A Major Loss to the IndyCar Community

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While most of the racing world awoke on Easter morning to the news that motorsports icon, Sir Stirling Moss had passed away at the age of 90; the IndyCar community was mourning a more personal loss.

Pat Kennedy succumbed to complications of COVID-19 over the weekend.

While that name may not ring a bell with some of you, if you have been to any of the IMS Gift Shops over the last decade, I’ll promise you you’ve seen some of his books for sale in there.

His Indy 500 Recaps: The Short Chute Edition, provide a quick reference to every single race from 1911 through the 2019 race. Kennedy, himself, compared his yearly recaps to a Cliff Notes version of the Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 co-written by Donald Davidson and Rick Shaffer; which he said he considered to be the best and most detailed book on the history of the Indianapolis 500.

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These are excellent recaps that provide a written account of anything significant regarding each race or the Month of May leading up to it. Each race recap features one photo from the race that is usually not one of the more frequently used photos from that race.

Kennedy was also known for creating probably the best Indianapolis 500 trivia books ever; How Much Do You Really Know About the Indianapolis 500? The Official “500” Trivia Book. The fact that the book carries a Forward by Donald Davidson, lends to its credibility. I own the original version that came out in 2010, and an updated version from 2011.

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I’ll assure you that not once did I ever pull a question from these books to put into the annual trivia contest that appears on this site every May. That would’ve been wrong. My questions mostly come from listening to archived episodes of The Talk of Gasoline Alley and other sources. I compile these questions throughout the year. If I have a contest this year, it will be in August, but I may just wait until next May – we’ll see.

I simply enjoy skimming through Kennedy’s book strictly to learn. When I find something I didn’t know (which is often), I’ll look it up and read up on it.

As far as I know, Pat Kennedy is the first death in the IndyCar community from the coronavirus. It hits home for several reasons. First of all, he and I are roughly the same age, although he was almost two years older. I don’t know if he had any other underlying conditions, but our age is a risk factor for this virus. If he was completely healthy (as I am) prior to getting the virus, that makes me a little more uneasy about this disease and my ability to overcome it, if I get it.

I would be disingenuous and spreading a falsehood if I said I was friends with Pat Kennedy. We were Facebook friends, but that doesn’t count. I met him once at IMS, when I was carrying on a conversation with a mutual friend, when he walked up to the friend. We were introduced, when I told him I liked his books. He graciously thanked me. The friend told him I write for Oilpressure.com. He acknowledged it, but I could tell he had never heard of this site. But he acted like he did, and when I acknowledged that I knew of his family’s involvement with the race, he really opened up.

For those that don’t know, Pat Kennedy was president of Kennedy Tank Company – a longtime Indianapolis-based company that sponsored cars in the Indianapolis 500. From 1936 to 1952, the Kennedy Tank Specials were driven by drivers such as George Barringer, Joie Chitwood, Al Miller, Emil Andres, Les Anderson, Bill Cantrell and Paul Russo. Not all entries made the race, such as Russo in 1952. The highest starting position for the Kennedy Tank Special was seventh, with Les Anderson in 1947; while the highest finish was eighth with George Barringer in 1936. On the cover of his trivia book is Les Anderson, in the Kennedy Tank Special with Bill Kennedy standing next to it in 1948. That car qualified ninth and finished twenty-fourth.

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The car has become a fixture on the morning of Legends Day in recent years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, always driven by Pat Kennedy.

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Pat Kennedy attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1963 and has never missed a “500” since. He graduated Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis in 1974 and from Notre Dame in 1978. Upon graduation from Notre Dame, he immediately went to work in the family business, Kennedy Tank & Manufacturing Company; a five-generation family-owned business since 1898. Kennedy married his wife, Cheryl, in July of 1985. In 1993, Pat Kennedy became president of the family-owned business. Today, three of Pat Kennedy’s sons are employed at the firm on the south side of Indianapolis that employs about 175 people – with son Bill serving as VP Operations.

As news of his death spread on Sunday morning, so did the tributes. They echoed what I learned in my one chance meeting with Pat Kennedy – he was a kind and caring man; a devoted family man who treated his employees like family – and he was a man of deep faith.

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Since 1911, there have been many that have made their mark on the Indianapolis 500 – some much bigger than others. Pat Kennedy’s name will not evoke memories among the faithful like Carl Fisher, Eddie Rickenbacker, Wilbur Shaw or Bill Vukovich. But for those in Indianapolis that loved the Indianapolis 500 and were touched by his apparent kindness, his loss will be felt as much as the loss of those icons. Rest in Peace, Pat Kennedy. You will be missed by many of us who barely knew you.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “A Major Loss to the IndyCar Community”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:

    The Silent Historian’s Loss will not go away any less quietly as dislocating the Indianapolis 500 or the other dislocation, the dial dislocation that would make many of Midwesterners across the World complain bitterly the pagentry is neglected or not given the same time of day.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    As much as anyone, it is folks with the love and enthusiasm for racing like Pat Kennedy that make it the great sport it is. I know we will miss him terribly.

  3. […] Editor’s note: I learned Sunday afternoon of the death of Pat Kennedy, who has authored several trivia books about the Indianapolis 500. I have all of them and use them constantly for quick reference. My condolences to his family. For more about Pat, please read  George Phillips’s post on Oilpressure from yesterday at https://oilpressure.com/2020/04/13/a-major-loss-to-the-indycar-community/ […]

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