Kenny Irwin Biography

A brief biography of Kenny Irwin, the second NASCAR driver to lose his life within a two month period of time.

Shock and disbelief rippled through the racing community as word spread on July 7, 2000 that the New Hampshire International Speedways' turn three had claimed the life of yet another young up and coming NASCAR driver. It was only eight weeks to the day since Adam Petty lost his life during practice at the Louden, NH track, when Kenny Irwin driver of the Sabco #42 Bellsouth car was to meet the same fate.

Only 10 minutes into practice for the next day's 300, in almost eerie similar circumstances, Kenny would crash within mere feet of where Adam had just two months before, on May 12, 2000. Kenny Irwin would become the second victim in two months to lose his life on the treacherous turn.

By all indications, the reason for both crashes would be determined to be the same: a stuck throttle. Though everyone who witnessed the accident would come to agreement that it was mechanical failure, which most likely was the cause of the fatal crash, afterwards there was more than one Winston Cup driver who spoke out about the benefits of the track-owners possibly making adjustments on the turn. Their reasoning being that if a car were to hit that wall, that possible adjustments could help lessen the impact on the driver and that lives would possibly be saved.

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 5, 1969 to Kenny and Reva Irwin, Kenny was just shy of celebrating his 31st birthday when he was tragically killed. Though never married and with no children, Kenny lived life to its fullest and did what he loved doing and what he was good at, and that was racing. Other interests included riding motorcycles, shooting pool and playing golf.

Before turning 21, he made his debut in racing at Indianapolis Motordrome in a car owned by Rob Parrish and it was this night that would forever change the course of Kenny's life. All it would take was that one race to convince Kenny that racing was what he wanted to pursue a career in. During the summer of 1991 when Kenny Irwin was 21 years old, he raced a Midget car at the Speedrome and also run a partial National schedule as well. He would finish 9th that year in the points standings and also won the USAC Rookie of the Year honors.

From driving in the Midget series, Kenny moved up in 1993 and raced in the sprint car division and once again, he would win the Rookie of the year title. It come as no surprise that in 1994 that once again Kenny would win Rookie of the Year honors, this year he would win the USAC Silver Crown Series.

1996 would find Kenny winning the USAC Skoal National Midget Series Championship and this was to be the last season he would drive full-time in the USAC Series. He was ready to move up, hoping to eventually realize his dream of running in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. One step towards his Winston Cup goal was to drive in the Craftsman Truck Series, which he did in 1997. Coming as no surprise to anyone, Kenny won the Rookie of the Year title in that series as well.

Irwin's first Winston Cup race come in September 1997 in which he qualified good enough to start on the front row and the end of the race would find Kenny with a top ten finish! In '98, Kenny Irwin would drive full-time for car-owner Robert Yates and pilot the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford for that racing season. And yes, once again "¦ Kenny would win the Rookie of the Year award, this time it would be in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and he showed fans and other drivers alike, that he had arrived!

It was at Watkins Glen, NY that a verbal altercation took place between Kenny Irwin and Robert Yates, owner of the #28 car that Kenny was driving that ended with Kenny losing the #28 ride. It was apparent long before that day that the chemistry was just not there between owner and driver. Everyone involved in racing knows that to have a winning team, it takes the entire team working together and that there has to be compatibility along with trust and respect between car-owner, driver and the pit-crew.

During the 1999 racing season, Kenny won two pole positions, one at Texas and one at the Darlington track and he would finish 19th in the Winston Cup Points for the season. Driving for Felix Sabates, a true partnership was formed and a winning team was coming together nicely. As with Adam Petty, sadly we will never know how far Kenny could have went in the Winston Cup series. It is without doubt that this young driver had proven that he had talent and what it took to be a winner. As on May 12, 2000 with the death of Adam Petty, on July 7, 2000 - the world of NASCAR lost a young and talented driver and though life does go on, Winston Cup Racing will never be the same with the loss of these two bright and shining stars.

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