For 24-year-old Wade Kennedy, the summer of 2021 has been a good one. After an unusually slow start in the Wildcat division at the famed Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Kennedy has reeled off six straight podium finishes at the historic Maine oval.
He’s carrying plenty of “Big Mo” into the season’s final races, that valued asset called momentum that means so much in short track stock car racing.
The first five or six races were blanket points for us this year,” Kennedy said. “You had to show up and run half of them to get the baseline 20 points. We had a transmission problem, ended up pulling off and didn’t finish. I don’t think we earned a top-10 finish in the first five races.
“Once they started awarding standard points, we’ve been leading the standings. We earned a win, and have finished third or better in the last six races. We’ve found the consistency we needed, and it feels great. We’ve been making lots of changes on the car to find speed, and some of them are working.”
Kennedy is part of a multi-car operation tied in with the famed Naughty 40 organization, headed up by Beech Ridge Hall of Fame member Dan Mckeage. The relationship is a source of pride for Kennedy.
“There are three other cars racing out of the Naughty garage with us this year,” he explained. “We have Dan’s twin sons, Dan Jr. and Shawn, competing now and they are doing very well. Last week, all three of us finished in the top five. It’s an honor to race out of this place and be a part of this great team.”
Kennedy came up through the ranks at BRMS, starting out in the track’s Mad Bomber JV division on Thursday nights. He ran part-time in 2015 before jumping in full-time the following year. Injuries from a motorcycle accident kept him away from the track, but when the broken pelvis was healed (among other things) his attention returned to racing.
In 2017, despite suffering through a rash of engine woes, he finished fifth in the final point standings. He says the Thursday Thunder program is rock-solid and has big value in developing young drivers.
“It is the ideal place to learn how to race,” he said. “I learned a ton there that still helps me today.”
Jason Kennedy is Wade’s father and plays a huge role in his son’s racing program. As Wade will tell you, his Dad lives and breathes racing when he’s not at his job. For him, it’s all about competing.
“I have as much fun and enjoyment from seeing Wade do well as any other activity we do together,” he explained. “He’s come a long way since we started out, now he makes good decisions out there, and doesn’t overdrive the car if it isn’t dialed in just right.
We’ve worked hard to find speed for him this season, and lately the car has been strong. It’s not easy to win races in our division, the competition is pretty stiff. They’ll all be after it hard this Saturday, but we intend to be right there battling for the victory. It’s an exciting time of year for us at Beech Ridge.
Both Wade and Jason understand there is more to short track racing than just finishing up front. There are sponsors, or “marketing partners,” to represent on and off the track, something both men do not take lightly.
“We have some great folks on board this team, and we’re looking for new partners to join us for 2022, as well,” Jason explained. “Wade knows his performance on-track is just part of it, his behavior in the pits, at home and out in the community is important to those who support us. We never forget that.”
What’s more than impressive about Beech Ridge is the fact it has only had three owners since Jim ‘J.B.’ McConnell first opened the gates back in 1949. J.B. sold it to Calvin Reynolds in 1973, then Ralph Cusack bought the joint in the spring of 1981. Three owners, and one common theme – great racing.
Wildcat teams at Beech Ridge have only four races remaining in 2021. It promises to be an exciting conclusion to the season at the storied Maine oval.
“We’ll be working hard to make up the points we lost last Saturday and see if we can secure that points title,” Kennedy added. “If we don’t, it’s still been a successful season.”
– Story by Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
– Photo by Jamie Williams/Finish Line Photography