Before the green flag flies on Sunday, D.J. Kennington will stand on the starting grid for the Daytona 500 listening to the American national anthem, but it will be the Canadian anthem going through the driver’s head as he gets ready for 200 laps at the famed Daytona International Speedway.
It’s been 29 years since the last Canadian participated in the Daytona 500. The last one? That was Alberta’s Trevor Boys in 1988. Boys finished 19th in his fifth and final Daytona 500 appearance.
“Heck, to be in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, that’s a dream for me,” Kennington said shortly after qualifying for the race. “From St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. There’s only been eight of us Canadians that have made the 500, so that’s huge for us.”
Although Kennington will make only his second Cup start on Sunday, the Canadian has plenty of NASCAR experience both north and south of the border. The Canuck is a two-time NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion with 19 wins to his credit. He also has 50 starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and five in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
For Kennington, one of the most exciting things is being able to represent long-time sponsor, Castrol, in the Great American Race.
“I don’t know how many people in motorsport right now can say they’ve had the same sponsor for 25 years,” he said. “Very fortunate. They’re like family to me. This deal all came together when I was trying to put some money together to come to Daytona.”
While Kennington and Gaunt Brothers Racing want to take home a trophy on Sunday, making the race as this year’s Cinderella Story is almost a win.
“The hard part is done, now we can have some fun.”