OSWEGO, N.Y. – It is not unusual for race teams to form or disband during the offseason months, and the International Supermodified Ass’n is no exception.
There are a few new owner-driver combination who will be competing with the winged group when the ISMA season opens in late May. One of those new combinations is that of P&L Motorsports and driver Jon McKennedy.
Car owners Lee and Pam Vinal, of Dracut, Mass., will once again field their No. 21 supermodified in ISMA competition, but with a new driver, McKennedy, and a lot of changes.
McKennedy, who just turned 30 and hails from Chelmsford, Mass., has been racing more than half of his life. His talent has spread over multiple divisions and he’s been successful in most of them throughout the Northeast and South.
He started accumulating championships back in the late 90s racing Tiger sprints. He moved into four-cylinders in Hudson, N.H., and became that division’s Rookie of the Year at 14. From there McKennedy jumped into the 350 supermodified class, winning the 2003 championship in that division and winning the Star 350 Classic that same year.
After another year in the 350s, McKennedy was approached to drive the potent Dunigan supermodified, running several races that year. He was named the ISMA Rookie of the Year at the age of 18 in 2005. In between the supermodified runs, he also tried his hand at racing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and other modified series events, continuing on through 2007 with the Valenti Modified Racing Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
By 2008, McKennedy was becoming a household name throughout the ranks of both modified and supermodified divisions in the Northeast. His success in both divisions continued and in 2012, McKennedy joined with modified car owner Art Barry to earn a third Valenti Modified Racing Seires championship. He also won his first ISMA race that year, scoring a 75-lap victory at Lee USA.
In 2013, he chalked up a win at Waterford, and then he beat a powerful field of ISMA supermodifieds to win the coveted Star Classic. a prize many full-timers have not achieved. 2014 brought McKennedy three wins on the competitive ISMA tour, winning 75 lappers at Chaudiere, Lee USA and Sunset Speedway. He followed up those successes with a 2015 Sandusky Hy-Miler 100 win in the Booth 61.
All of this was going on while he was competing and winning in the VRMS modifieds of New England.
Having won two of the three historic long distance supermodified races, McKennedy said he wouldn’t mind “trying my hand a non-winged car at the Oswego Classic. I’ve had a few offers over the years, but nothing came of them. Maybe some day.”
McKennedy’s two full-time ISMA seasons brought him success and then heartbreak. In 2014, he led the points and was in contention for that coveted title, but lost it to Ben Seitz at Thompson due to a blown motor.
“I was really disappointed to have traveled all around, winning three races, leading the points and then to have it all taken away when the engine blew,” McKennedy said.
In 2016, McKennedy stuck mainly with the modifieds, but found a ride in the second potent Jim Bodnar car as a teammate to Dave Shullick Jr. He set fast time in his first time in the car. He was running well in the feature, only to have the car erupt into flames on lap 81 when the engine expired.
Besides racing in IMSA full-time this year, McKennedy also plans on making a number of modified starts.
“It’s going to be a busy year,” McKennedy said. “I have plans to run at least 30 races between the super and the majority of the modified shows in my own car.”
“When Lee (Vinal) approached me about driving his car this year, I was more than OK with it as long as he was willing to make some changes to the car. And, so far he has been all for whatever changes I recommended.”
McKennedy is confident the new team and their recent changes will lead to success.
“First the car was taken to the most talented of car builders, Butch Valley and Brian Allegresso. The former Xtreme machine was completely redesigned. They changed the chassis and front suspension design among other things. We also have a good motor program with the Dowker engines out of Michigan. I think we really have a good shot at winning the title and my plan is to run ISMA full time and to contend for the championship.”
“I’m a competitive driver and I like to run up front, not just be part of the show. I think we have all the tools we need to do just that this year.”
CREDIT: ISMA Communications