Kenny Irwin Jr.

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Kenny Irwin Jr.
Kenny Irwin Jr.jpg
Irwin in 1998
Born Kenneth Dale Irwin Jr.
(1969-08-05)August 5, 1969
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Died July 7, 2000(2000-07-07) (aged 30)
Loudon, New Hampshire, U.S.
Cause of death Auto racing accident
Achievements 1996 USAC National Midget Champion
Awards 1998 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year
1997 Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
87 races run over 4 years
Best finish 19th (1999)
First race 1997 Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 (Richmond)
Last race 2000 Pepsi 400 (Daytona)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 12 3
NASCAR Xfinity Series career
14 races run over 2 years
Best finish 50th (2000)
First race 1999 Coca-Cola 300 (Texas)
Last race 2000 Carquest Auto Parts 300 (Charlotte)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 4 0
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career
32 races run over 3 years
Best finish 10th (1997)
First race 1996 Chevy Desert Star Classic (Phoenix)
Last race 1998 GM Goodwrench Service Plus / AC Delco 300 (Phoenix)
First win 1997 Florida Dodge Dealers 400K (Homestead)
Last win 1997 Pronto Auto Parts 400K (Texas)
Wins Top tens Poles
2 11 1

Kenneth Dale Irwin Jr. (August 5, 1969 – July 7, 2000) was an American stock car racing driver. He had driven in all three NASCAR national touring series, and had two total victories, both in the Craftsman Truck Series. Before that, he raced in the United States Auto Club against Tony Stewart, who was one of his fiercest rivals. He died as a result of injuries suffered in a crash during a practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Early life[edit]

Irwin grew up in Indianapolis and was the third youngest of four children. He began racing quarter-midgets before he was in the second grade. He graduated from Lawrence North High School in 1988 where he played varsity soccer, while continuing his career as a driver. Between 1988 and 1991, he earned his SCCA competition license and competed in the GT1 category, driving a turbocharged Buick Grand National, then raced for his father in the IMSA American Challenge (road racing) stock car series, all while he was still a teenager.

Irwin then went on to race in USAC. He began open wheel racing in 1991. He had 7 career USAC Sprint Car Series wins, and was the series Rookie of the Year in 1993. In 1994 he was the USAC Silver Crown Series Rookie of the Year and finished second in the 1995 USAC standings. In 1996 he was the USAC National Midget Series champ. After his successful run in USAC, many open-wheel enthusiasts began comparing him to NASCAR's Jeff Gordon.[citation needed]

NASCAR[edit]

Irwin's 1997 truck
Irwin's 1997 Winston Cup car
Irwin (No. 28) racing Bill Elliott at Dover, 1998
Irwin's Project Impact car, May 2000

Irwin began his major-league NASCAR career in the Craftsman Truck Series. He made his debut in that series in 1996 at Phoenix International Raceway, driving the No. 26 Ford F-150 for MB Motorsports. He started and finished 32nd after an engine failure. In his second start at Richmond International Raceway, he won the pole in the No. 62 Raybestos Ford for Liberty Racing, finishing fifth in the event.

He moved up to drive full-time in 1997, driving the No. 98 Ford for Liberty Racing. He had 2 wins, 7 Top 5, and 10 Top 10 finishes that season, on his way to a 10th-place finish in the final point standings. He also won Rookie of the Year honors that season. Irwin also made his debut in the Winston Cup Series in 1997 with David Blair Motorsports at Richmond. He qualified on the outside pole and led for twelve laps, finishing in eighth place. He ran three more races with Blair that season, qualifying no worse than eleventh.

"Everyone has been hoping to find the next Jeff Gordon, I think we found him."

— David Blair, after the 1997 season-ending race at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Irwin won the 1998 Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series driving the Robert Yates Racing No. 28 car, replacing Ernie Irvan. Irwin started the 1998 season by winning the Automobile Racing Club of America race in Daytona in February in a car owned by Yates. During that season, he had one pole, 1 Top 5, and 4 Top 10 finishes on his way to a disappointing 28th-place finish in the final points standings. In 1999 he had 2 poles, 2 Top 5 and 6 Top 10 finishes and finished 19th-place finish in the final points standings.

Irwin made his debut in the NASCAR Busch Series in 1999, driving the No. 11 Ford Taurus owned by his teammate, Dale Jarrett, and then-Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. He had two fifth-place finishes in five starts in the series during the 1999 season, at Texas Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway, respectively.

He is also known for one incident where he bumped the car of Tony Stewart, a former rival of his in USAC open-wheel competition, into the wall in the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Stewart exited his wrecked car and tried to enter Irwin's car as it was driving under the caution flag in a show of displeasure.

For the 2000 season Irwin was tabbed by Felix Sabates to replace Joe Nemechek in Team SABCO's No. 42 Chevrolet. He had a single Top 10 finish, 4th at Talladega Superspeedway, in his first 17 races with the team. He made nine starts in the Busch Series for SABCO as well, posting a best finish of ninth at Talladega. His final race for the team was at Daytona International Speedway in the Pepsi 400, finishing 22nd; he was seen as having a bright future with the team, which had just had a majority interest purchased by Chip Ganassi.[1]

Death[edit]

During practice for the thatlook.com 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 7, 2000, Irwin slammed head on into the wall, causing his car to flip onto its side. According to fellow driver Brett Bodine speaking to CNN, the car slid along its side for a long time before rolling on its roof. Irwin likely died instantly of a basilar skull fracture. He was 30 years old, and died less than a month before his 31st birthday. Fellow Indiana native (and rival) Tony Stewart would win the race that Sunday, and donate the trophy to Irwin's parents.[2] Irwin's accident was blamed on a stuck throttle, which was the same cause of the accident that had killed Adam Petty at nearly that exact spot on the track just two months prior. Ted Musgrave drove the renumbered No. 01 car for the remainder of the 2000 season. The car was renumbered to 41 in 2002 and Sabates brought back the 42 number in 2003 with driver Jamie McMurray.

Irwin's parents founded the Kenny Irwin Jr Foundation and the Dare to Dream Camp for underprivileged children located in New Castle, Indiana in his honor.

The 2000 Brickyard 400 was dedicated in his memory.

Motorsports career results[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Winston Cup Series[edit]

NASCAR Winston Cup Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 NWCC Pts
1997 David Blair Motorsports 27 Ford DAY CAR RCH ATL DAR TEX BRI MAR SON TAL CLT DOV POC MCH CAL DAY NHA POC IND GLN MCH BRI DAR RCH
8
NHA DOV MAR
37
CLT TAL CAR
DNQ
PHO
20
ATL
25
49th 390
1998 Yates Racing 28 Ford DAY
19
CAR
26
LVS
36
ATL
5*
DAR
39
BRI
43
TEX
39
MAR
19
TAL
40
CAL
16
CLT
DNQ
DOV
33
RCH
9
MCH
13
POC
11
SON
9
NHA
33
POC
22
IND
38
GLN
37
MCH
16
BRI
15
NHA
11
DAR
41
RCH
10
DOV
40
MAR
27
CLT
20
TAL
43
DAY
32
PHO
40
CAR
33
ATL
16
28th 2760
1999 DAY
3
CAR
23
LVS
41
ATL
23
DAR
35
TEX
15
BRI
11
MAR
36
TAL
35
CAL
13
RCH
40
CLT
15
DOV
10
MCH
11
POC
18
SON
22
DAY
14
NHA
26
POC
43
IND
13
GLN
26
MCH
34
BRI
24
DAR
31
RCH
5
NHA
10
DOV
10
MAR
39
CLT
15
TAL
10
CAR
13
PHO
21
HOM
33
ATL
29
19th 3338
2000 Team SABCO 42 Chevy DAY
14
CAR
22
LVS
24
ATL
24
DAR
38
BRI
40
TEX
17
MAR
37
TAL
4
CAL
42
RCH
42
CLT
24
DOV
17
MCH
35
POC
25
SON
23
DAY
22
NHA POC IND GLN MCH BRI DAR RCH NHA DOV MAR CLT TAL CAR PHO HOM ATL 42nd 1440

Busch Series[edit]

NASCAR Busch Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 NBSC Pts
1997 Liberty Racing 98 Ford DAY
DNQ
CAR RCH ATL LVS DAR HCY TEX
DNQ
BRI NSV TAL NHA NZH CLT DOV SBO GLN MLW MYB GTY NA -
Chevy IRP
DNQ
MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV CLT CAL CAR HOM
1998 Porter Racing 48 Ford DAY CAR LVS NSV DAR BRI TEX HCY TAL NHA NZH CLT
DNQ
DOV RCH PPR GLN MLW MYB CAL SBO IRP MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV CLT GTY CAR ATL HOM NA -
1999 Jarrett/Favre Motorsports 11 Ford DAY CAR LVS ATL DAR TEX
5
NSV BRI TAL CAL
DNQ
NHA RCH NZH CLT
DNQ
DOV
11
SBO GLN MLW MYB PPR GTY IRP
16
MCH
33
BRI
DNQ
DAR RCH
DNQ
DOV
5
CLT
DNQ
CAR MEM PHO HOM 61st 619
2000 SABCO Racing 42 Chevy DAY
39
CAR
31
LVS
DNQ
ATL
10
DAR
19
BRI
30
TEX
16
NSV TAL
9
CAL
32
RCH
DNQ
NHA CLT
20
DOV SBO MYB GLN MLW NZH PPR GTY IRP MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV CLT CAR MEM PHO HOM 50th 852

Craftsman Truck Series[edit]

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 NCTC Pts
1996 MB Motorsports 26 Ford HOM PHO
32
POR EVG TUS CNS HPT BRI NZH MLW LVL I70 IRP FLM GLN NSV 45th 468
Liberty Racing 62 Ford RCH
5
NHA MAR NWS SON
98 MMR
15
PHO
26
LVS
40
1997 WDW
7
TUS
14
HOM
1
PHO
17
POR
15
EVG
5
I70
14
NHA
5
TEX
1
BRI
26
NZH
27
MLW
15
LVL
18
CNS
14
HPT
18
IRP
7
FLM
25
NSV
21
GLN
28
RCH
5
MAR
8
SON
31
MMR
16
CAL
3
PHO
4
LVS
25
10th 3220
1998 Ultra Motorsports 28 Ford WDW HOM PHO POR EVG I70 GLN TEX BRI MLW NZH CAL PPR IRP NHA FLM NSV HPT LVL RCH MEM GTY MAR SON MMR PHO
20
LVS 92nd 103

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Marty (July 6, 2000). "Dial it up, Irwin a contender at NHIS". NASCAR.com. ESPN. Archived from the original on August 23, 2000. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  2. ^ CNN report on YouTube

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rodney Orr
NASCAR Cup Series fatal accidents
2000
Succeeded by
Dale Earnhardt
Achievements
Preceded by
Mike Skinner
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year
1998
Succeeded by
Tony Stewart
Preceded by
Bryan Reffner
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year
1997
Succeeded by
Greg Biffle