No race in NASCAR is bigger than the Daytona 500. NASCAR’s version of the Monaco Grand Prix, every young racer across North America dreams of running this race and winning. Most rookies make their first start at around 20 or 21 but for 39-year-old Canadian D.J Kennington this will mark his first Daytona 500 start in only his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start.
For those who might not know of D.J Kennington, Kennington is a two-time champion of the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, Canada’s top racing division. Hailing from the small southern Ontario town of St. Thomas, Kennington won his first NASCAR sanctioned race in 2007 at Barrie Speedway. Since then, Kennington has won 19 Pinty’s Series races and made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in 2006 at Memphis Motorsports Park driving the #72 Dodge for MacDonald Motorsports. Kennington scored his best career Xfinity Series finish at the 2010 race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where he came home 11th. Kennington’s solid runs caught the eye of Premium Motorsports who decided let Kennington drive the #55 Chevy at Phoenix in the fall. Kennington came home 35th but learned a lot from his debut.
This now shines some light on the 2017 Daytona 500. Kennington said in a press conference that he was working on a deal with premium to field him for the race. However, Gaunt Brothers Racing stepped up and with help from RAB Racing owner Robby Benton announced the Kennington would drive the #96 Lordco Tools/ Castrol Toyota Camry. Kennington didn’t lock himself in on time but fought to an incredible 15th place in the second Can-Am Duel race edging Elliott Sadler to the line to lock himself into the race. Kennington will start 28th and become the 8th Canadian to start the Great American Race.
Kennington expressed tears of joy in the pit lane following the duel race and was incredibly grateful to everyone who helped get him there. Telling Chris Neville that this is one of the biggest moments of his life. Kennington said in his post race press conference that “The hard parts over, now we can have some fun”. Kennington’s qualification brings joy to a nation that has been known for some great racing talent, the Villeneuves, Ron Fellows, Earl Ross, James Hinchcliffe and Canada’s brightest new F1 starlet Williams F1 Team driver Lance Stroll. Millions of viewers tune in every year to watch the Daytona 500 and Kennington will not just have the eyes of America on him but the eager eyes of thousands of Canadians cheering on their fellow Canuck.