ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Marlin Yoder and Reuben Kaufman are Wisconsin natives who are mechanics for NASCAR teams. Both will be returning to their home state for the NASCAR weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake with Hollywood-level stories.
Both grew up Amish, yet somehow ended up working in stock car racing’s highest level.
“We’d get home from church and I’d go for a walk,” explains Yoder, a Richland Center native. “I just happened to stumble upon the races on the radio.”
Soon, Yoder and Kauffman were hooked. Eventually, they began attending races at tracks in Wisconsin Dells and Slinger.
“We actually had no idea something existed on the local level,” Yoder says. “I bought a car that ran at Slinger and it was a championship-winning car in its day. We raced it at the Dells, so that’s how we got started. It was really bad. We had no idea what we were doing.”
Marlin left the Amish community and headed to North Carolina to find any job in big-time racing.
“This was on a Tuesday and I told them I could start the next Monday,” Yoder recalls.
Kauffman, from Loganville, was on a two-week vacation when he launched his new career.
“I told them they didn’t need to pay me since I was on vacation, it’s just a tryout,” Kauffman says. “After the first week, they told (me) when vacation was over I needed to go back home and pack my stuff to come back. (It was) perfect.”
Now, Yoder is a champion on the Kyle Larson team, and Kaufman is loving life on Alex Bowman’s crew and returning to his home track.
“I’ve loved every bit of it,” Kauffman says. “Starting with the National Anthem and ‘start your engines.’ It brought goosebumps.”
“I think my story and Reuben’s story is inspirational to other people, no matter who they are,” Yoder says.
The Road America weekend begins with the Xfinity Series “Henry 180” on Saturday before the Cup Series “Kwik Trip 250” on Sunday.