On Tap: Jon McKennedy to Run Hillbilly Racing Modified

Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, MA will be adding more Modified racing to his busy schedule. McKennedy will run the remainder of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule for Hillbilly Racing. He will continue to drive Art Barry’s #2 on the Valenti Modified Racing Series along with a partial schedule of ISMA Supermodified racing.

Onr the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, McKennedy will be driving the Hill Enterprises/Coors Light Pontiac, a Race Works chassis car. He has experience with Race Works chassis from competing at Star and the VMRS in his own car over the past few seasons. ”I think that’s making the biggest difference," said crew chief David Hill. “He’s just used to the type of car, how they handle, what you got to do to him. (Our) setups were almost identical. It made the transition between me and him a whole lot quicker.”

The team is looking for stability with one driver. McKennedy is the sixth driver since 2008 to pilot the #79. “I think Jon can bring that to the table," said Hill. "Look what he’s done for Art Barry (VMRS points leader with two wins). "I think he can do the same in our car because he’s used to the chassis.” “I was pretty pleased that David would like me to run the car the rest of the year," said McKennedy. "I think it will be a good combination. Those cars I’m very familiar with the cars (because) I’ve driven (them) in the past.”

Hill complimented McKennedy’s feedback for making his job easier. “They got to be able to tell you why it’s loose – which parts loose or why it’s tight entering tight, center tight or tight up off. Jon seems to have that.” “Most of my racing career I’ve always been pretty hands on with my own setups," said McKennedy. " Over the years, I’ve found what I like as far as adjustments." … "I think as a driver it gives me a little bit of an advantage," said McKennedy. He cited the ability to explain how he wanted the car to feel and what changes were needed to help the car. "A lot of the notes that I apply to my car will certainly apply to his."

Hill said 15-20 cars can win any race. "Everybody has stepped up their program," said Hill. "Now a 10th place is still real good because of what you’re racing against." "I hope to get a couple of good wins with them and maybe down the road continue," said McKennedy.

McKennedy was considered by late team owner Roger Hill before the team chose Daniel Hemric. Hemric was able to run the Southern Modified Tour and Bowman-Gray weekly races without having to travel as much. "Jon’s name was the only one my dad was considering other than Daniel," said Hill. "I am trying to go by what my dad wanted to and do all the right things. Try and keep him happy. He ain't with us no more, but he’s still watching over us and you try to do everything that he would do."

“Racing’s always been in our family," said Hill. "I was watching an event there last night on Facebook. Somebody had sent me one (from) 1996. My dad had qualified on pole at North Wilkesboro.” … “You got to hear him talk. It was pretty emotional. It was pretty hard to watch with tears in your eyes but it just brings back all the love we’ve had for Modified racing.”

The team will focus on running the full NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule. “Our biggest focus, even though we’re third in points down south, is the northern tour," said Hill. … "We're still going to run what southern races we can but when there is a conflict we we’ll run north."

“It feels good to be fortunate this year to have some really good ride offers," said McKennedy. "I hope to make the best of them and see what happens down the road."

May 2012
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