DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With a resume featuring more than 40 years in motorsports, Kenny Hunley is well acquainted with NASCAR’s short-track racing program. This week, the Kingsport, Tennessee, native was named the new NASCAR Director of Weekly Racing.
“I literally grew up in the grandstands,” said Hunley from his office at NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. “My father, Ken “Bear” Hunley, raced on the beach in 1958, and was a Sportsman National Champion crew chief. I worked for him when he ran Kingsport Speedway – every job at the track except flagman.”
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR’s weekly racing program that encompasses 58 tracks in the United States and Canada, is the grassroots foundation of stock car racing. More than 10,000 NASCAR-licensed drivers compete in a multitude of divisions at member tracks, a combination of young talent looking to move up the NASCAR ladder and weekend racers who have made a racing career at their home tracks.
Hunley’s career in racing is marked by success at every level, from his first job at Black Diamond Racing in 1974 to his most recent stint as a crew chief and chassis and shock specialist for Henderson Motorsports through 2012. His teams have captured championships at iconic NASCAR Home Tracks including Lonesome Pine Speedway, and he has worked with a number of racing legends along the way – NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnet, and Harry Gant to name a few.
“Kenny’s knowledge, experience, and unmatched passion for weekly racing made him an obvious choice to lead our weekly racing program,” said Brad Moran, NASCAR’s Managing Director of Touring Series. “He brings a unique perspective – as someone involved in operating a track, as a mechanic, a crew chief – that makes him a great asset for our team as well as our partners.”
Hunley was an original member of Morgan McClure Motorsports, joining that organization when it was founded in 1984. Wanting to take a break from the travel demands associated with full-time racing to focus on his family, Hunley became a professional fireman and paramedic for the Kingsport Fire Department in 1988 – but never completely left the racing business. In addition to his duties as a first responder, in 1988 he also took a position with his father’s company, Bear Hunley Racing and Hunley Built Shocks, as a shock and chassis specialist providing consultative support to the full spectrum of race teams, from weekly dirt and asphalt Late Model teams to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series teams.
“I was a volunteer fireman while I was a professional mechanic, then I became a professional firefighter while I was a volunteer mechanic,” Hunley said.
As the Director of Weekly Racing, Hunley’s attention will be focused on the teams, tracks, and fans who comprise motorsport’s most dedicated and vocal base. Hunley believes his background has prepared him to make an immediate, positive impact.
“I bring the competitor’s perspective to this position, and I really want to work toward improving communications between our racing teams and tracks and NASCAR,” Hunley said.
Since its inception in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series has been the launching point for the careers of some of NASCAR’s brightest stars, including seven drivers currently competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup: Greg Biffle, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick.
“The Whelen All-American Series is an integral part of the fabric of NASCAR, and getting Kenny Hunley is a win for everyone,” said Moran.
– NASCAR IMC press release. Photo credit: Kenny Hunley from NASCARHomeTracks.com