Lebanon, Mo. - With the NASCAR season a little over a month away at Lebanon I-44 Speedway, track officials were excited to announce Monday that 19-year-old Ross Kenseth, son of 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, has committed to race in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars' Mercy 'Masters of the Pros' 144 on Saturday, May 18. The touring series visits Missouri's only asphalt oval and only NASCAR facility for a jaw-dropping minimum $8,000 to win, $600 to start late model showcase highlighted by the winner receiving a signature green jacket similar to the one donned by the champion of golf's The Masters event in Augusta, Ga.
"When we put this event together, this type of talent was what we were hoping to attract," Lebanon I-44 Speedway promoter Kevin Greven said. "Ross is an extremely talented and likable young man who will be gunning for a huge payday in mid-May. Everyone's excited to see him commit to race with us, and it only adds to the prestige of what is already becoming one of our most-anticipated events in some time."
Greven noted that even more well-known drivers were considering throwing their hat into the ring and attempting to win the highest-paying event of its class during the 2013 season.
Ross Kenseth has followed in the footsteps of his famous father, jumping into a late model in 2007 at the age of 14 and recording a Big 8 Series championship in just his third season. Since then, the Clemson University student has moved into the super late model ranks and out of his father's shadow, garnering ASA Midwest Tour rookie of the year honors in 2010 and notching eight wins during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, including the prestigious Red, White and Blue State Championship at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, Wis., the same speed plant where his father cut his teeth growing up.
Kenseth has a strong chance to be in the running for the green jacket at the end of the race, boasting wins in several high-powered events during the 2012 season including the All-American 400 in Nashville, Tenn., the Winchester 400 in Winchester, Ind., and the Red Bud 300 in Anderson, Ind. With his victories at the Winchester 400 and All-American 400, Kenseth became just the second driver in history to post wins in the races held on back-to-back weekends, joining Midwest racing legend Butch Miller.
While Kenseth remains focused on earning his degree in mechanical engineering at Clemson, the third-generation driver has expressed interest in making the leap to the big leagues of NASCAR much like his father did in the mid-'90s. The rising star will pilot his signature No. 25 Blain's Farm & Fleet Toyota super late model 25 times during the 2013 season, adding former NASCAR driver and fellow Wisconsin touring star Kelly Bires to his Generation 3 Motorsports team as crew chief.
"The Kenseth names carries a lot of respect within Midwest, and national, racing circles," Greven said. "Adding a well-respected third-generation driver like Ross to our field helps provide motivation for local drivers to show their worth for this event, while offering incentive to other pro late model stars to join the field for our inaugural Mercy 'Masters of the Pros' 144. This event is going to get our 2013 season off to a quick start."
Page 2 of 2 - Greven said that with the rules package that the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour employs, local late model drivers will be able to enter the event and defend their home track. Around 35-40 cars, including 20 or so series regulars, are expected for the pro late model showcase.
The series will be running in conjunction with two Lebanon I-44 Speedway NASCAR Weekly Racing classes. Greven is currently in the process of finalizing the 2013 schedule for release and will be announcing those divisions soon.