Racing In The Sunshine State
By D. J. Kennington
As Featured in Performance Racing News
I had no idea my race season would be starting in March this year. On Dec. 23,
1999 I received a call from Performance Racing News informing me I won a
scholarship for a class at the Finish Line Racing School (Ed. DJ was awarded
this scholarship courtesy of PRN for his strong showing during the '99 Eastern
and National Series season). At the time it seemed like a great opportunity for
me to get out of the shop and have some fun driving a race car in sunny Florida,
instead of working on our Castrol Dodge Avengers here in the snow. It's so hard
to get pumped up working on the cars when you walk outside and can't see any
asphalt - it's hard to believe summer will ever come. Thanks to Performance
Racing News, however, I was on my way to Florida to meet Mike and Krystal
Loescher and the gang at FinishLine.
On the morning of our first day, after registration and meeting the other
students, I heard Mike speak for the first time in the suite of the tower at St.
Augustine Speedway. After five minutes listening to Mike and Krystal I realized
this school was not going to be a holiday, and it made me realize how little I
actually knew about driving a race car.
After Mike talked to us and explained what his school is all about, I asked
where he raced and how he got his experience driving race cars. Mike surprised
me when he said "How many races a year do drive DJ?" I said the most I had run
was 32 races in '97-'98, Mike laughed and said he ran seven races in SIX nights
for most of his career. And I thought our team was busy!
The class and I then walked the track with Mike and this is where I started to
realize how much knowledge of driving and setting up a race car Mike really had.
He asked me to point out the line I would run if I had arrived with my CASCAR
for the very first time. The next thing he said started my head shaking and it
lasted for three days. After showing Mike where I would run he said, "I'll bet
your crew chief gets tired of hearing you say the car is pushing in the middle
and loose coming off." "I say that all the time," I responded. Mike returned
with "You have been driving stock cars for six years now and have done really
well at it from what I have heard. Now just think, I am going to show you that
you have been driving them wrong."
Over the next two days of on track instruction I have never learned as much
about driving a race car. All those years of experience in CASCAR racing really
helped, but I never thought you could have a driving coach that could help you
win races the same way as a hockey coach can help you win the Stanley Cup.
Mike and Krystal worked on my bad habits for two long days, from 7am to 5pm. I
had to listen to them tell me what I ,was doing wrong and I loved every minute
of it. Mike told me the first day that I would get sick of hearing him on the-
radio telling me my mistakes and that when I returned home to my own car I would
still hear him when I put my helmet on to go racing.
So for the first practice day at Delaware on April 1, 1 could still hear those
magic words from Mike. Anyone who taken his school will know what I mean when I
say' lift, set, turn, squeeze.' And if these words don't mean anything to you as
a racer I recommend you make a visit to see Mike and Krystal at Finish Line and
you will know those words could be the best kept secret in racing.
If you get lucky enough like I did, go to this school. Do exactly what the
racing shirt says, "get in, Sit down, Strap in, Shut up and listen." if you do
that then I guarantee you will go faster and learn a lot from Mike, Krystal and
the entire FinishLine Racing School. If you don't believe me, ask some of the
first class drivers Mike has coached over the years, a list that includes Pete
Vanderwyst, Kerry Micks, Dan Shirtliff, Adam Petty, Jimmy Spencer, and Jeff
Gordon to name but a few.
Hopefully you will get the chance to attend this school. The name of this school
fits perfectly because it will help anyone get to the finish line, probably in
Thanks to everyone at Performance Racing News and Finish Line Racing School for
giving me the opportunity to improve my driving skills and meet some new friends
FinishLine Sees a Great Future For Kennington
"We've had the FinishLine Racing School (FLRS) for 10 years and have seen some
awesome talent come through" states Chief Instructor and co-owner Mike Loescher
"D. J. made me stop and take notice. D. J. is gonna kick some serious Asphalt in
the 2000 CASCAR season."
D. J. came to FLRS in late February of this year. Even though it became obvious
he had a lot of experience, he looked, listened, watched and kept an "open"
mind. The FLRS is a serious race school, so he was surrounded by other students
that were racer's themselves. This is a type of "bonding", the students can
compare notes and watch each other out on the race track. Mike critiques each
students session, but the other drivers can also put their suggestions in. This
makes for a very well rounded 3 day "learning" environment.
"What I look for in a good race car driver is one than can adapt quickly, and
respond to Mike's commands on the radio" comments co-owner Kristal Loescher, "my
job is to record the lap times on each driver, every lap that they're on the
race track. I also have a scanner with me so I can hear every word that Mike is
saying to the student. The one's that impress me the most are the drivers that
don't repeat any slips - or bad driving habits. Even though D. J. came into the
FLRS with a different driving style - he was willing enough to try "our" style.
Each lap, throughout the day; was faster and faster. If he went into turn 3 too
deep, and Mike stated that fact, D. J. never did it again. In a real race
situation, in the heat of competition, that race car driver will be able to
respond quickly and make smart decisions. That level of talent will lead D. J.
to Victory Circle a lot!"
"D. J. has the natural talent, the good looks, and the warm personality to go
far in this business" said Mike Loescher "nowadays in racing you have to have a
total package to get to the top. Thatís where D. J. deserves to be. I'll be
watching his career closely in 2000."
"In just general telephone conversations with some CASCAR drivers that have
called the FLRS the last couple months I have mentioned D. J. came to the FLRS
in February - one driver said Oh - great - now he knows - we're really gonna
have to deal with him now!" said Kristal. "I guess the secret is out - all I can
say to his fellow CASCAR drivers - as long as he has good luck with all his
racing equipment - D. J. is gonna be a serious threat in Canada for the year
2000! Mike and I are very proud that he chose to attend the FLRS. He's part of
our racing family now which includes a lot of very talented Canadian drivers.
Good Luck to all of them in 2000.
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