Before making a grand entrance in NASCAR's three big series, Kenny Irwin Jr., the 1996 USAC National Midget Series Champion, drove the #9 car to two victories, one at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, and the other at Huset’s Speedway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Kenny grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and began racing quarter midgets at age five. As a teenager, he raced for his father in the IMSA American Challenge stock car series and went on to race in USAC. He began open wheel racing in 1991 and had seven 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. Kenny made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut in 1996 at Phoenix International Raceway. In 1997, he drove the #98 Ford for Liberty Racing full time. Also that year, he achieved NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year honors, and made his debut in the Cup Series.
He won the 1998 Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series driving the famed Robert Yates Racing #28 Texaco car, replacing Ernie Irvan. Kenny started the 1998 season by winning the Automobile Racing Club of America event in Daytona in a car owned by Yates. During that season, he had one pole, one top-five, and four top-10 finishes on his way to a 28th place finish in the final points standings. In 1999, he had two poles, two top-five and six top-10 finishes, and finished 19th in the final points standings.
Kenny made his Busch Series debut in 1999 driving the #11 Rayovac Ford Taurus owned by his teammate Dale Jarrett and NFL quarterback Brett Favre. In 2000, he moved to Team SABCO to drive the #42 BellSouth car. The rising star died in a crash during a practice session at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2000. He was 30 years old.
'Determination' distinguished Kenny as a racer, as he followed his dream to be a winner. In 2002, Kenny’s parents, Ken and Reva, founded the Kenny Irwin Jr. Memorial Foundation and the Dare to Dream Camp to not only carry on their son's legacy, but to give back to the communities where Kenny lived and raced. The Foundation serves the needs of underprivileged, neglected, at-risk, and abused children through inspirational activities and mentoring that allow them to pursue their dreams. Kenny believed that the key to happiness is having dreams and the key to success is making dreams come true.
Nine Racing Stats
1996: USAC National Midget Series Champion Won USAC National Midget Series Event at Huset's Speedway Won USAC National Midget Series Event at Richmond International Raceway