The new Southern Modified Racing Series presented by PASS has run just two races in its short existence, and the same driver has won both of them. That driver isn’t even a Southern boy either, but instead he’s a Yankee who has made the trip south to take their money. After winning at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) on Easter weekend, Jon McKennedy backed up his performance by taking the checkered flag on Saturday night at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, North Carolina.
McKennedy was a non-factor for the first 80-plus laps of the SMRS 125. At one point he was just barely a straightaway ahead of the leaders. Then the first caution came out near lap 85 and suddenly McKennedy was a player.
He came down pit road in the seventh position, but left pit road with the race lead after just putting on a new right-rear tire.
“We had a really good car all day, really,” McKennedy told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I just elected to kind of ride there at the beginning to save some tires and equipment because I knew we could only change one tire. We came in the pits seventh and my pit crew did a really good job. We had a really good pit stop and I was able to come out with the lead. That was definitely a big change for us in the race. My pit crew did a great job. They got me the track position that I needed.”
McKennedy then had to deal with multiple restarts and a relentless charge from John Smith. On multiple occasions Smith was able to get to the inside of McKennedy, but McKennedy was able to keep him at bay to take his second straight victory and first at Ace Speedway.
The Chelmsford, Massachusetts driver said the strategy all race long was to run in the back and save his tires.
“It’s just one of those deals the way the race tracks are and the format of the race,” he said. “It only kind of makes sense to ride a little bit the first half. The beginning of the race really doesn’t pay anything to run up front. The way the races are, in my opinion, it’s kind of smart to save some and then go at the end. It doesn’t help to go hard at the beginning and then fall back at the end.”
While some race fans have been surprised to see McKennedy take the checkered flag in both races, especially with Burt Myers dominating the early stages of both events, McKennedy wasn’t shocked by the results.
“In a way, I really wasn’t too surprised,” he said. “We’ve got a new engine program, Mike Pettit built us a nice engine that seems to be running really well. Eddie Flemke at Race Works Chassis did some work to the car and at the end of the year last year we started running really well. I knew the car was going in a positive direction and those are the kinds of tracks, Hickory and Ace, that fit my driving style. They’re kind of technical-type tracks with braking points and they’re very line sensitive.”
With McKennedy being undefeated after two races, it only makes sense for him to keep coming down south to run the rest of the races, right?
“My plans right now are kind of to pick and choose races with the Modifieds and kind of all the series. I’m not sure I’ll be attending all the races down south, but I’m just kind of playing it out. All I can do is control what I do have now and try to make the best of it. Try to get some of these guys’ attention. I’ve felt like the last few years I’ve really made some noise in all of the race cars I’ve driven. The big break hasn’t come yet, but we’ll see what happens.”
The next race for the Southern Modified Racing Series is scheduled for May 27 at the tricky tri-oval of Concord Speedway, a track which McKennedy finished second at during the 2015 North-South Shootout. Whether McKennedy will make the trip south to Concord, North Carolina is still to be determined, but if he does he is sure to be a threat to win.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com