Jon McKennedy, P&L Motorsports Paring a Formidable New International Supermodified Association Team
Oswego, NY – It is not unusual for teams to form or disband during the off-season months in all forms of racing. And, the International Supermodified Association is no exception. There are a few new owner-driver teams who will be competing with the winged group when the season opens in late May. One of these new combinations is that of P&L Motorsports and driver Jon McKennedy.
Car owners Lee Vinal and wife Pam, of Dracut, Mass., will once again field their number 21 supermodified, a new car in 2016, in ISMA competition, but with a new driver Jon McKennedy and many changes.
Lee and Pam Vinal are looking forward to the new season. “We are very excited for this year, a lot of changes for the good were made to the car over the winter. Lee’s brother Steve has done an awesome job making and improving a lot of the parts for the car.”
McKennedy, who just turned 30 who hails from Chelmsford, Mass has been racing more than half of his life. His talent has spread over multiple divisions and he’s been successful in most of them throughout the Northeast and South.
He started accumulating championships back in the late 90s racing Tiger sprints. He moved into four-cylinders at Hudson and became that division’s Rookie of the Year at age 14. From there Jon jumped into the 350 supermodifieds. He won the 2003 Championship in that division and the Star 350 Classic the same year.
Moving Up the Ladder
After another year in the 350s, Jon was approached to drive the potent Dunigan supermodified. Running several races that year, he was named ISMA Rookie of the Year at the age of 18 in 2005. But, between the supermodified runs, he also tried his hand at the Whelen Modifieds tour and other modified series events. He continued through 2007 with the VMRS and NASCAR Modified Tour.
By 2008, Jon McKennedy was becoming a household name throughout the ranks of the modified and supermodified divisions. His success in both divisions continued and in 2012. Jon joined with modified car owner Art Barry to earn a 3rd modified series championship. He also won his first ISMA race that year with a 75-lap victory at Lee USA.
Big Wins No Fluke for McKennedy
In 2013, he chalked up a win at Waterford. Then he beat a powerful field of ISMA supermodifieds to win the coveted Star Classic. 2014 brought Jon three wins on the competitive ISMA tour including 75 lappers at Chaudiere, Quebec, Lee USA and Sunset Speedway in Ontario, Canada.
He followed up those successes with a 2015 Sandusky Hy-Miler Supermodified Nationals 100 win in the Booth 61. This added two of the most prestigious winged supermodified Classics to his résumé. All this, while competing and winning in the VMRS modifieds of New England.
Having won two of the three historic long distance supermodified races, Jon said he wouldn’t mind “trying my hand a non-winged car at the Oswego Classic. “I’ve had a few offers over the years, but nothing came of them. Maybe some day…”
Two Previous Full-Time Seasons Up in Smoke
Jon’s two full-time ISMA seasons brought him success and then heartbreak. In 2014 he led the points and was in contention for that coveted title. Unfortunately he lost it to Ben Seitz at Thompson due to a blown engine. “I was really disappointed to have traveled all around, winning three races, leading the points and then to have it all taken away when the engine blew.”
In 2016, Jon stuck mainly with the modifieds but found a ride in the second potent Jim Bodnar team car as a teammate to Dave Shullick Jr. He set fast time in his first time in the car. He was running in the top ten in the feature only to have the car erupt into flames on lap 81 caused by a blown motor.
Besides running ISMA full-time in 2017, Jon also plans on a “whole bunch” of runs with the modifieds. “It’s going to be a busy year,” he indicated. “I have plans to run at least 30 races between the super and the majority of the modified shows in my car.”
Vinal Making Changes for McKennedy
McKennedy says he plans to win races and a championship with his new team.
“When Lee (Vinal) approached me about driving his car this year, I was more than okay with it as long as he was willing to make some changes to the car. And, so far he has been all for whatever changes I recommended.
“First the car was taken to the most talented of car builders, Butch Valley and Brian Allegresso. The former Xtreme machine was completely redesigned. They changed the chassis and front suspension design among other things. We also have a good motor program with the Dowker engines out of Michigan. I think we really have a good shot at winning the title and my plan is to run ISMA full-time and to contend for the championship.
“I’m a competitive driver and I like to run up front, not just be part of the show. I think we have all the tools we need to do just that this year.”
Looking back at his career and his 7 ISMA wins to date, there is a really good chance that he will succeed.