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New Life By Fire


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Welcome

Mel's Friends & Fans

    Welcome!

    This page is dedicated to the friends and fans of Mel Kenyon. If you have a photo of you with Mel or a favorite Mel Kenyon story you would like to share with the world of Kenyon fans, please submit them here and we will add them to this page. Please email your story or photo to melindy500@yahoo.com.


    Tom and Barb Eidemiller


    How do you write a "brief story" about Mel Kenyon?

    I've been a racing "nut" all of my life. I remember, as a boy, sitting by the radio listening to the INDY 500. Man, that was great stuff. Sid Collins was a master at bringing INDY to life on the radio. When I went off to college, a good friend suggested that he pick me up on his way to INDY for qualifying. Since I had never attended any racing event, this sounded fine to me. So, the first cars and drivers I ever saw in person were at INDY. The year was 1961 when Parnelli Jones was a rookie. I'll never forget the sound as we entered the speedway. Needless to say, I was hooked. Went back to qualifying every year after that until 1980 when the family moved to Tennessee.

    I never met one of the drivers until 1968, when I was introduced to Art Pollard. He gave my father-in-law and me a great tour of Gasoline Alley and a first-hand look at the STP turbine car. He was one of my favorites until his tragic death in 1973.

    Tom & Mel at Indy in 1970
    1970: The beginning of an enduring friendship.

    In 1970, during our May visit to INDY I was privileged to meet Mel Kenyon. I became interested in his career as I read an article in the May 1970 issue of Christian Athlete Magazine. Knowing I was going to be at the track for qualifying, I called the speedway and asked for the Mel Kenyon garage. He didn't know me from the man in the moon, but told me to have him paged and he would meet me. I could tell from that first meeting that there was something special about this man. That meeting has turned into a close personal friendship that has spanned more than 30 years.

    Tom & Mel at Indy in 1975
    1975: Tom & Mel outside of Foyt's garage in Gasoline Alley.

    Tom getting the feel for Mel's Suzuki powered midget
    Tom getting the feel for Mel's Suzuki powered midget.

    I have followed his career closely since 1970. However, nearly four years passed before I first saw him in a midget at Columbus Ohio. Then I knew why he was known as Mr. Midget. That night he set fast time, won the dash, heat and the feature.

    Mel and a young Chad Kenyon Eidemiller
    Mel and a young Chad Kenyon Eidemiller.

    My youngest son, Chad Kenyon Eidemiller, was born race day 1973. Barb and I still have the autographed photo of the 4th place Atlanta Falcons Eagle Foyt that Mel sent us when hearing the good news. In the years since that time, our family has been able to watch Mel race the midgets on many occasions. We have made many visits to the 3-K racing shop, each time spending quality time with Mel and taking pictures of the kids (and Dad) in the racecars. Mel and Marieanne always treated our four sons as if they were their own.

    Brice, Sean, Chad & Tom at the Speedrome in 1993
    August 13, 1993: Brice Kenyon (in red) with Sean,
    Chad & Tom Eidemiller at the Speedrome.

    Mel and Barb Eidemiller at the Speedrome in 1993
    August 13, 1993: Mel and Barb Eidemiller at the Speedrome.

    To this day, Mel is never more than a phone call away and always willing to encourage. Returning from the NAMARS races in Florida in Feb. 2002, Mel went an hour or more out of his way to stop in Knoxville for a short visit. We unloaded his car in front of our home on Sunday afternoon and Mel spent 2-3 hours visiting with folks who had no idea what a Midget racer was.

    Mel & Tom in 2003
    2003: Still the best of friends after 33 years!

    When Mel heard Barb and I would be nearby for "pole day" at INDY 2002, he invited us to spend the night at his home. It was a special evening sharing this man's many racing memories, touring the tidy 3-K shop, and seeing his home, packed with unique memories of racing and his family. The mention of Marieanne still brings tears to his eyes.

    In 2003, Miles Nelson and I were privileged to "treat" Mel to breakfast and then spend a couple of hours at the 3-K operation. What a great time we had, sharing memories and getting "up to speed" on the latest racing "stuff."

    Mel Kenyon is a fan's friend. I'll never forget him missing a heat race because he was in the stands signing autographs.

    I am honored to call Mel Kenyon my friend.

    Tom Eidemiller
    Knoxville Tennessee


    Tiara Cochran

    Tiara & Mel in 2003
    Tiara & Mel in 2003 at Fort Wayne
    Mel Kenyon was at the top of my list of driver's I would like to meet since I began racing over 7 years ago. I finally got the chance to meet Mel Kenyon in December of 2001, at the "Rumble in Fort Wayne". I was racing karts there that year. When I saw he was there too, I just walked up and started a conversation with him. Mel Kenyon is a true inspiration to me because of the fact that I am missing my left arm. I always thought if Mel can be such a successful racer without a left hand, I could too! I have been racing for seven years now! Mel Kenyon is definitely one-of-a-kind. He treated me as though we were friends as we shared our racing experiences. He is someone I would like to hang out with every day. Mel is such a talented racer and should be an inspiration to us all.

    To learn more about Tiara "Rockin'" Cochran please visit her website at http://tiara_c.tripod.com.


Wayne L Kepner

    My name is Wayne L Kepner. Back in 1971, my mother abandoned two brothers, a sister and myself in a central Indiana children’s home and left us. I was 12 years old and very shy and withdrawn. I hated school. All I did was draw race cars instead of doing my homework and dream of one day being a race car driver.

    The man, who was my houseparent, heard about Mel and wrote him a letter and asked him to write to me and explain to me how much schooling played in the life of a race car driver. The home I lived in was a Christian based home and this one of the reasons that my houseparent picked Mel to write to.

    Mel did indeed write to me, on many occasions. And even phoned me one time just before he left on one of his trips to Australia and New Zealand to go racing for the winter.

    Over the years I have seen Mel race at many different Midwest race tracks and have been on hand many times at my home track, Kokomo Speedway, to see him race and win. I was always welcomed in the pits like I was a longtime member of the crew, to help clean the mud off of the race car or go get a tool or whatever. I never got to do anything major to the car but I was in seventh heaven just being a gopher.

    I used to sit in the stands beside Marieanne and the boys when they came to Kokomo and Marieanne used to laugh at my "enthusiasm" as I yelled for Mel from the stands like he could hear me. On one trip to Kokomo, Marieanne presented me with a team jacket which I still proudly own. I can no longer fit in it, but I still have it.

    Mel invited me down to the 3-K shop one time and I was lucky enough to be able to make the trip. While there, Mel and Marieanne took me to Marieanne's painting studio and showed me the paintings that Marieanne had. She was such a talented lady.

    I had been on hand and in the pits when Mel won his 100th USAC Midget feature win at Kokomo and my picture was even in a local paper with him just after that win. After having toured the shop with Mel and visiting Marieanne in her studio, it was time for me to leave. As I was pulling out of the driveway, Mel came outside and stopped me. He had a trophy in his hands. He asked me if I would like to have a memento of his racing career. I was very honored, but even more so when he told me of the trophy he was presenting me with. It was the trophy from his 100th win at Kokomo. Needless to say I was flabbergasted.

    I still have the trophy, although it was almost lost in a house fire two years ago, and I also have a helmet he gave me back in the early 80's but the greatest thing I have is his friendship. He and Don allowing me to help in the pits and answering my questions without making me feel like I was a nuisance, (which I am sure I was) has always meant a lot to me.

    A few years ago, when Mel and Don were at Kokomo for a NAMARS race, I stood outside the track at the souvenir trailer and talked to Don for almost an hour and when the race was over, I went into the pits and found Mel and thanked him for his friendship at a time in my life when I had few friends and thanked him for always making me welcome at the track.

    Mel is truly one of racings kindest people.

    Wayne L Kepner


Bill Riker

    I was at Langhorne with my dad on the day that Mel encountered his "new life by fire".

    Maybe I should explain that I'm a long-time racing fan. I've seen Mel race, especially at Indy, many time. And I know his name, his reputation, and his courage.

    However, it's only been the last few years that I realized it was Mel that was burned that day at Langhorne. I learned that by reading Dick Wallen's book about the sixties. But, I as never able to find out any other information. Until now.

    I was only 10 years old at the time. At that time I didn't know who the driver was and I never knew what became of him. Although I didn't know WHO was burned, I have vivid memories of what happened that day. I heard the crash and the cars slid to a halt right in front of us. A driver in a blue suit and white helmet was slumped forward, unconscious. I don't recall seeing a lot of flames after his car came to a halt, but there was a lot of smoke coming from the cockpit. Although we were shouting to the rescue team that there was a driver in the car, they couldn't hear us. I'm certain that their vision was obscured by the smoke. It seemed as though he sat in the smoldering car for an eternity. It was agonizing. So, my dad and another fellow standing by us jumped the fence and ran over to help pull him out of the car.

    When I learned from Dick's book that it was Mel who had been pulled from the car that day, I discussed it with my dad. That was the first time we had ever talked about it since that day. I don't think that he realized either that it was Mel that he had helped.

    So, your archive was my first opportunity to see photos from that day. I was hoping that I'd see my dad in your photos and could show the photos to him. Unfortunately, there really not enough detail to be able to tell. Do you have scans of the photos in greater resolution that would show more detail? Or, do you have any other photos in which I might be able to see my dad?

    Either way, I was very excited to discover your website. That day at Langhorne was very frightening for a boy of my age. And for nearly 40 years I wondered about that day and what the outcome had been. Knowing that it was Mel and that he went on to have a successful racing career answered most, but not all of, my curiosity about that day. It was the moment in time when I was most proud of my father. But, it's been so many years that my memories of his actions have started to fade.

    So, I guess of all the people who might ever visit your website, I probably poured over the photos and text more anxiously than anyone else. I'm hoping that you now know that your website, your labor of love, has a lot of meaning for me. And when I send the photos and text to my dad, it will probably mean even more to him.

    Thank you for putting it all together.

    Bill Riker


Alicia Rentz

    Dear Irwindale Speedway,

    Turkey Night 2000 was an event the whole family was looking forward to for months. When my seven year old son, Gregory, learned that Tony Stewart, his absolute favorite NASCAR driver, was going to be there signing autographs, he could hardly contain his excitement.

    When the big night finally arrived, Gregory donned his Home Depot racing suit that he had gotten for Halloween, in hopes that Tony would sign the matching helmet.

    Being a relative newcomer to the racing scene, my husband and I were unaware that the autograph session would be near the pit area, and we got in line very late. After waiting in line over half an hour, a security team member cut the line off directly in front of us. Apparently seeing how important an autograph would be to my little boy, thanks in great part to a gentleman fan who was waiting with us, we were allowed back in line. I was very happy, although I felt badly for the fans who would not get autographs.

    About ten minutes later, the line was cut short again, this time about a dozen people in front of us. When Gregory learned that he would not get any autographs, tears filled his eyes. Several fans implored the security team to allow him in line, but they felt, and rightfully so, that it would not be fair to the others.

    Then a truly amazing chain of events was set in motion. Mel Kenyon, who will always be MY HERO, knelt in front of Gregory and gently offered to sign his helmet. After doing so, several other drivers said they wanted to sign it as well. Then someone suggested they pass the helmet down to Tony Stewart, which they gladly did! A roar of applause filled my heart with joy, as these wonderful men did their best not to disappoint a seven year old boy who so obviously loved the sport of motor racing.

    The next thing I knew, a lady named Judy, whom I later found out was a member of Tony's entourage, asked for Gregory. She escorted him around the back of the signing tables where Tony Stewart, ever smiling, graciously signed the front of Gregory's racing suit, as well as the helmet, despite his obvious exhaustion.

    Thanks to the caring security team, and to Judy, the understanding fellow fans, and especially to the tender kindness of Mel Kenyon and the other drivers, my son's dream of seeing Tony Stewart again became a reality. My heartfelt thanks go out to all involved, but especially to Mel, who really got the ball, or should I say helmet, rolling, making Turkey Night a night of Magic for one little boy.

    If possible, please forward this letter to Mel Kenyon and to any of the other drivers, including Tony Stewart, so that they would know how much we love and appreciate them all.

    A million thanks, Alicia Rentz, Lomita, CA

    P.S. Thanks also to LUGNUT Jr., who actually spoke to Gregory when he gave him a hug, making my son feel extra special that night.

    Letter posted at RaceScene.com



With God You're Always A Winner!
1964 USAC National Midget Champion 1967 USAC National Midget Champion 1968 USAC National Midget Champion 1974 USAC National Midget Champion 1977 USAC National Midget Champion 1981 USAC National Midget Champion 1985 USAC National Midget Champion 1995 NAMARS Midget Champion 1996 NAMARS Midget Champion 1997 NAMARS Midget Champion

#61 - Mel Kenyon: King of the Midgets
This site born on March 10, 2004


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