Above my desk hangs a framed pencil sketching of Turn One at the immortal Flemington Fair Speedway in central New Jersey. I spent a lot of nights at that track. The drawing was given away in 2008 in Atlantic City, which was where the Motorsports show presented by Area Auto Racing News was then held. The show featured a panel of Flemington stars who then sat down to put their autographs on the sketch. One of them was Ken Brenn Jr., a long-haired, mustachioed Jersey cowboy who stood fourth on the intimidating square-shaped dirt track’s all-time win list. I treasure that autographed drawing and I’m looking at it now, and Ken’s signature, considerably saddened. Ken Brenn Jr. died suddenly last week. He was only 66.
This photograph by George Gordon, used courtesy of AARN, depicts Ken the way I used to remember him. He came from a racing family; his father, Ken Sr., fielded Midgets and other open-cockpit cars for others to drive. They were invariably beautifully turned out and meticulously prepared. When Ken Jr. came of driving age, the Midgets were fading in the Northeast and his father stepped into the dirt Modifieds as a team owner. His cars were welded together by open-cockpit fabrication geniuses like Budd Olsen (before he, too, starred in Modifieds), Grant King and Floyd Trevis. Ken Jr. became the very first Rookie division champion at Flemington in 1972, ran through the Sportsman ranks and later moved smartly into the full-powered Modifieds, where he scored 59 career feature wins at Flemington. The younger Brenn was always fast at East Windsor Speedway in New Jersey, and at the dirt mile at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, although victory always eluded him there. Before his untimely passing, Ken was comfortable as an elder statesman of one of dirt racing’s wildest and most unpredictable tracks. He had enormous talent and will be missed. Thanks for everything, Ken.