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The collaboration between D.J. Kennington and crew chief Dave Wight didn’t seem like a match at first, but its evolution has been remarkable – as has its success.
When the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 was launched in 2007, Kennington was already a veteran of more than 10 seasons of CASCAR – the Canadian Tire Series’ predecessor – competition, but Wight was just a 20-year-old with plenty of learning and maturing to do.
“There were times early on that I had to sit on him a little,” said Kennington. “He’s so competitive that his emotions would get the best of him sometimes. When we started he was just a kid. I still call him a kid.”
Well, that kid has engineered 18 wins and two series championships. The win total is double that of his closest competitor – Bill Burns with nine. Like Wight, Burns has two titles to his credit having guided Andrew Ranger to the prize in 2007 and 2009.
Make no mistake, Kennington, who grew up around racing and race cars, is one of those hyper-involved drivers in terms of car preparation, but as time has passed “Wighty” – as he is known in the garage – has taken over all of the race day calls and adjustments.
“At the track, I leave everything to Wighty and the team now,” Kennington said. “I just focus on driving and let them mess with all the mechanical stuff. I work on the car during the week, but I’m just the driver on race days.”
The kinship that has developed between the two is a testament to how their relationship has grown. It’s more than driver and crew chief. They’re friends. Rarely seen apart, the duo seems joined at the hip most of the time.
“If we weren’t friends, we’d probably kill each other with the amount of time we spend together,” Wight said.
The critical component to any successful race team is clear communication between the driver and the crew chief. The interaction between Kennington and Wight seemingly could be a text book case study. Adjustments to the car, whether it be in practice or during the race, always seem to be spot-on. This was evidenced in the final two races of the season which both ended with the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Mahindra Tractors Dodge in Victory Lane. In both cases the car was at its best at the end resulting in late-race charges to wins. In the championship-clinching season finale Kennington led just 25 laps – the last 25.
“D.J. and I are definitely on the same page most of the time,” said Wight. “Virtually everything I know I learned from him, so we see things from the same angle.”
Kennington credits Wight’s aptitude and approach on race day for a great deal of the team’s success.
“He’s really smart and has picked up stuff from all sorts of people in the sport,” said Kennington. “He’s a great strategic thinker in the shop and on top of the pit box. I can tell you that we wouldn’t be where we are without him.”