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Danbury Fair RaceArena

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Bob Barney: I remember Kenny Webb as the greatest racer I ever knew
Sep 19, 2010 - updated Oct 14th, 2017 8:04am
Web posted by Bob Barney

New Milford, Ct via Norfolk Va --

Kenny Webb died a few years ago now, and even though most RaceRap readers never heard of him, I think he was one of the greatest drivers of all time.  On the track, he had amazing abilities, but that is not what made him the greatest driver whom I ever knew. It was his incredible attitude that I remember-- On and off the track. I first published this review days after Kenny died. Here it is again: On the track, Kenny raced with the brains that knew how and when to make a move, and more importantly, when not to make a move. This inherit sense made him win and finish those races where the average "great" racer would not. I listen on TV about those drivers who race hard every lap and push their cars to the limit. That was NOT Kenny Webb. Those drivers whom the TV announcers love to glorify don't finish many of the races they could have if they only used the brains that God gave them. Kenny did just that. He used his brains and always calculated exactly what he was going to do, and had a good idea of the outcome before doing it.  This is not to say that Kenny didn't race hard, and get down and dirty when he needed to. The black #2 "deuce" was often booed by the crowd for knocking someone out of his way. Usually when he did it, he wasn't involved and somehow had a good innocent reason for that move to the officials.  Yes, Kenny knew how to race on the track. This made him the third all time winning driver at the Racearena and a champion during those years- included a track championship, in 1977, after he was seen as "washed up."  I was a part of that championship winning 77 season when Kenny, in his own car (he often drove for others) beat the three in a row track chmapion Don LaJoie. It was quitye a season with some 7 feature wins with every one of them coming from the 16th position! (Danbury at a top 16 invert- BY POINTS!).
 
The greatness on the track was a small part of my estimation of Kenny Webb. It was his attitude that made him the greatest driver I ever knew.  I grew up watching him race. As a boy, my oldest brother Vic was a Webb fan, I was a Paul Pettit fan. We still have home movies of me at age 6 wearing my Paul Pettit shirt!  Later, as a teenager I became a Lajoie fan, and my friend and I built our own race car that we ran at Thompson (#711). It was the number I liked best. I lived in New Milford, and Don LaJoie lived in Norwalk-- a pretty long drive.  I would spend many hours there at Don's wrecking yard asking him for pointers. One winter day in 1974, he said "why don't you just ask Kenny-he lives in your time, and I have learned a bunch from him."  I went to see Kenny, who instantly took a liking to me and started helping us out. By 1976 we were very good friends and he asked me to join the pit crew as his tire guy and record keeper. Kenny was way ahead of his time. I took notes on weather, humidity, temperature, as well as every measurement and tire readings we knew about. It helped plenty setting up a car from week to week, based on the science of previous conditions.  It worked. In 1976, the "washed up old man" scored very well and had a great season. LaJoie won the championship. In 1977 however, it was Kenny's year, winning not only the championship, but watching all of those long lost fans return after the races!  Those few Stalwart fans in 75 and 76 started to become the flock of fans in 1977. By mid season, everyone was a Webb fan again.  However, Kenny never changed! That is what impressed me about the guy. He was incredibly the same-- winning and losing, he was the same Kenny Webb, with a smile on his face and a complete knowledge of racing, and the fans. He understood when the fans went away, and wasn't bitter, and was the same nice guy when they came back - like they never left!  He would say, "hey I understand. Barney'O-come (his nickname for me), when that rabbit's foot is with you, you can't do anything wrong, and when it leaves you, you can't do anything right. Just get used to it. It's life."
 
I remember him telling me the year when Don LaJoie's oldest boy (and Randy's older brother) was killed in a car wreck (non racing auto accident) and how it affected Don; Kenny said "I told him what I tell everyone in this sport. Anybody can be a winner, but it takes a real man to know how to lose."  I never forgot those words. I never will. That sentence transformed Kenny Webb from a great racer, to the greatest I have ever known. Kenny knew how to be up or down, to win or lose. He was always the same Kenny Webb. I wish our young drivers of today would only practice these words in their own racing careers. The sport would be one of kings again, if they did. Kenny, I will miss you, and I will certainly always remember what you meant to me. May you rest in peace and until we meet again, I will remain your friend.


PHOTO:  Our Crew photo from 1977: I am 4th from the left. The famous racerap poster RH (Rich Hutwohl) is 7th from the left!


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