McKennedy Knocks One Off His Bucket List; Wins Whelen Mod Tour Opener At Myrtle Beach

Story By: KYLE SOUZA / NASCAR – MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Even though both Jon McKennedy and Tommy Baldwin have put together a long list of accolades in their racing career, both entered the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season looking to prove a point.

Saturday, McKennedy took the new pairing between the two veterans of asphalt modified racing right to the winner’s circle.

McKennedy captured his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety Kleen at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

“It feels great, I feel like this is way overdue,” McKennedy said. “Over the years, I was never really able to put 100 percent effort into the Tour. When Tommy called me, I just knew it was going to be a great deal. I’ve won races from Florida to Canada. It feels good to finally get the monkey off my back.”

Although McKennedy has a successful resume built in New England Tour-Type Modified racing, his first Whelen Modified Tour victory came in his 34th career start in the NASCAR modified ranks.

The Chelmsford, Massachusetts, driver started from the outside pole, but quickly backed up through the field, trying to save his tires for the final stages on the tricky half-mile surface known for eating at Hoosier rubber.

Following a pit stop for fresh tires during the final caution, McKennedy charged through the field and found himself staring down the back bumper of 20-year-old Chase Dowling in the final laps. On lap 139, McKennedy took his No. 7 Accell Construction Chevrolet to the bottom of Dowling, and took control of the race off turn two.

He never looked back.

“Tommy gave me a great opportunity to run this car, and I’m glad I could make the most of it,” McKennedy said. “We’re really off to a good start together. It’s great to be in good equipment and have some great knowledge behind us.”

Although Jimmy Blewett took second and inched closer to McKennedy in the final laps, he came up just short, and settled for second. Blewett was driving for Ed Partridge, the defending Whelen Modified Tour owner’s champion, while Ryan Preece competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Auto Club Speedway.

“I can’t thank Eddie and his wife Connie enough, I’m just happy to be able to come out here and help them,” Blewett said. “This is a car that Eddie and my grandfather own together. We came here in the dark, with no notes. But we got ourselves pointed in the right direction fairly quickly today.”

Matt Hirschman led 77 laps and finished third after winning his sixth pole award in qualifying, while Chase Dowling was fourth. Justin Bonsignore, who led 26 laps, was fifth in his debut with LFR Chassis.

Dave Sapienza was sixth, followed by Eric Goodale, Calvin Carroll, Craig Lutz and Rob Summers.

The Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety Kleen will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, March 21, at 6 p.m. ET.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the annual Icebreaker 150 on April 8.