By Dave Gainforth - 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. 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. 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?
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. 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!!