While most of the boys in her class are watching movies with characters who espouse that they live their life “a quarter mile at a time,” Kennady Jones is actually doing it. That is, she’s doing it when she’s not going to school as a high school junior. When she’s not practicing or competing as a student athlete, studying for class, or working 20 hours per week at her part-time job; when the rest of her life isn’t in the way, and while many of her friends are probably at parties, tanning by the pool, or daydreaming about prom dates, Kennady Jones is making low 11 second passes in a two-ton pickup at the drag strip in NMRA competition.
The 17-year old 2013 NMRA Rookie of the Year was inspired by her grandfather and fellow Truck and Lightning racer Jim Roberts. “I’ve kind of grown up around going to the track since I was about four or five years old. So I’ve grown up around and grown to like it. Probably around when I was eight or nine I decided it was something I wanted to do,” says Kennady.
Unlike many young drag racers it wasn’t until recently that Kennady got any actual wheel time at the track. Her parents weren’t interested in putting their daughter into a junior dragster, they felt she needed to wait until she was older and could better handle the decisions of driving down the track at speed. At the ripe old age of 16 Kennady got to suit up and climb behind the wheel of a Lightning pickup in NMRA competition.
Following her grandfather’s example Kennady chose to compete in a truck rather than a Mustang, she preferred the familiar surroundings of the truck to the lighter and smaller pony car. “My grandfather’s had his truck since before I was born. He’s always raced a truck and I’ve driven a truck so I felt safer racing it than in something like a Mustang.”
After somewhere around 50 passes to get accustomed to drag racing Kennady found herself competing against seasoned veterans in NMRA competition. She wasn’t just showing up and qualifying. She was going rounds and putting familiar names and class mainstays on the trailer.
Kennady’s 2013 season high note was the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl at Joliet, IL. It was at this event that she was able to go all the way to the semi-final round before being sent home late in the day on Sunday. “That’s the farthest I’ve been in my racing career. Brad Gussler actually beat me, and went on to the finals to race against my grandfather. So if I had won I’d have had to race my grandfather in the final round.” No comment on how that race would have turned out, but needless to say, that type of grandfather vs granddaughter final round would have been something the fans, no doubt, would have packed the stands and been screaming to watch.
While Kennady obviously loves the feel of getting that win light against her competitors, especially the expressions when some of the good ‘ole boys get beat by a teenage girl, her favorite thing on the track is the burnout. “I just love doing the burnout, it’s so cool,” and who could blame her. Smoking the hides has been a favorite teenage pastime for decades, so why should Kennady be any different. It’s when it’s go-time that she says she really starts to feel the pressure. “When I’m staged and waiting to go, and it’s just me and my truck; that’s the moment,” she says.
Of course for Kennady the NMRA experience isn’t all about what goes on while she’s in her truck on the track. “I’ve been able to meet so many different people racing and it’s always fun to meet new people.” These events have allowed her to make friendships that will likely last far beyond her high school days. The travel, the people, the experiences on and off the track; they are all life lessons and moments that few if any of her classmates will ever know.
Kennady spends most of the NMRA season traveling with her grandfather and her younger brother. Her parents make it to the season’s first two races. Kennady says both of her parents are still nervous about her making passes down the track with mom, Jennifer, usually saying, “drive straight” as Kennady gets ready to pull out on the track.
Kennady doesn’t get much seat time in the off time between races either, “Our rig is up in Michigan and that’s not by my choice. I’d much rather have it here, but it’s expensive to take it out, so we keep it closer to where the races are most of the year. After the race season when it’s back here we might go to Bradenton and make some passes, or do some local racing, but most of the year the truck isn’t here for me to practice.”
The 2014 racing season has brought on a bevy of support for Kennady’s NMRA effort including her main sponsors SCT, Kooks Headers, and Kenne Bell all lending support to her racing efforts including parts and tuning. SCT has helped bring in a variety of tunes for Kennady’s truck, “I think we have eight tunes this season which helps with hitting our time on the track,” she says.
Kennady doesn’t just wheel her truck either. She helps prep her ride between rounds or events handling everything from blower pulley changes to updating the tune in the truck. She tells us she’d change the rear tires out if she could lift them. The combination of hard work and new parts has lead this young driver to a best ET in 2014 of 11.21 at 116 MPH -speeds most of the boys in her class have probably only fantasized about traveling at.
She’s also teaching and setting an example for her younger brother who travels with her and grandpa Jim. “He’ll be driving next year, so he’s going with us to learn the ropes,” says Kennady.
Beyond the track, Kennady is looking towards her senior year of high school, her college career, and what comes next in drag racing after that. She tells us she’d like to get a business or marketing degree and do some work in the performance industry, quite possibly with her current big sponsor SCT. We think she’d be the perfect fit. Hopefully after spending a few years with SCT on the door of the truck providing racing support she can make a career after college with a paycheck from that company.
Kennady also lights up when she tells us she dreams of one day making it to the big dance in NHRA competition by getting some wheel time in a Top Fuel or Funny Car ride. She says those dreams are further down the road from now with her focus being on learning the ropes of racing and finishing school strong. We could definitely see this bright young lady shining before the cameras on Sunday afternoons in front of a worldwide audience. Until then we know when that black, silver, and pink Lightning takes the lanes in NMRA competition all the boys are on notice because there’s nothing like getting beat by a girl.