Sunday was an important day for veteran Modified racer Jon McKennedy. While he was not present with the No. 7NY in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour garage, he was on the property of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park to conclude an important partnership in his racing career, while remembering his best friend and biggest fan who had passed away suddenly just a few weeks prior.
Putting all his focus for the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing weekend on running in the ISMA Supermodified No. 21, McKennedy took advantage of an outside pole starting position to sprint away from the rest of the 25-car field at "The Big T." Despite the multiple restarts, no one was a match for McKennedy as he took the Lee and Pam Vinal-owned car to victory lane after 50 laps.
It was an emotional celebration for the Chelmsford, Massachusetts driver who was still reeling from the unexpected passing of his father Dennis in September.
“He was my best friend, huge part of my racing career and always behind me 100 percent," McKennedy said. "My biggest fan, he had a hard time admitting that, but I knew he was my biggest fan. Just a tough situation, I really miss him, as well as a lot of other people. It feels good to get a win here at this race. Thanks to Lee and Pam Vinal, my car owners, my crew made my day a lot easier, I think my dad was riding with me too."
Surprising to many, it was the first ever win at Thompson for the man who has won at so many different tracks throughout the region.
“It’s great to win at Thompson, I’ve won at 18 or 19 race tracks up and down the East Coast, and this is my first win at Thompson, in anything. I’ve finished second numerous times in the NASCAR Modified Tour, the Valenti Series and ISMA. I always run awesome, just could not get that win. It’s pretty special, think it’s the 20th track I’ve won at.”
Further adding to the emotion of the afternoon, it was the last ride for the 2017 ISMA champion for the Vinal family, who are now stepping away from Supermodified ownership.
“Nice way to go out. We got a handful of wins, an ISMA championship, we won one of the most prestigious races in the Northeast with the Supers, the Star Classic. It has been a great few years, but it is Lee and Pam’s last race as owners. Hopefully I can do some more Super racing in the future.”
Through the cloud of emotion, McKennedy’s eyes shined bright with hope and determination for the future, as he looks to his next major racing goal.
“The next thing I want to do is to run the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour full-time and contend for a championship over there; that’s the next thing on my list. It’s the best, some of the best drivers, owners and mechanics in short track racing. It’s an extraordinary tough division, and I want that to be the next chapter for me. I’ve won four championships in MRS, championships with ISMA, the Tri-Track Series, weekly short track stuff, so this is next.”
Running majority schedules the past two seasons with Tommy Baldwin Racing, McKennedy has already claimed his first career Whelen Modified Tour victory with TBR in 2017 at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC). Now heading into 2020, he’s making an appeal to go for all the marbles.
“Hopefully we can figure something out, maybe I can get Tommy to run the whole deal. We’ll see.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51/Rick Ibsen