Jesse Kennedy celebrates his 30th year in racing with OSCAAR

The start of the 2014 OSCAAR Super late model season will mark a huge milestone in Jesse Kennedy’s racing career. Jesse and his entire team will be celebrating their 30th year in racing in Southern Ontario and on top of the list is the OSCAAR Championship. Throughout Jesse’s career he has accumulated numerous feature wins, in some of the biggest events in Ontario. I recently sat down with Jesse to reflect back on his career and the sport that he loves so much.

Question #1: Where was your first ever race and describe your first ever race car?

Jesse: My first race was at Delaware Speedway in 1985 with the street Stock class racing against the likes of Ron Ling, Ron Lindsay, Steve Robblee, and Ike Henry. I was 15 1/2 years old and there was concern from a lot of the veterans about my age. Compared to today’s standard I think maybe I started too late because the ages of some starting now.

The car was a 1975 Pontiac Ventura, purchased from Barry Baker, driven by Ron Ling (one race old car) and built by Bert McColl. It was properly set up and built but dad didn’t go top shelf on engine until I put in more seat time.

Question #2: Can you give the fans a brief history of your racing career?

Jesse: I’ve raced in several classes over the years: Street Stock, Delaware trucks, Enduro, Limited late model, Pro Late model, CASCAR, CASCAR New Smyrna Series, ALSTAR (one race) OSCAAR SLM and tried the Dirt
on three occasions.photo 5

I’ve never kept track of my wins, but I can say there’s been only two years that I didn’t win a feature event.

We’ve won the 2007 Delaware Speedway Late Model Championship and two of the APC 200 paying $10,000 each. Beat the Heat 150 at Sauble Speedway is another victory I Cherish, and of course the 2012 OSCAAR Super LM Rookie of the year with a feature win.

Question #3: How has racing changed in your eyes over the past 30 years?

Jesse: First off I started racing in street stocks because there was nowhere else to start other than Karts. Now kids have Jr. programs and mini stocks without a lot of restriction of age.

photo 3

 

The next is what the other long time racers say. Racing has always been expensive but now everything is purpose built. We no longer go to junk yards to get parts. You either build it yourself or have it built. That being said time is important too, because if you don’t have time to fix it you have to have a builder do it.

So you buy all the tools and make jigs to do it yourself or pay a builder to do it. Lastly the MEDI, we can now find out what happens anytime anywhere almost before it happens at track. Before that we would rely on that race fan that would travel from track to track or at the local car builders to see any carnage.

I’ve met more people through Social media in the last few years than the rest of my racing career. It’s the new way and it’s good for our lifestyle, Sponsors, Series’, Race Tracks, and fans.

Because I enjoy meeting new fans this is a great tool.

Question #4: How do you see the Sport now?

Jesse: I wouldn’t say that the sport is declining because some tracks are doing well. But the upper tier classes at most track need to be more alike rules wise. It’s a tough sell because it still cost money to upgrade or downgrade and to try to keep your regulars. In General the sport is expensive the people required to get the job done is tremendous. Trying to get new people involved is tough. The mini car classes seem to be striving because they can go out to those junk yards we mentioned earlier and get what they need.

Question #5: My feeling on OSCAAR?photo 2 (1)

Jesse: I believe in this organization and its path and where it’s trying to get to. They have done several good things since I’ve been involved. Bringing in the OSCAAR Modified and soon to be Mini Stocks was a very smart move.

In the earlier years I understand the rules were quite relaxed and with new blood and talent coming through things they may need to more on top of it. Rules have good and bad but majority speaks if everyone is content so be it. I like the club idea and you have a say.

Question #6: Your Goals for your 30th anniversary?

Jesse: I’d like to get another feature victory with OSCAAR and be in contention for the championship. I still go play with the Pro LM guys so I’d like a victory there too.

Question #7: Plans for your future? How long will you race? Will you become a car owner at some time?

Jesse: I have been contemplating retiring after this season and seriously planning on doing it. I still love this game but crew is harder to find along with sponsorship. My kids are into other sports so time is limited and I dont want to miss out on their stuff. My crew also have kids with the same issues.

My kids are not really interested in the whole racing thing and I have tried! But I have been mentoring a few young Guns.

As for car owner, Kennedy Motorsports would have to sit down and discuss this idea because I know I would be helping someone at some level.photo 4

You just never know if you end up having one of those dream seasons as a team you’ll find yourself working on a car and preparing for 2015!!!

I would like to take this time to thank Jesse and his entire team for being a part of OSCAAR and for allowing the series to help celebrate his 30 years in racing. I for one hope to see the #10 on the track for many years to come!!

By Dave Gainforth

OSCAAR HEADING TO MEGASPEED CUSTOM CAR & TRUCK SHOW

With just a little over two months till the first green flag waves to start the 2014 race season, OSCAAR will be giving fans a little preview this weekend. The International Centre will once again host the largest show in Ontario and OSCAAR is proud to be a part of it.

OSCAAR and Sunset Speedway will once again be sharing the floor space with a total of 10 race cars on display. There is nothing like the new race car smell, to get everyone excited for the upcoming season.

There will be a total of 6 OSCAAR Super late models and Modifieds on display.

1. Dave Taylor took the 2013 race season off after returning to action in 2012. The team has rebuilt and is ready to show the fans his new #51 OSCAAR Super late model. As a past champion of the series Dave is ready to make another charge for the championship in 2014.

 

 

2. Brent McLean is very well known in the OSCAAR Modified ranks, but last year Brent also competed in several super late events. Well 2014 is here and Brent is ready to tackle the super late models on a weekly basis. With a new number #47, a beautiful new wrap on the car look for Brent to possibly become the first driver in OSCAAR history to capture both the mod and super late feature in one night.

3. One of the most popular drivers in the modified series is Dave Terry and his familiar #14 modified. Dave have spent long hours in the shop this year fine tuning his car, has an exciting new graphics package on his Wasteco sponsored ride and is ready to challenge for his first feature win in the modified. A great testament to how Dave and his team prepare their car, on the just released School of Racing Graphic’s book, it features the #14 on the cover.

4. After a very successful first year in the Modifieds, the third generation driver of Branden Bullen is ready to take the #67 modified to his first feature victory in 2014. With a great looking new wrap on the car courtesy of Knightworks Design, Branden is definitely a driver the fans will want to be watching in 2014.

 

5. One of the many rookies in the Modifieds in 2014 will be making the long haul this weekend to introduce himself to the OSCAAR race fans. The #61 of 15 year old Dustin Jackson from Sault St. Marie is ready to tackle the series full time and start to make his mark on the racing scene. Dustin has two races under his belt at the end of 2013 and showed that he has the knowledge and ability to race with the best of OSCAAR.

6. Another rookie entering with 5 decades of racing experience will also have his new Modified on display. Fans are very familiar with the #36 of Gary Elliott and his Lincoln Welders, Quaker State sponsored race cars, but 2014 will be Gary’s first full season with OSCAAR and in a modified. The team is ready to show these young guys that the veteran drivers still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

I encourage all race fans to come out this weekend, support their favorite track, driver and series at the Mega Speed Car Show. I know we are all tired of this snow…IT IS TIME TO GO RACING.

By Dave Gainforth

Photo Credit: Dan Little

Getting to know Gary Elliott

The 2014 racing season will see Gary Elliott once again become a rookie in racing. The coming season will see the familiar #36 compete full time with the OSCAAR Modifieds. This season will also mark a huge mile stone for Gary… his 700th consecutive start in racing. Everyone in OSCAAR is excited to be a part of this historic event, and look forward to being the next chapter of Gary’s racing career. I recently sat down with Gary and talked about his career, the sport he loves and his thoughts on the future of racing.

I always wanted to race from the time I was 5 years old. I loved the Jalopy’s, and the Supermodifieds. My favorite driver was Glen Schurr, #36 SM.

My first choice to race was Late Model. I got the urge after watching cars at the CNE, and we figured we could learn the V8 etc, but we could not afford to buy a used race car and worse we had no place to work on it, and no way to get it to the races.

My first race car was a 1959 VW. Our car was a totally stock VW, 1200 cc and we finished well back of the faster VW’s and Austin Mini’s.

When we wrecked our car, we would just buy another one and cut the cage out of the wrecked car and Dad would install it in the next car for me. We rolled over 3 times our first year racing. We also had 2 wins including our only ever Dead Heat.

1969 First Race Car VW

1969 Second Race Car VW

 

First Win 1969

First & Only Dead Heat

 

Question #1: Your 1st ever race where was it, how did you do and describe your first ever race car?

My first race car was a VW. We were planning on running Cayuga Speedway. They created a Mini Stock class that would start on the long weekend in May. So we went to Merrittville in early May because they had Mini Stocks as well. We ran okay, but not very well. I thought I would do great, but my eyes were opened when I got beat fairly easily. It was my first race on dirt, but would be my last time at Merrittville. I would run dirt once more at Brighton Speedway in 1970.

Question #2: history of your racing experience. First feature win, total number of wins.

My first feature win came in the Mini Stock in my 3rd year. We have a total of 238 checkers including 36 feature wins.

First Feature Win Cayuga 1971

36th Feature Win

 

Championships, other major accomplishments, explain what happened to break your consecutive streak many years ago.

Accomplishments listed below:

687 Nights in a row…..goal is 800…we will hit 700 maybe on July 5th Capital City.

Our team had a streak going of 156 nights from 82 until early 87. On May 12th of 87 my Dad passed away, losing his battle with cancer. That weekend we had a double header at Sauble Speedway, my Dad was going to come with me. We had been running well the past 2 years and he was happy about that.

We finished 9th in the feature on the Saturday night and we’re happy. On the Sunday night we also ran well, winning our heat, but got caught up in a multi car wreck in the feature. Our car was okay we just barely tagged another spinning car, both of us avoiding the wreck but getting locked together.

I got out of my car and saw that my right front wheel was jammed by the other cars rear bumper and went to ask him to let me try to free my car up. It looked like there was no damage on my car and I wanted to continue.

While I was trying to free my car, he decided to try and jerk my car off his car and was dragging the front end of my car. I wasn’t upset prior to that, although I was adrenalin filled.

When he did that I ran to the driver side of his car and yelled at him that he was wrecking my car. He should have apologized, or waved indicating he was sorry, but instead he told me to “f#*k off”. The words had barely left his mouth when I started machine gunning him with my fist through the driver’s window. Then he jammed it in gear and took off screaming tires.

I thought for sure I would be black flagged but no one seen it, some fans and both our crews, but no official of the track or the Hobby club..

After the race his wife punched me in the face and then our crews got into a shoving match but it was soon broken up.

When the dust settled I got suspended for 2 nights, even though no one saw it, but he had a black eye and I did admit I hit him. The following Tuesday I went to his house with coffee and made an apology, we have been great friends since..

After the 2 night suspension was over, I started back on June 5th 1987, and have not missed a night, accumulating 687 consecutive race events.

This year we hope to run the first 13 nights without a miss, and hit 700. If we can keep it going we will. The NASCAR record is 788 by Ricky Rudd; it sure would be an awesome feat to break 788. How about 800!!!

If I didn’t get suspended we had 156 nights to add on to our 687……

Question #3: How has racing changed in your eyes over the years since you first began?

In Mini Stocks and Hobby cars, we did everything ourselves. There were no place back in the 70’s and 80’s to buy race parts except for drag racing shops. There were engine builders. We used the engine builders to get us power. Some teams built their own engines with help from friends, and other racers. We tried that as well, but preferred to pay more and trust we would get both power and reliability through a builder.

Our cars were repaired by us, and most all parts were either scrap yard or Canadian Tire.

Today racing is totally different and in so many ways. The only time we use the scrap yards today is to take beat up street cars or drop off scrap steel, we don’t get anything from them anymore for our race cars.

Race cars are built by at manufacturing facilities now, or by qualified car builder shops. I can’t build my own car for many reasons. I don’t have a proper place to do that kind of work, our shop is not equipped, floor not level, poor lighting, and not nearly big enough. We don’t have the right equipment to build a car, and most of all, I don’t have the knowhow. Cars are built by qualified builders and if I want to compete I need the best of everything. The only other hope is to buy a good used car that needs some TLC and do it yourself, but it still needs the right parts for you to race competitively.

The things we can’t do today we get help with. We mount our own bodies, do some welding, all of the installation and maintenance of small stuff. When it comes to set up we get help to learn what it should be and then we do it ourselves. We scale our cars and read books to help us learn how to get our car around turns. It’s still a mad science at times.

The specifications for cars are much more exact than 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. If you are going to build a car today you need to know what you are doing. We can access so much info now on the internet. There are things about parts, race cars and set up that was not available before. However, even with the suggestions from various internet sources, and local building shops and set up experts, it’s still trial and error. Some systems are more complicated than others, making it a necessary demand to know these systems to keep up. The worse part is that once you think you understand it, the tendency is to try and go further, and sometimes the result is us going backwards.

Today teams need to know what to do, what it will change, how much to adjust, and when it should or shouldn’t be applied. It is much more complex now, and without a good sound source to help, can be very frustrating for most racers to have any hope of winning a heat race, let alone a feature.

Drivers in the past use to be able to get into most any race car and make it work. Today, great drivers can’t go anywhere with inferior equipment. Now it’s the piece you drive and the set up that makes the difference. I think equipment and set up now carry a higher percentage compared to driver skill. A good driver in an average car years ago could be competitive, but not anymore. You either have a good, well set up car, with the right suspension package and sufficient power or you won’t keep up.

The key for me is to do as much as we can on our own, and pay for what we can’t do. Paying good people to build a car is okay, because it will be done right and faster. They also explain to us how to set up our car, and what happens when adjustments are made. Knowing that is very important when making adjustments. A car can’t be set up properly if the driver is having issues dissecting what it’s doing on the track, and when the first problem starts. Quite often teams fix what they see instead of what caused it. The driver feels the car is tight, the team agrees. They make an adjustment in the pits for a car that pushes in the corner, but the car was loose causing it to push. So now the adjustments are wrong, making it worse. The set up people can help with learning your car, and having the crew at a setup session is crucial. We can afford to go once for a $500 to $1000 setup, we need to learn from that so we can save money as we do it ourselves. However if the car is misdiagnosed on the track, problems won’t go away.

My pit crew is awesome. We try as hard as we can to be competitive and do everything ourselves. We also learn from other successful teams who help with suggestions or tips.

Racing parts, though expensive, last longer if they are not beat up and more places are selling them now making them much cheaper than before. It’s too bad there were not more car builders, because the cost is still very high and part of that could be due to most parts come from the US.

Maintenance is crucial. Back in the 70’s and 80’s we worked on our cars but not to the extent we do today. If we survived a night in the 70’s we didn’t have much to do, because back then, all I knew was how to replace bent or broken parts. So a night with no accident was good because it meant an easy week….no work at all.

Now a day’s an easy week is 2 nights on the car with a list of 20 to 30 check items to make sure the fast race car you’re driving is not going to have a part fall off or some other issue that could put you out of a race.

Today is tough for us because of the cost. Many teams spend tons of money to try and keep up but still lack something that won’t let them be competitive, and worse be lapped by faster cars in a big race. That shouldn’t happen, our cars need to be more competitive, and it shouldn’t happen because one team has way more funds. There are lots of good drivers watching because they don’t have money to keep up.

Tracks are cutting back shows to save us money, but that isn’t the answer. A race track only has so many nights for their business to earn a living. We need to support them by showing up every week. Fans want see their favorite drivers when they go to the track. I think it’s not fair to the business of racing for us drivers not to be there every week. It’s also not fair to the promoters, fans and sponsors. Maybe a better way to save race teams money isn’t giving nights off, but reducing costs. Eliminate certain parts, certain engine procedures, tires, fuel etc. A few teams have endless funds, but they don’t make the show, it’s a full field that is entertaining, not a few dominators. Promoters need to find a way to bring parity to race teams and allow skill and finesse be the driving force behind a night’s competition.

There are positives about today’s racing. Though more expensive, there is much more opportunity to get sponsors or do show events for tracks and sponsors to help supplement the cost of racing. The internet allows web sites to be created to do more for your sport and sponsors. Email has opened other doors to do reporting to your sponsors and fans as well as Facebook.

We have no excuse today to not promote our sport and our teams and our valuable sponsors. We have so many areas in which to do so. Communication is huge and we have more resources now that were never available before.

Question #4: How do you see the sport now?

The sport is very good, very exciting and potential to be even greater than in days past, But we all need to work hard to promote it. There are so many ways a family can entertain themselves today, and getting them to the races is one that requires hard work and dedication, but not just from the track promoters, but every race team.

Track owners need to be more creative and use the race teams. If you have 80 race teams at your track each week, put out an incentive to bring fans in. Give them a reward, pit pass, whatever and get fans into the place. Drivers need to support race tracks, because without them, we have no place to race.

For some promoters, it may mean giving away tickets to their race teams for doing shows for them.

Owners and promoters can attend big events in major cities and give away 1000 tickets at a Blue Jay game, or Argo, or another event and get people to come to the track. We all need to help fill the stands. Giving away tickets is not a bad thing. Money can be made in so many other ways.

I don’t think creative marketing is touched at most tracks and it needs to be.

Tracks need fans, sponsors and lots of race cars. Hosting sponsor seminars for race teams in the off season would be a benefit and should be run by the race track to help all race teams. It’s in their best interest to do whatever they can to support teams, without them they have no show.

Promoting our sport is key; including strong, aggressive and loyal race teams is a must.

Question #5: Your long history with sponsors, explain how you keep them for so many years, some words of wisdom for young drivers searching for them? 

I appreciate you asking me that, because race tracks, sponsors, fans and race teams make this sport.

I am very fortunate to have had perhaps the longest driver sponsor relationship in history of racing, especially with our corporate sponsor Quaker State. I have been with them 41 years, dating back to the 1974 race season. I was blown away when I got my first agreement from Quaker State and the product. I was proud to have such a big company involved with our racing.

Over the years I kept them updated with my results and sent pictures. Back in the early going there was no email, computers or any of the many media opportunities there are today so I did basically what they required as an entry level team getting sponsorship of 4 cases of oil, that improved slightly over the next few years.

I always phoned my Quaker State rep, asking him if there was anything I could do, or if they had things I could hand out at car shows. My relationship was always professional with them, as it is with every one of my sponsors.

Quaker State was never my primary sponsor until 2002 and onward. I soon got to know the new Marketing Manager Mark Reed who was thrilled with me being with their brand. Once email was available I would send long detailed reports to my sponsors with pictures included.

Once in Late Models, a bigger car and more advertising space we decided to make Quaker State our primary sponsor. They did what they could for me and I made the car look like it was all Quaker State, however they told me to get as many associates as possible because they would not be my only sponsor, primary yes, but not the only one.

Over the next few years 2005 to 2010 the relationship grew to where it is today.

Young drivers and teams should not be discouraged or think there are no sponsors around to help them. There are many businesses who would invest in a well organized and determined race team. Drivers and owners need to show and convince potential sponsors that they will be an ambassador for their business representing them professionally at every race and show event.

Off track events is so very important. Many sponsors are not as impressed with on track prowess as they are with your willingness to represent them off the track. If teams approach sponsors with that attitude, more opportunities will be there. Remember, most people put money into a race car because of the integrity they saw in the driver. If that is maintained, and a willingness to do off track events is not an issue, getting sponsors will not be as tough. Finally, you will never know if someone would sponsor you or not until. You may get 5 no’s before a yes, but it’s worth it in the end.

Question #6: OSCAAR, why now in 2014, what did you see to give the organization a try now?

Over the past few years OSCAAR, under new management, has made tremendous successful strides, taking the Super Late Models from ridicule to the most exciting travelling series in Ontario.

Two years ago OSCAAR offered the ALL Pro Modified type cars a place to call home. When the OSCAAR Modified was first introduced I thought it was a great idea, because they a few cars spread around the local tracks, but not enough at any track to make them a legitimate division. Twelve cars is not enough, got to be 16 to 20 minimum, but 24 is the answer. I could see OSCAAR doing that with the current Mod, although I really didn’t like the body styles that were competing.

Then entered the Troyer style Modified, the ones I loved for the past 30 years. I went crazy when I saw Brent McLean and Davey Terry’s car’s. I took a closer look at the cars and found them very appealing for two reasons, they looked like fast race cars, and they were run by the new and improved OSCAAR organization.

I decided after 42 seasons of racing with the CVM to sell my car and get a Modified. I had the paint scheme planned 2 years ago and now it’s a reality and my crew and I can’t wait to get into race action with our car.

Question #7: plans for the future, how long you continue to plan to race, plans after you hang up the helmet?

  • My goals are simple, maybe not easy but simple.
  • Race until my 50th season 2018.
  • Race in a series with my son and grand kids.
  • Continue to help my son and grandchildren with their racing.
  • Win another points title, maybe two Late Model and of course Modified (2 now).
  • Retire with 40 feature wins (36 now).
  • Retire with 40 seasons of 100% (37 now).
  • Retire with 40 different race tracks competed on (37 now).
  • Break the streak of 788 consecutive nights by Ricky Rudd….I would like to hit 800.
  • Inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Then maybe rest, relax, see if there are still fish in the lakes, find out what all the hype is about golfing, dancing, and maybe play the guitar and piano more.

Stats:

  • 45 Years Racing
  • 3 Mini Stock
  • 33 Vintage Modified
  • 9 Late Models
  • 238 Wins
  • 36 Feature wins
  • 1136 Nights Raced
  • 687 Consecutive
  • 37 Different Tracks
  • 37 Seasons 100%
  • 19 Seasons top 5 points
  • 38 Seasons top 10 points
  • 7 Seasons President CVM

Awards:

  • 2 Championships
  • 11 Best Appearing Car
  • 6 Most Popular Driver
  • 7 Most Sportsmanlike
  • 3 Media Award (awards from race tracks for helping)

Bruce Gowland Memorial Set for August 23, 2014

OSCAAR and the management of Sunset Speedway are proud to announce The Inaugural Bruce Gowland Memorial for the super late model series.

Since the early 1970’s race fans have been able to witness Bruce doing what he loved to do… RACE. Whether it was tearing it up on the local short tracks here in Ontario, or at the fairs doing modified truck and tractor pulls, Bruce could always be counted on to put a show on.

Unfortunately Bruce lost his battle with cancer last year leaving a void in the racing world. Throughout his racing career Bruce left a legacy stretching from here to Florida. Bruce was a fixture at the World Series of Racing at New Symrna Speedway, and they to honoured Bruce this February. New Symrna will also host a memorial race each year to honour Bruce’s memory. This year with Bruce’s family in attendance Kyle Benjamin picked up the win with defending OSCAAR Champion Brandon Watson coming home in third place.

On August the 23rd at Sunset Speedway the super late model drivers will have their chance to pay their respect to their fellow competitor and friend in a 50 lap feature event.

OSCAAR looks forward to working with the Gowland family and the management of Sunset Speedway to turn this into a marquee event for the fans and the racers.

Please stay tune to the OSCAAR website for further updates on this event.

 

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