. Back-to-back May victories at Humboldt (Kan.) Speedway and 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan., put a smile on Kansas-born Gavin Stout’s face. McDermand added two more victories during Xtreme’s East Coast swing and the team entered the stretch run in the title chase.
Mounce is certainly pleased with what he has seen, and expects the best is yet to come.
“Honestly, I think looking back, his biggest hurdle at first was racing around guys who were the exact same speed he was,” Mounce noted, “because he was the fastest guy on the track in Badger. At the national level there are 15 of those guys and you must figure out how to race them aggressively. Once he learned that, he took off. To me he is one of the top five guys in the country now.”
The wins have come with the Xtreme Outlaw Series and McDermand is seeking his first USAC victory.
“He seems to like the Xtreme format a bit better,” Mounce said. “He does not do well in single-car qualifying and that hurts us on the USAC side of things. They don’t reward good racing, they reward fast race cars. The passing points deal favors his driving ability. He chases better than he qualifies.”
As for the future, McDermand can go in several directions. He would love to be among the younger wave of drivers taking on USAC Silver Crown racing. He admits it would be a thrill to race on the big mile dirt track in his hometown. He would also like to try his hand at a 410 winged sprint car.
“I think if I want to make a living driving race cars it would have to be in winged racing,” McDermand said.
His other goal is to lead his own team. Interestingly, McDermand has already taken steps in that direction.
He provided a car for Steven Snyder Jr. at the Chili Bowl Nationals and was delighted when he progressed to the B main on Saturday night. Snyder recently competed during the POWRi Illinois Speedweek in McDermand’s car.
McDermand works hard and loves what he does. Most important of all, he has the right attitude.
“Even on the bad nights I try to catch myself and remind myself just how lucky I am to get to do this,” he said. “There are lots of kids that don’t get a chance to do this.”
As good as this year has been it has been a typical roller-coaster experience. McDermand was prepared to deal with that.
Taking a philosophical approach he said, “It takes the bad nights to understand what the good nights are.”
Gavin Stout knows that Chase McDermand has ability, but that alone doesn’t motivate him to head to the shop after a grueling day of work. He does it because he believes in his young driver.
“Chase has proven himself,” Stout said. “None of this was given to him. He works his butt off like everyone else. He is everything you want.”
This story appeared in the Oct 18, 2023, edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.