By Dominic Aragon
June 20, 2013
With only 43 cars entered for Sunday’s NASCAR race at Sonoma, all drivers are guaranteed a starting spot. One of those drivers is Aztec, New Mexico native Alex Kennedy.
When Kennedy starts Sunday’s race, he will be the first New Mexican to start a Cup race since IndyCar veteran Al Unser Jr. qualified for the 1993 Daytona 500.
The Racing Experts: It is every racer’s dream in the United States to hopefully get the chance to run at NASCAR’s top level. On Sunday, you will get that chance, so what does it mean for you on a personal and professional level?
Alex Kennedy: “Well, on a personal level, it means an immense amount to me. I drove around [Sonoma] when I was 12 years old in legends cars, and I’ve grown up on that track. As a driver, it’s going to be fun. We will have a great car out there, and keep the fenders on it, and go racing.”
How did the deal come together to run the 19 car?
“We were talking with [team owner Mark] Smith about a later on deal in the Nationwide Series, and then it came up about maybe trying to run Infineon. One thing led to another and we ended up putting this deal together.”
With only 43 cars on the entry list, you will be locked into the race. What does it mean to you to be guaranteed a spot in the field?
“Well, being locked in means we can go into practice a little calmer. We don’t have to worry about getting in on time or anything like that. We can focus on race trim, and not worry about qualifying at all.”
When you start Sunday’s race, you will be the first driver from New Mexico to make a start in the Cup series in 20 years. Your thoughts on being the first driver since Al Unser Jr. to make a Cup race since 1993?
“I’m really stoked to be able to do that for New Mexico. Coming from New Mexico, where [there’s] one paved track in Albuquerque, is going to be cool. I feel honored to represent [the] state. I have a lot of local drivers behind me, and the whole state coming together is kind of cool.”
Jason Leffler ran the car a mere two weeks ago, so how does that change your outlook on driving the 19 machine Sunday?
“We miss Jason, and it’s heartbreaking what happened, and I’m not going to let it affect me in driving the car, but it is kind of ominous. That was the last car he drove for his NASCAR career.”
Will Sunday’s effort be a fully funded race, or will we see the No. 19 car pull off the track early?
“No, this Sunday’s race will be a full-on, 100% effort. I wouldn’t do my debut if it was going to be a start and park. We have a fully funded effort, a fully funded race car, and we are going to race it as hard as we have to.”
Is there a possibility of seeing Alex Kennedy run more Cup races this season?
“Possibly. You never know what can happen from this. I know Watkins Glen is still open for debate. I know you will see us in a couple more races, I’m sure. Whether they’re Cup or Nationwide, we don’t know yet. We’ll have to play it by ear. We will look at the rest of the year after this event and this weekend.”
I am a co-owner and reporter for TheRacingExperts.com.