Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kennedy clan revving to put pedal to metal in $20-K race

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IT'LL be all about the Kennedys at Red River Co-op Speedway tonight.

The Kennedy Racing Team -- Lou Jr., Thomas, and Sean -- plan to rev up their engines for the Sunshine Toyota ASCS CanWest Sprint Car Special in hopes of capturing a share of the US$20,000 purse, the track's largest giveaway this year.

Lou, a 28-year veteran, said it might be one of the last times he competes in his hometown, as the sprint car series makes its only trip to Winnipeg this year.

"It's my last year or two," said Kennedy, 46. "I'm going to travel where I feel I want to go."

Kennedy appears to have a chance to go out on top, as he was the points champion in both 2007 and 2008 in the Northern Outlaw Sprint Association, a series of races in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

"If I feel I don't have a chance to win, I'll climb out," Kennedy said. "My wife says that I'll be wheelchairing into my car by the time that happens."

Kidding aside, Kennedy knows he's in the twilight of his career, but the family name will carry on. Son Thomas, 19, has been racing since the 2008 season, and Sean, 16, isn't a regular, but will be competing tonight.

"We've got a tight-knit family race team," said Kennedy, who counts wife Susan, son Louie and dad Lou Sr. as part of the crew. "We work during the week and we race on weekends."

Kennedy said racing is a family tradition, but not just in his own family.

"There are lots of second- and third-generation racers in our circuit," Kennedy said. "My dad, Lou Kennedy Sr., raced, so I was around it for 25 years."

Sprint car racing will be the fastest series to hit the city this year, with cars able to hit speeds of over 160 km/h in the straightaway sections of the course.

Track manager Blair Bodley said the sprint car special is "by far our biggest event" and anticipates about 4,000 spectators will attend. Race fans hoping to catch this type of speed normally have to cross the border to do so.

"They race them all the time in Grand Forks and Fargo," Bodley said. "They just don't get up here that often.

"There's quite a buzz in the racing community."

Gates for tonight's race open at 6:30 p.m., racing starts at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to last until shortly after 10 p.m.

daniel.falloon@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2009 C5

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