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LOCAL NEWSFriday, June 16, 2006 

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Nation's youngest race car driver greets fans
By Cory Frolik The Daily Times

14-year-old driver Alex Kennedy, right, gives his race car a little nudge as Larry Finch, 13, sits inside the car outside Farmington Public Library on Thursday morning. Kennedy brought his car to the library and signed autographs to help promote the License to Read program. (Lindsay Pierce/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON - It has been an awfully long time since Alex Kennedy first fell in love with racing — nine years, by his count.

When Kennedy was little, his father Terry took him out to the BMX bike course in Aztec where he first got behind the wheel.

The rest, his father said, is history.

"We were at the BMX park in Riverside when he was 5 and here we are today," Terry said.

Accompanied by his father, Kennedy stopped by the Farmington Public Library Thursday to sign autographs and encourage children to read.

Kennedy, 14, of Aztec, is the youngest racer in the U.S. Late Model Association (USLMA) series. Though USLMA rules stipulate riders must be 16 years old to race, officials have made an exception for Kennedy.

The young man has participated in hundreds of races and has accrued thousands of miles on the road.

When he was 11 years old, he won the Regional Quarter Midget Championship, a race circuit for youths. A year later, he won the Las Vegas Silver State Cup Bandolero, a competition designed for entry-level racers. At the age of 13, Kennedy won 11 championship titles including the World Road Course Legends Championship.

Kennedy so impressed race organizers that he was accepted into the USLMA early.

"The median age in this car is 25 to 40," Terry said. "Occasionally you'll run into a 19-year-old but you just don't see 16-year-olds (let alone drivers who are 14)."

Three races into the 2006 season, the young man is continuing to make a name for himself.

Kennedy finished in the top 10 at a USLMA event race at the Sandia Motor Speedway May 20 after starting at the back of the pack.

"It was a 75-car race and they put Alex at the back because of his experience level," his father said. "All the (other racers who) welcomed him and said glad you're here' before the race never came back."

They underestimated his son, Terry said.

"To get a veteran driver to drive next to you at 100 miles per hour there has to be some level of respect or they won't let you on the track," he said.

To promote the summer reading program at the Farmington library, Kennedy and one of his race cars made an appearance in the parking lot.

He signed autographs and let children climb into the driver's seat of his late model car.

"I hope this will inspire kids to work harder to accomplish their goals," Kennedy said.

Terry said his son is a good example for other youths in that "the success has not gone to his head."

"One of the big things that has made him so successful is that he is all business (behind the wheel) but once the helmet comes off, he's a 14-year-old kid," he said.

The License to Read program is designed for teens and adults as well as children, according to Nick Martin, teen services technician at the library.

Individuals who sign up for the program must read at least 15 books on their level and attend three library programs to receive incentive items.

Having Kennedy visit generates some excitement about the library for "kids" of all ages, he said.

"Fun events feed into the library atmosphere which feeds into literacy," he noted.

Betty Alexander, 54, of Kirtland, visited the library on Thursday with her three grandchildren.

It is good to connect reading to things that excite them, Alexander said.

Her grandson, Luke Alexander, 10, checked out a book about cars from the library.

Wearing the Alex Kennedy hat he received after signing up for the library program, Luke said he was becoming more interested in racing.

"I like it now," he said while holding his book on cars.

Cory Frolik: cfrolik@daily-times.com

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