John Aramendia already has half of the battle handled.
To make it in modern auto racing, it helps to have a marketing kick. “Branding” is the catch-all term used by many in the game. And if it’s a racing brand you want, this one is certainly eye-catching, yet also a definite mixed message.
“My dad, growing up, he was always called that, back when he was riding dirt bikes. Eventually he started calling me that,” said Aramendia, who was introduced Friday as the newest racer for Daytona Beach-based Ben Kennedy Racing, which fields Late Model cars around the Southeast for young racers the team deems up-and-comers.
“It’s a great platform for them to have success, and our goal is for them to perform and hopefully graduate to one of NASCAR’s national series,” said Kennedy, a NASCAR senior vice president who keeps his hands in the competition side with his race team.
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Kennedy halted his own racing career five years ago to join the business side of NASCAR, which was founded over 75 years ago by his great-grandfather, Bill France Sr. But he kept his race team, which is more grassroots oriented and has fielded cars in recents years for Kaz Grala, Kenzie Ruston and Daniel Dye, among others.
Along with Aramendia, the team is also preparing cars this season for Logan Misuraca, who debuted last week at New Smyrna Speedway.
Aramendia’s debut will come during late-January’s SpeedFest at Crisp Motorsports Park in Cordele, Ga., which is where Kennedy Racing first took him for a test session.
“We started last August trying to decide what we wanted to do,” said team president and NASCAR veteran Jimmy Kitchens. “At the time, Johnny was on our radar. We took him to Cordele for a test. Just had a fantastic day. Everything went so well, we decided this was probably the best way to go.”
The 23-year-old racer calls Texas home, owns plenty of boots and cowboy hats, and even has some bull riding in his background.
“Got kicked in the head a few times and I think it smartened me up,” he said through a smile. “It got me away from that. I figured this was a little bit safer.
“You’re only as good as your team, and I’m hoping to make everyone proud and race to the best of my ability.”
As for the nickname, he realizes the negative possibilities, but will ride with it regardless.
“In my hometown (New Braunfels, just northeast of San Antonio), everyone knows me as Johnny Crash,” he said. “It’s definitely a bonus to work with and a good selling point sometimes.”
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