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Gamble: How Chuck Kennedy’s old race car has found second life, and fame, in Mexico

After an impressive 47-year career in racing, local legend Chuck Kennedy has decided to hang up his helmet. Known for his dedication to the sport, the Hall of Fame driver spent decades driving and owning race cars that thrilled fans and fellow racers alike.

When the time came to retire, Chuck listed his beloved race car on racejunk.com, an online marketplace for racing enthusiasts. The car quickly caught the attention of Kiko Perez from Chihuahua, Mexico. Kiko’s parents own a racetrack in Mexico. Due to a language barrier, Perez had a friend call Kennedy and make arrangements to meet. They told Chuck if Kiko called it would have sounded like a prank call.

The group drove three days and finally arrived in Mars. Kennedy greeted them and said, “You didn’t bring a big truck and trailer.” They told him, “We’re only buying a race car.” Kennedy replied, “Oh no, you’re getting it all.”

They negotiated and Kiko purchased the car.

Cheryl Kennedy, Chuck’s wife, described the trailer when Kiko and his friends started their return journey.

“Their truck looked like the Beverly Hillbillies’,” she said. “There were wheels and tires stacked in the back of the truck strapped down. Pieces of stuff were wire-tied to the race car and things were stuffed in the seat. What a super nice group of guys.”

The cool thing was Kiko decided to keep its exterior exactly the same, including the color, number and sponsors. His purchase paid off when he won a feature race at Vado Speedway Park, Mexico, with the “exotic” car from Mars.

“They love the car from Mars,” Kiko said, emphasizing the connection between the car’s unique origin and its new home.

Kiko also does Grand Prix and road racing. He comes from a family of racers, with four brothers also involved in the sport. Together, they contribute to a vibrant racing community in Chihuahua, where the Kennedy car has become a local favorite.

Back in Mars, Chuck Kennedy is far from idle.

“I still watch races, and I’m not going cold turkey,” he said.

Every Tuesday, he meets with friends to restore vintage race cars, keeping his passion for racing alive.

“It’s a way to stay connected to what I love and share stories with fellow enthusiasts,” Chuck said. “I am restoring Uncle Bob’s (Kennedy) 57 Chevy for a Vintage race. I have three-and-a-half cars done and three more to go.”

Lined up, he also has Uncle Bob’s Granada owned by Bob Schaefnocker, Glade Neil’s Duster, Tim Temple’s Pinto Coupe driven by Brian Swartzlander at Syracuse, Bruce Milbert’s Chevelle, Ed Fiola’s Heidelberg Coupe and Herb Scott’s “Little One” 37 Ford Coupe.

His son, Clayton, who drove his race cars, has bought a 63-acre farm in Slippery Rock and is now driving a tractor cutting grass. Andy, his other son, is taking control of the family business, Kennedy Auto Sales, in Mars. Daughter Brittany’s boyfriend Zach Robles races Dwarf cars, and she is part of the crew.

Cheryl misses not having a race car at the track.

As Chuck transitions from driver to restorer, his legacy continues to inspire both local fans and those abroad. The car from Mars may have a new home, but it remains a symbol of a storied career and the enduring love for racing.

Michny dies at 74

Dog Hollow Speedway owner James E. Michny died Friday, July 5. He was 74 years old. Our condolences are extended to his family.

SSI Motorsports drops Thornton

Ricky Thornton Jr. won the 2023 and 2024 Lernerville Super Late Model Lucas Oil Firecracker, collecting $50,000.

But in a shocker, Thornton is in search of a new home. SSI Motorsports intends to hire a new driver, he said.

“Todd Burns, owner of SSI Motorsports, and I met today, and he expressed that he felt the last few months hadn’t been going in the direction that he envisioned for SSI Motorsports and has decided to hire another driver,” Thornton said in a statement. “This was extremely unexpected for our family and team both, however, we ultimately must respect the decision. We are currently searching for the next opportunity that will best fit our family. With us leading the standings on two tours added with a lot of momentum we have going for us so far this season, I hope that I can find something as soon as possible.”

Thornton currently leads the standings for both the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the Castrol FloRacing Night in America Series. Thornton, 33, has already visited victory lane 19 times this season, across multiple divisions. His recently won his 400th career race.

Carol Gamble is a racing columnist for the Butler Eagle

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