|Born||August 5, 1969 |
|Died|| July 7, 2000 (aged 30) |
Loudon, New Hampshire
(accident during practice at
New Hampshire Motor Speedway)
|NASCAR Sprint Cup career|
|Best pts finish||19th (1999)|
|First race||1997 Exide NASCAR Select|
|Last race||2000 Pepsi 400|
|Wins: 0||Championships: 0|
|NASCAR Nationwide Series career|
|Best pts finish||50th (2000)|
|First race||1999 Coca-Cola 300|
|Last race||2000 Carquest Auto Parts 300|
|Wins: 0||Championships: 0|
Kenny Irwin, Jr. (August 5, 1969-July 7, 2000) was an American stock car driver. He had driven in all three major of forms of NASCAR and had two total victories. Before that, he raced in the United States Auto Club against Tony Stewart. He died from a result of injuries suffered in a practice accident at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Kenny grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana and was the youngest of four children. He began racing quarter-midgets before he was in the second grade. He graduated from Lawrence North High School in 1988 where he played varsity soccer, while continuing his career as a driver. Between 1988 and 1991, he raced for his father in the IMSA American Challenge stock car series, all while he was still a teenager.
Kenny then went on to race in USAC. He began open wheel racing in 1991. He had 7 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. In 1996 he was the USAC National Midget Series champ. After his successful run in USAC, many open-wheel enthusiasts began comparing him to NASCAR's Jeff Gordon.
Irwin began his NASCAR career in the Craftsman Truck Series. He made his debut in that series in 1996 at Phoenix International Raceway, driving the #26 Ford F-150 for MB Motorsports. He started and finished 32nd after an engine faliure. In his second start at Richmond International Raceway, he won the pole in the #62 Raybestos Ford and finished fifth.
He movd up to drive full-time in 1997, driving the #98 Ford for Liberty Racing. He had 2 wins, 7 Top 5, and 10 Top 10 finishes that season, on his way to a 10th place finish in the final point standings. He also won Rookie of the Year honors that season. Irwin also made his debut in the Winston Cup Series in 1997 with David Blair Motorsports at Richmond. He qualified on the outside pole and led for tweleve laps, finishing in eighth place. He ran three more races with Blair that season, qualifying no worse than eleventh.
He won the 1998 Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series driving the Robert Yates Racing #28 Texaco car, replacing Ernie Irvan. Irwin started the 1998 season by winning the Automobile Racing Club of America race in Daytona in February in a car owned by Yates. During that season, he had one pole, 1 Top 5, and 4 Top 10 finishes on his way to a 28th place finish in the final points standings. In 1999 he had 2 poles, 2 Top 5 and 6 Top 10 finishes and finished 19th place finish in the final points standings.
Irwin made his Busch Series debut in 1999 driving the #11 Rayovac Ford Taurus owned by his teammate, Dale Jarrett, and NFL quarterback Brett Favre. He had two fifth-place finishes in five starts, at Texas Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway, respectively.
In 2000, he moved to Team SABCO to drive the #42 BellSouth car. He had a single Top 10 finish, 4th at Talladega Superspeedway, in his first 17 races. He made nine starts in the Busch Series for SABCO as well, finishing ninth at Talladega.
On July 7.2000, during the Thatlook.com 300 practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway, he slammed head on into the wall, causing his car to flip onto its roof. He died instantly. It was the exact same location where Adam Petty had died just two months before under the same circumstances.
Irwin's parents operate the Dare to Dream Childrens Camp in New Castle, IN in Kenny's honor.
- "Everyone has been hoping to find the next Jeff Gordon, I think we found him"--owner David Blair after the season-ending race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.