BOBBY KENNEDY: CREW CHIEF No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS TOYOTA CAMRY
Bobby Kennedy, who has a long-standing working relationship with Michael Waltrip, is the crew chief of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry team. Kennedy had a similar role last season with the NAPA team and was asked to rejoin Waltrip as crew chief during the Goody’s Cool Orange 500 weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Kennedy has a rich racing history. In 1987, he began his career as a tire technician at Hoosier Racing. The skills he learned at Hoosier helped him land the role of tire specialist and eventually team manager at Team III Racing, under the tutelage of championship crew chief Barry Dobson. The Concord, N.C., native got the call in 1993 to take over the crew chief duties for Kyle Petty at SABCO Racing.
The two experienced great success in the No. 42 Pontiac for owner Felix Sabates. The two basically re-wrote the book on how to setup and race at tracks like North Carolina Speedway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. When Petty decided to create his own team, Petty Enterprises 2 (pe2) and join the family business, Kennedy stepped in.
Kennedy’s next step was to manage Jim Smith’s NASCAR SPRINT Cup Series entry at Mattei Motorsports. As the driver of the No. 7 at Mattei, Kennedy served as Waltrip’s NASCAR Cup Series crew chief. In 2001, when Waltrip needed a crew chief for his NASCAR Busch Series team, Kennedy made the move from Mattei to Michael Waltrip Racing. The duo’s longstanding relationship has spanned nearly 10 years.
It was in Waltrip’s backyard race shop where Kennedy showed how talented he really was. During the 2003 season with just a handful of full-time employees and minuscule fleet of cars, the Aaron’s Dream team collected one win, eight top-fives and 13 top-10 finishes in 20 NASCAR Busch Series starts. That small taste of success left both Kennedy and Waltrip with a hunger for bigger and better things.
At the end of the 2003 season, Kennedy, with Michael’s understanding, left Michael Waltrip Racing to help Waltrip’s brother reestablish Darrell Waltrip Motorsports. Kennedy built a highly competitive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra team virtually overnight with limited manpower to reform Darrell Waltrip Motorsports.
Following success with the No. 17 Toyota Tundra team in 2004, Kennedy sought after an opportunity to grow the organization. At the end of the season, Kennedy was instrumental in expanding Darrell Waltrip Motorsports into a two-truck operation adding the No. 12 Toyota to the lineup.
In 2005, Kennedy watched his hard work pay off when David Reutimann scored his first-ever NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory in the Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. With all the dignitaries from Toyota and Darrell Waltrip on hand, it was a picture perfect day and one of Kennedy’s fondest accomplishments. The following year, Kennedy stepped up the program and helped lead Reutimann and the Darrell Waltrip Motorsports team to a third-place finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings.
During 2006, Kennedy returned to Michael Waltrip Racing as Director of Competition to aid Michael Waltrip in laying the foundation for three newly developed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams and an established Nationwide Series team during Toyota’s inaugural entry into the top two touring divisions.
Kennedy’s versatility led to him wearing many hats at Michael Waltrip Racing including one of his more recent leadership roles in supervising all test teams. Now, Kennedy returns to a more familiar role and is prepared to lead Michael Waltrip and his No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry team to a solid finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.