A Working Man’s All Star
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published Oct. 14, 2010.
Sprint-car racing has long been a blue-collar sport. It has been driven by men who work 40 hours a week and then spend their remaining hours preparing and racing cars at hundreds of dirt tracks across the country.
So in an era when a majority of the top teams are now fielded by full-time crews, it’s surprising that this season’s most successful sprint-car operation — CH Motorsports — is doing it the old-fashioned way.
The No. 83 sprint car, owned by Aaron Call and Janet Holbrook and driven by Tim Shaffer, is prepared and maintained by veteran crew chief Brian Kemenah. The team has enjoyed a storybook season highlighted by 21 victories, including the 50th Knoxville Nationals, and a second-straight All Star Circuit of Champions title.
And in the tradition of thousands of sprint-car racers before him, Kemenah works as the sales manager for Kistler Racing Products during business hours and then spends his evenings and nights preparing the race car in a shop behind his home in Burgoon, Ohio.
“I work at the speed shop every day. I drop my daughter off at school and I’m usually there by quarter after 8 in the morning and stay until 5,” said the 45-year-old Kemenah. “Then I go straight home and work on the race car and last night I went in at 11 O’clock. That’s about every day for me. It’s been that way my whole life.”
Kemenah is the son of former sprint-car owner Harold Kemenah and he literally grew up in the sport.
“My dad owned a sprint car from 1975 until 1988 and I’ve never quit racing,” Kemenah said. “When my dad owned cars, Fred Linder drove it, Johnny Beaber drove it, Jack Hewitt, Kenny Jacobs; we had a lot of good drivers drive our stuff back then. We actually started running the All Stars when the All Stars started in 1980.
“My first year of making all the calls on the No. 3x car was with Fred Linder in 1982 or 1983 when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Kemenah added. “When we won our first All Star championship that was just me and Fred on the road.”