Jonathan Kluge, pictured in victory lane as a crew member for Mason Diaz in 2017. (Andy Marquis/ photo)

Jonathan Kluge has been a mainstay in the racing scene in Eastern North Carolina, spending many nights at Southern National Motorsports Park and other nearby tracks helping other racers.  Now Kluge, who is one of the good guys in the sport, is getting his opportunity.

This past weekend, after working for over a year to build a car, Kluge competed in a Charger race at Dillon Motor Speedway.  While things did not go the way the 20-year-old from Nashville, North Carolina had hoped, it was just the beginning of a journey he had worked hard for – one that required a lot of motivation, hard work and good friends such as Adam Resnick.

“We worked our tails off,” Kluge told  “Spent a lot of time, effort and money the past year-and-a-half.  Leading up to this weekend, everything worked out in our favor.  My family pitched in to help.  I consider Adam one of my best friends.  He helped as much as he could.  My dad, Mike [Bushee], he puts a lot of time to allow me to do what I love and get back to it.  I’m looking forward to finishing out the year strong so we can get back at it next weekend.”

Kluge has not been entirely removed from the cockpit of a racecar throughout the life, or in recent years.  Resnick has allowed Kluge to compete in his Mini-Stock at Carteret County Speedway on a handful of occasions this season.  He also raced in a handful of Charger races at Southern National Motorsports Park in 2016, and in Street Stocks on occasion before that.

While many young racers come to the sport with a big checkbook, Kluge comes with heart.

“We’re definitely a backyard team,” Kluge said.  “It takes about everything we’ve got to get there.  Hopefully we can get some sponsors to come on board this season or early next.  We’re just trying to race as much as I can this season or next and get my name out there.”

He plans to finish out the season at Dillon Motor Speedway in their Charger division while also running races at Southern National Motorsports Park and East Carolina Motor Speedway.

“We might try to get to East Carolina and Southern National a couple races,” Kluge commented.  “Just trying to focus on Dillon.  I like the Barfield family and the atmosphere, it’s peaceful.  It’s like one big family.  Everyone treats you fair and everyone who races will do anything to help anyone.  I definitely want to run the [Thanksgiving Classic] this year though and get my redemption in the Charger race.”

Kluge started the race this past weekend at Dillon but was forced to retire on lap 12 when he lost oil pressure.  However, he was pleased with the gains he made during the weekend and will soon be back, finally able to race.