Kennington gets around

JIM CRESSMAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:03 PM ET

D.J. Kennington is doing a remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which starred John Candy and Steve Martin.

Kennington's version is Planes, Pickups and Automobiles as the 30-year-old St. Thomas, Ont., driver does double duty in the NASCAR Nationwide and Canadian Tire series.

Some weekends it's a Nationwide race on the Friday or Saturday night, then an all-night trip north for the Canadian Tire race the next day. He'll do that eight times.

His latest adventure was last weekend, at Daytona on the Friday night, then in St. Eustache, Que., on Saturday.

"That's going from one extreme to the other, isn't it?" Kennington said of the two tracks.

But one thing he has yet to perfect is being in two places at the same time.

"We'll have to miss two Nationwide races because they're the same nights as the Canadian Tire and my main concern is that series."

He said the gruelling travel schedule is worth it.

"I couldn't pass up this chance to race down there," he said.

He's 23rd in Nationwide points and second in Canadian Tire, which is good, considering when he does double duty, he starts at the back for the Canadian Tire race because he wasn't there for qualifying.

His low-budget Nationwide team is co-owned by Dwight Kennedy, owner of Northern Provincial Pipelines in Edson, Alta., and Randy MacDonald of Oshawa, Ont., who has a race shop in Thomasville, N.C.

Kennedy owns the cars and motors. MacDonald owns the team and is crew chief. Any money Kennington wins ($435,710 US to date) goes right back into the program.

His best finish was 20th at Darlington on May 2.

"Sometimes people put you down for running 24th or 25th (he's consistently in the top 30), but those are just people who wish they were here," he said. "It's very difficult to compete in a series like this. These are the best drivers and some of the biggest organizations in the world. For what we do it with, I think we're doing quite well."

RED LIGHTS

Toronto Motorsports Park near Cayuga, Ont., has lost its IHRA national event Sept. 19-21 after ownership failed to make upgrades mandated by the sanctioning body.

Sources tell Sun Media IHRA president Aaron Polburn had "been threatening" the track for three years to improve the racing surface, pit areas and lighting, or lose its race. When the IHRA sent an inspection team from Norwalk, Ohio, last month, "very little had been done," Polburn said of the five issues he wanted to see addressed.

The contract with Toronto Motorsports was up after last year's event and the renewal was contingent on the improvements, Polburn said. The source said the IHRA isn't expected to return.

The IHRA did enjoy its second-largest event in its 39-year history this past weekend when 45,000 fans passed through the gates for the Rocky Mountain Nationals at Castrol Raceway near Edmonton, despite rain all three days.

That same venue set the IHRA record last year with 50,000 spectators.

Canada has become a second home to the IHRA as Grand Bend Motorplex, near Grand Bend, Ont., also draws record crowds. It's expected to surpass the 42,000 it drew in 2007 with the ninth Mopar Canadian Nationals July 18-20.

"We knew those first years we had to grow our facilities and get our fans maybe one at a time. Well, we now get them one thousand at a time," Polburn said of the success north of the border.

FINISH LINES

Sure signs NASCAR is feeling the slumping economy: Chip Ganassi shuts down Dario Franchitti's unsponsored team, putting 72 people out of work, including last year's IndyCar Series champ; 53 cars attempt to qualify at Daytona in February, only 45 last weekend; TV coverage of the Coke Zero 400 shows vast sections of empty seats; and now, owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. is searching for a sponsor for his Nationwide car after the U.S. Navy announces it won't be back.


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