Kenyon prides himself on teaching younger racers the finer nuances of Midget cars and comp
During those tough times in the Army burn unit, Kenyon turned his life over to the Lord, amazingly he recovered to get back to the racetrack and enjoy everyday life once again. Mel's religious roots where put to work in 1991 when his first wife was severely injured in a bicycle accident that left her comatose. The outlook was grim, but Mel refused to put her in a nursing home and cared for her needs himself until she passed away 10 years ago.
Today, the Kenyon brothers own the 3-K Racing shop in which they tutor and mentor race drivers in the Midget division. Mel is quick to note that Ryan Newman was a special protégé. The brothers also worked with young teen Dillon Welch this past season. Welch captured the Kenyon Car Midget title for 2009.
"With the K cars, you can start driving when you are 11 years old and the Focus cars when you are 14 years old," notes Kenyon. "I had to be 21 years old before I could drive officially for money. Most of these kids today have been driving since they were 4 or 5 years old, so they're not beginners."
Mel (L) and Don Kenyon (R)-brothers, racers, and lifelong friends. Don Kenyon owes DK Prom
That's made on-track compeition interesting for the elder statesman. "Sometimes when I am out there, they tell me to get out of the way. It's a learning experience, I have to control my temper. At the same time you're mentoring them and you have to kind of calm them down and keep their temper under control too. But then again you have to go as fast as you can as quick as you can, so it is always interesting."
"He's been a great race car driver winning 111 USAC races," weighed in Open Wheel Champion Dave Darland. "Just to have the chance to race with him-I have been racing 28 years myself; he's been racing longer than that-it has been a pleasure, and if he feels he is ready for retirement then good for him and happy retirement. Mel brings a lot to the sport. He has been an icon to the Midget division for many years. He's a fan-friendly driver who stays and talks to all the people who want to come and say hi to him. Just to get a chance to race with him for all these years has been a great opportunity for me-a great person, and a great race car driver. He's been really good for our sport."
It would take a book to write about Mel Kenyon's accomplishments, but he does point out some of his highlights of a storied race driver career. "In 1963, the first-ever Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ascot Park and then that first USAC Championship in 1964," he notes. "The Indy 500, just to be part of that great Championship event says a lot, that probably would be the highlight. We did win 13 races at Indianapolis Raceway Park. All those races and all those Championships, it is all so very important."
Following all the races and Championship accolades are many prestigious honors. Kenyon is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama; the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Michigan; and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, just to name a few. A storied career and example to young racers, Kenyon will still be found in the Open Wheel pit area at various events to help nurture along the upcoming prospects of the next generation. "It doesn't really seem like I have been at this for 57 years, but I have. I am not really wanting to quit, but I guess I have to," concluded the racing legend. At the Ft. Wayne Rumble races, in December 2009, 39 Midgets showed up for the 15 feature starting spots each of two days of action. Mel Kenyon made both features finishing Sixth the first night and Ninth the next day. From there Kenyon rode into retirement as the most decorated Open Wheel Midget racer in USAC history.