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Ten Time National Midget Champion
This is the official website dedicated to the life and fast times of the legendary race driver Mel Kenyon.
Born on April 15, 1933 in Illinois, Mel Kenyon was raised in Davenport, Iowa, and currently resides in Lebanon, Indiana. Mel Kenyon undoubtedly deserves his nicknames the "King of the Midgets" and "Miraculous Mel".
Mel attended his first automobile race in August of 1946 at a track in Marion, Iowa. He has been addicted ever since.
Mel finally got a chance to race in the summer of 1954, driving a 1937 Chevy Coupe. He totaled it on the main straight when a tire blew. What seemed to be the end was just the beginning of an illustrious career that is still going strong today.
After becoming virtually unbeatable in the hardtops, so much so, promoters were finding ways to keep Mel from racing his way to the prize money week in and week out. Mel and little brother Don took on a new challenge... the lightning quick world of open wheeled midget racers. They never looked back!
Mel and little brother Don
In the spring of 1958 the fabled midget racing careers of Mel and Don Kenyon began.
In the time since his first midget race in 1958 through today, Mel raced to a record seven USAC National midget titles and was runner-up to the title eight times.
In 27 seasons of U.S.A.C. midget racing between 1963 and 1988, Mel set the bar high with results like these:
8 times runner up in USAC Midget season points standings
21 Top fives in USAC Midget season point's standings
111 USAC Midget Feature wins
131 second place finishes in USAC Midget feature races
107 third place finishes in USAC Midget feature races
89 fourth place finishes in USAC Midget feature races
69 fifth place finishes in USAC Midget feature races
688 top ten finishes in USAC Midget feature races
During the years above, Mel and Don also took on the "Big Boys" in the "Big Cars" of Indy Car racing.
In only his tenth race in the "Big Cars", life as Mel Kenyon knew it changed dramatically. On June 20th, 1965, the engine in Mel's roadster blew in a big way and covered both the racing surface and Mel's tires in oil as he slammed the wall at Langhorne and was knocked unconscious. Moments later Jim Hurtubise and Ralph Ligouri raced into the same oil covered corner and slid full speed into Mel's fuel tank, splitting it and igniting it. Mel sat unnoticed and burning while unconscious in his damaged racer.
A good look at the special glove.
Mel, brother Don and father Everett designed it.
Miraculously Mel survived and after series of operations at the San Antonio Burn Center and a lengthy absence from auto racing, Mel returned to auto racing the next year missing virtually all of the fingers on his left hand. Together with his brother Don and his father Everett, they designed a special glove in which a rubber grommet was sewn into the palm. This was to fit over a stud on the steering wheel so that he could grab the wheel with his right hand and steer with the palm of his left hand.
Mel failed to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, just one month prior to his fiery crash at Langhorne, but returned to Indy less than 11 months after his crash in 1966. This time Mel made the race and went on to finish 5th! Mel went on to race in the Indy 500 seven more times and in 1968 he recorded his best finish ever with a third place finish in the "Memorial Day Classic" behind Bobby Unser and Dan Gurney, in a car sponsored by his home town of Lebanon, Indiana.
All total, Mel Kenyon competed in 65 USAC National Championship Races and came close to winning his first at Michigan on July 16, 1972. As Mel approached the white flag in the lead, his Foyt Powered Eagle racer ran out of fuel. Mel coasted around the track and ended up third.
After the Champ car years, Mel continued racing midgets in local and regional events and in NAMARS sanctioned events where he was crowned NAMARS Championship Midgets Champion three straight times in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
Mel has also raced midgets as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Mel Kenyon's feature victories in all of midget racing have topped 380, with many of his second-place finishes coming when he was beaten by racecars he and his brother, Don, built for other racers.
Perhaps even more remarkable than all of this was the fact that he continued to do his own engine work, his third place finish at Indianapolis in 1968 coming with a Turbocharged Offenhauser engine he routinely tore down and put back together strictly by himself, which he did with all the engines in his racecars throughout his career.
A man of strong religious conviction, much of his time in the 1990's was spent caring for his virtually comatose wife, Marieanne, now deceased, who had suffered a major head injury in a bicycle riding accident. But Mel's conviction and his inspirational easy-going manner never wavered.
We hope you enjoy your visit to the website. You will find many photos and stories which are broken down into Midgets and Indy Cars in the upper left column of each page. We also welcome any stories or photos you wish to share with the world via this website. Stories and photo contributions may be emailed to us here.
Thank you for visiting and please check back as this tribute continues to grow!
Brice Kenyon: 2004 USAC Indianapolis Speedrome Ford Focus Midget Car Series Champion!
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (October 1, 2004)
Brice Kenyon of Lebanon, Ind. added to his storied family’s legend in 2004 as he won the initial Speedrome Ford Focus Midget Car Series “Open Wheel Wednesday” championship at the Blossom Chevrolet Indianapolis Speedrome, presented by Traderindiana.com and Wheels & Deals.
Kenyon, who joined his father Mel as one of USAC’s few father-son champion combinations, won twice en route to his first USAC title, beating Andy Baber by only 22 points.
Jordan Noblitt quickly took over the point lead as USAC held one of its two Midwest-sanctioned races on the 1/5-mile paved oval. Baber gained the lead in the second event thanks to his second-straight podium finish, and added to his advantage with another second-place showing on May 19.
But Kenyon closed in with a win the same night and took the lead for good on June 2, holding a six-point cushion after a runner-up finish. He won the next week out, then finished no worse than sixth over the next five races.
Baber closed a 33-point gap to 10 points in the 50-lap event on Aug. 4, as he finished fifth while Kenyon dropped to 14th, his only finish outside the “top 10” all season. But Kenyon finished ahead of Baber in the penultimate event Aug. 11 and closed out the season with a sixth-place finish.
Josh Clemons was the series leader in wins with three, while teammates Kenyon and Travis Young scored two victories apiece. Single tallies went to Stephanie Mockler, Noblitt, Rex Norris III, Kyle Robbins, Nick Wagner, and Jamie Williams. Mockler became USAC’s eighth female feature winner and first in a three-week period.
Mockler was also one of five female drivers to compete at the track, as the series continued to give females added opportunity to drive open-wheel machines. Indy Racing League Menard’s Infiniti Pro Series regular Paul Dana also competed on three occasions, with a best finish of third.
Report courtesy of USAC.
if you can.... at these events!
05/05/05 Indianapolis, IN - Indianapolis Speedrome
With God You're Always A Winner!
This site born on March 10, 2004
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