Friday, May 29th, 2009
Kinney striving to build on early success for a victory at Eldora
By Mike Ernst
Mendon's Jason Kinney will always remember the weekend he graduated from Ohio Northern University. Not only did he officially accept his degree in Construction Management from the Ada campus, but he hurried back to Eldora Speedway and picked up his first top-five finish of the season in his stock car.
"It was a pretty hectic weekend," Kinney said earlier this week as he prepared for this Saturday's race at Eldora. "We had graduation practice on Saturday afternoon and then I had to get back here and finish getting the car ready for Sunday's race."
With the car ready to race, Kinney headed back to Ada on Sunday morning for the commencement and picked up his four-year degree.
"The graduation ceremonies were at 1:00 p.m. but we didn't get out of there until almost 5:00 p.m. But we were at Eldora by about 6:15 ready to go," Kinney laughed.
And 'ready-to-go' he was.
The 2005 Celina High School graduate battled his way to his first top-five finish of the season and moved up to 11th in the current Eldora point standings.
After four years of go-kart racing, Kinney is now in his third season wheeling a stock car around the one-half mile, high-banks of Eldora. He has been battling inside the top 10 of all three races this season, but finally has a finish to show for his work. Kinney is hoping there is plenty more to come.
"During the offseason we bought a lot of new parts and built a little bigger engine," Kinney said. "We really hope to be in or around the top five every night. The competition is pretty tough, but I think we can get some more top five's and hopefully a win before the season is over."
Kinney has also had success at both Limaland Motorsports Park and Waynesfield Motorsports Park earlier this year. He won a heat race and had a sixth-place feature finish at Limaland and then picked up a fourth-place finish at Waynesfield a couple of weeks later.
Those results assured Kinney his race team was moving in the right direction, but his biggest desire is to run up front at Eldora. His rim-riding driving style is perfect for the bigger track.
"I like racing at both Limaland and Waynesfield but Eldora is by far my favorite track," Kinney said. "I grew up going to races there and just love the speed. If you want to go fast you have to be up by the wall and I love that about Eldora."
Racing close to the wall at Eldora is a double-edged sword. That is where it is fast but you are only inches from trouble running next to a concrete wall.
"That is why I had to come back home on Saturday," Kinney said. "I went over the edge a little the week before and tore the car up. So I had to get back and get it fixed before Sunday night."
Like a lot of the race teams in the Eldora pit area, the Kinney team is a family team. His parents Mark and Renee, brothers Josh and Caleb and his uncle Chris Kinney are all a big part of the team that gets sponsorship help from M&S Accessories Plus and Wide Open Graphics.
"They are all a huge part of this. I get the credit for being the driver but I could never do it without all of their help," Kinney said. "And my grandma (Alice) Hussey and her friend Margaret Grunden, don't really help with the car, but they beat us to the track every week and are my number-one fans."
Kinney bought the car he drives from Celina's Mike Chrisman when Chrisman made the move up to modifieds three years ago. Kinney still gets a lot of help from Chrisman.
"Mike has been a huge help and I really need to thank him," Kinney said. "He helps me out with parts, set-ups or anything else I need and I try to do the same thing for him. Mike's family and mine have been friends every since I can remember."
Kinney is hoping to join Chrisman in the modified division in the future and hopes to even move higher after that.
"The plan right now is to move up to modifieds eventually. At the earliest it would be next year but probably the year after next," Kinney said. "That division is so competitive and tough, when we do make that move it is going to be a real challenge. In the perfect world, I would love to move up to late models some day, but each step up is a big challenge and I am just going to take them one at a time and see what happens."
Kinney and the Eldora Stock Car class will be joined by the O'Reilly All-Star Circuit of Champion Sprint Cars and the UMP DirtCar Modifieds on Saturday night. Warmups begin at 6 p.m. with the first race set to take the green flag at 7:30 p.m.
This week's event at Eldora is the final race for the stocks and modifieds before The Prelude to The Dream on Wednesday night. The top 22 in driver point standings in each division will run a special 'invitation only' event during the Prelude, which features more than 20 NASCAR stars and draws close to 25,000 people to the track.
"Another good finish on Saturday would move us up a little bit in that race," Kinney said. "That would be a good night to get our first win!"