I historically do not race for points. We took 2nd in points in 1994 and the payoff was not very good. Every other year since then I have had to miss a week or two during the season due to business travel. So I have not made points a focus of my season. Our focus has been to win races and have fun! That was the way it was at the start of the 1998 season as well. I had broken my leg in November and the car was way behind schedule. My father did most of the preparation through the winter, but needed my help for some of the work. Ultimately, we missed opening night while still trying to get the car race ready. Then at mid season I had my big wreck at the start of a feature and that cost me a feature finish. I did not even look at a points sheet until there were about 6 weeks left in the season when someone told me I was doing pretty well in points for having missed a couple features. We were sitting 4th, about 120 points out of the lead. My focus slowly changed to the points knowing that I had a chance at being the champion. With 3 weeks left in the season I was up to 2nd in points and only 34 out of the lead. Then came the rains and washed out one night so I had two weeks left to try to win this thing. The second to last night hurt my chances as I lost 12 points in the heat race and Australian pursuit race, features were rained out and postponed to championship night. Now I sat 46 out of first going into championship night. We did have to run 2 features and a heat race, so I had a shot if Chris had a problem.
Lady luck appeared to be with me as in the first feature. I started 13th and was making my way to the front. Chris started 5th, but early in the race his distributor broke and he was out of the race, but was scored 16th as 3 others had already dropped out. I made it to 3rd by the end of the race and took a big bite out of that 46 point lead. Entering the final feature Chris still had an 18 point advantage on me. This meant that the race for the championship was going to come down to the final feature. The winner of the feature gets 75 points and it counts down from there. Chris started 3rd and I started 5th, right behind him. On the start I could not get bite on the bottom since the track workers decided to water it right before we went on the track, so I lost a few spots on the first lap. Then I got drilled in the left rear quarter on the second lap and spun. This brought out the caution and I had to restart in the back of the field- 19th. Chris was now leading the event, so I figured the championship was out of the question, but I wanted to get back to the front anyway. Well, with only 4 laps to go I was in 5th place, the caution came out. On the restart, Chris had a flat tire and had to again leave the race! I thought I could make it to the lead and win the race and that would definitely be enough for the championship. But on the restart I noticed my car had picked up a bad vibration in the drive train, most likely caused by the hit and spin earlier in the race. I was afraid the drive shaft was going to break and I would not finish, so I nursed the car to a fourth place finish hoping that would be enough to take the title. Chris had been scored 9th because of all the attrition there were only 9 cars left in the race when he had to leave the race.
Chris and I immediately headed to the scorer's tower because we knew it would be very close. We tallied up the points we both had earned for the night and I had made up 41 points on him, just 5 shy of the 46 needed to tie him and 6 shy of enough to win the title. It was a real heartbreaker for my team. We did not race for points all year and that was not our focus for the better part of the year, but to get that close and loose by such a small margin really stinks. To get so close without even trying this year really gives me incentive to go after the championship next year. We did find that the tail shaft bearing in the transmission had gone bad, likely from the hit and spin. If that had not happened, we would have likely won the race and the championship. But it did happen and that is racing, we will be back even stronger in 1999!
As for the champion, Chris is a good driver with a very good team. They are truly a class act and like us keep their equipment in nice shape and looking good every week. Chris is a good friend and a clean competitor that you can race door to door with and not worry about him running into you. Congratulations Chris! I hope next year we can have an equally good points race, but it will be my turn to win it! We were pretty even all year, I won 3 features and he won 2. We were both consistently in the top 5. I missed one night of racing and had 1 DNF in a feature, but Chris had 2 DNF's on the last night. This matched us up to within 5 points of each other by the end the year. This shows just how evenly matched our teams were and how fun and tight this points race was.
As for my feelings on our season. Overall it was the best season we have ever had. We won more races in 1998 (8) then in any other single season. We had 27 top 5 finishes in 31 starts and that is an incredible statistic. That speaks for my teams consistency and ability to put our car at the front of the field every night. We won our first feature this year from the 14th starting spot in a 15 lap feature! Our season was definitely highlighted by our win in the Charlie Vareeke Memorial where we started 7th and made a last lap pass to win the caution free event. And finally we ended up 2nd in championship points with only a 5 point margin. We were also 2nd in 1994, but we were a very young team and lost it by 280 points to a very dominant driver. I am very pleased with the season and am looking forward to the 1999 season!
Thank you for following our 1998 season on the Kendall Racing Home page and check back periodically through the winter months for updates on changes we are making and plans for 1999. I will also be adding a few surprises to the page during the winter and making some other changes to the page.
Kendall Racing #42