There wasn’t a dry eye in the house following Saturday night’s Star Classic at Star Speedway.
While the prestigious race has always been a significant event on the short track schedule, the 53rd edition had added significance, as the race was run in remembrance of longtime track owner Bob Webber, Sr. who passed away in January. At the end of the night, it was only fitting that Jon McKennedy, a driver who “Big Bob” took under his wings, stood in victory lane.
McKennedy, who is now highly regarded as one of New England’s top short track racers, got his start in racing at the Epping, New Hampshire quarter-mile oval owned by the Webber family. In the process, the Chelmsford, Massachusetts driver developed a lasting friendship with Bob Webber, Sr.
“When you win the Star Classic, it’s huge. There are a lot of great drivers and a lot of good cars in the series,” McKennedy began. “Big shout out to Big Bob, he was riding with me tonight. He took me under his wings when I was a little youngster running around here. He let me race here at a young age and he used to always give me little pieces of words here and there. ‘Always be smooth’ and ‘Keep a good head on your shoulders and you’ll go places.’ I heard that the whole night through Bob. This win is for Bob Webber.”
During the afternoon hours, McKennedy was confident that he had a car that could compete, but he would not have guessed that he would have a car capable of dominating the field by half a lap at times.
“You never know, this is a tough race. We ran the whole day with the sun out and we raced at night,” McKennedy stated. “It’s a lot cooler, the humidity comes in and you don’t know what to expect. You got forty gallons of fuel in the car; you just make the best adjustments you can going into the race, and it worked out great.”
McKennedy was also pumped up to score a win in the Star Classic for the first time since joining the P&L Motorsports No. 21 team, the same group he rode to the ISMA title with in 2017.
“Pam and Lee Vinal, the owners, gave me a great car. The crew put a whole bunch of effort into this deal. To win one of the biggest races on the Supermodified schedule is awesome. Big thanks to everyone, Harrington Paving, Vinal Excavation and all the people that make this possible.”
Saturday was also a defining moment for McKennedy himself in 2018. Following his 2017 ISMA championship, McKennedy started off 2018 hot on the Tour-type Modified side, with three big wins with Tommy Baldwin Racing. But since March, the wins have eluded him, both in the No. 7NY Modified and his select schedule in the No. 21 Supermodified.
Now, McKennedy heads into the final stages of 2018 with a renewed overall confidence.
“It’s been a bad summer for me, I guess you could say,” he admitted. “We had a lot of bad luck with the Supermod, as well as the Modified. We started the year off on fire with the 7NY driving for Tommy Baldwin, won a bunch of races right off the bat; then it just seemed like the last two months we’ve been real fast with his car, as well as the Super, and it just seemed like we had a monkey on our back. A lot of mechanical issues. It’s just good to get another win. Hopefully we can end the year strong, go to Loudon in a few weeks with the 7NY and get a win there.”
Behind McKennedy, Ben Seitz held off Jeff Abold in the battle for the second position. Mark Sammut and Mike Lichty rounded out the top five.
Just one round remains for the ISMA Supermodifieds in 2018, with the championship being decided at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on October 12-14 during the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing.
Race fans can watch every lap of the 53rd Annual Star Classic on-demand by subscribing to the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com