As Jon McKennedy prepares to turn his attention back to Big-Block Supermodified racing this coming Saturday night at Lee USA Speedway on New Hampshire’s east coast, the full weight of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win last Friday night on the west coast of the Granite State is still sinking in.
The win at Claremont Motorsports Park is McKennedy’s second career NASCAR Tour win, following up his 2018 triumph at the late Myrtle Beach Speedway driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing. It’s also the first Whelen Modified win for the Lepine family since they began entering the No. 79 in Tour competition at the start of 2022.
“Whenever you can win on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour it’s a big deal. It’s our first Whelen Modified win for our car owners Tim and Sheryll Lepine and the new group of guys I got helping me this year. It feels good to get another on Whelen Tour,” McKennedy told Racing America.
On the flip side, McKennedy and No. 79 camp have been sitting pretty in the Supermodified races they’ve entered the past few years. But, that doesn’t mean he and the crew aren’t feeding off the momentum.
“Certainly, momentum plays a factor in a lot of stuff, and having some going to Lee is good. It’s a track I got a lot of laps on and I feel good about it. Lee is one of my favorite tracks whether it’s the Tour car or the Super, it’s a blast in the Super.”
Saturday’s 75-lap Ollie Silva Memorial is also a favorite race for McKennedy because it is one of two home Big-Block Super races for the Chelmsford, Massachusetts native. The other being the Star Classic which will take place in September, just 10 minutes down the road at Star Speedway.
But even before his win last week at Claremont, McKennedy’s excitement for this year’s Ollie Silva has been high. That being because he missed the 2021 running due to Whelen Modified Tour commitments. While Otto Sitterly won at Lee USA one year ago, McKennedy was the winner in the 2019 and 2020 events.
Another historic item for this year’s Ollie Silva Memorial is that it will be run under the sanction of the new for 2022 New England Supermodified Series for the first time after years under the ISMA banner. But, Supermodified drivers from across the Northeast and Canada are still heading to the Seacoast of New Hampshire for this popular Big-Block event. McKennedy expects the fans to turn out as strong as ever.
“We weren’t able to make it last year, so I’m anxious to get back this year. It’s been a good race for me and we’re going for three in a row in the Super at Lee. It’s a fun atmosphere, I got a lot of friends and family that usually come out for this one. It’s always a packed house, everyone loves to come out and watch the Big-Blocks since they only come out once a year. I think they can sell the place out.”
Despite Lee USA taxing the brains of both drivers and mechanics, it is a challenge that McKennedy looks forward to every time.
“Driving a Big-Block Super around Lee is a great time, it’s a challenging track that’s worn out so you need a lot of car control. Tire management is a big thing with how abrasive the surface is. You have to make the call on when to go or when to be smooth saving your tires. You have to try and find that fine line of how much throttle to get it up off the corner without slipping the tires. Ultimately, you need a setup on the car that works the tires evenly and not overworking one tire. Big thing is hanging back long enough to save for the end.”
Since winning the 2017 ISMA title, McKennedy has maintained a pick and choose schedule on the Supermodified side, choosing to run New England races since 2020. While his races are scattered out over time, McKennedy is currently in the middle of nine race winning streak in Supermods which began on October 13, 2019 at Thompson Speedway.
Winning the first NESS sanctioned event back this past June at Thunder Road in Vermont, McKennedy is confident that the No. 79 can come off the trailer fast once again. If not, they have the experience and notes to extend the streak into the double-digits.
“I don’t see why not, the selected shows we’ve won the last few years have been pretty spread out, and we’ve won nine in a row. I got a really good notebook that established going back from 2017 when we won the ISMA championship in the 21. When we last raced the car at Thunder Road in June we were able to use our notes and experience to go out there for the first time and win there. I’m confident the car prepared the best we can make it, we’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks going through it. I think we got as good a shot as ever, just got to be smart and stay out of trouble.”
Post time for the first race of the night for the Ollie Silva Memorial is scheduled for 6pm ET this Saturday August 6, and with a large crowd expected be sure to get to Lee USA Speedway early to claim your favorite seats.
Those watching across America, Canada and around the world can see the NESS Ollie Silva Memorial 75-lap feature, along with the Ridge Runners and New England Pro-4 Modified Norm Wrenn III Memorial 31 live on RacingAmerica.tv at 8pm ET on Saturday night. You can also see the first half of a Supermodified doubleheader on Racing America Friday night at 7pm ET with the 350 Supermodified Jim Belfiore Memorial from Star Speedway.