BIXBY, Okla. – After a year of opening eyes in the dirt racing world with his family-owned team, Cannon McIntosh will embark on the biggest opportunity of his young career in a month’s time.
McIntosh, who will turn 17 prior to the New Year, has landed a ride with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, set for Jan. 13-18 inside the River Spirit Expo Center.
The KKM deal for the Oklahoma teenager comes on the heels of an impressive runner-up finish during the Turkey Night Grand Prix on Nov. 28, where McIntosh battled tooth-and-nail with Kyle Larson in the latter stages of the event.
Though he ultimately came home second due to a part failure that hampered his speed in the final laps, McIntosh feels that his Turkey Night effort was the final spark that helped his Chili Bowl deal come to fruition.
“My dad actually talked to Keith at Jacksonville a couple months ago, because he was frustrated with the position we were in at the time. We just weren’t running well,” McIntosh recalled. “He was trying to get me in one of his cars and see what it would take; it just didn’t really work out the way we wanted it to. So I thought that door closed when we weren’t talking about it anymore, honestly.
“But we just kept racing and then Turkey Night, I think, is what opened a few eyes and a few doors. Two days ago, Keith (Kunz, team co-owner) called my dad … and I don’t know exactly what was said, but he asked if I was able to run for him at Chili Bowl,” McIntosh added. “My dad and I agreed that it’d be a good opportunity, because it’s not like we don’t have good stuff – we do, and I feel we proved that last year – but Keith has so many laps around that track and so much experience there, not to mention all the people in his pit, that it’s a no-brainer when it comes down to it.
“It’s a good to get opportunities to be a player for him in the race and hope it gives us a shot at winning the Chili Bowl this year.”
Kunz was quick to add that McIntosh is a driver whose speed has kept him on the KKM radar for much of the season.
“This is something that’s been in the works for a couple of months,” Kunz explained. “We’ve been kind of keeping an eye on him all year long; he’s been one that we’ve noticed. I’ll be one of the first to say that he should have a lot more wins than what he actually does this year in the midget, whether they were mechanical or he was caught up in stuff (while) leading races, so the results don’t reflect what he’s shown us this season.
“Before we ever went out West, this was on our radar. We all talked a little bit. And of course, after his performance out there, we were excited to get this deal done and add Cannon to our lineup.”
McIntosh performed strong in his Chili Bowl debut last season, with a top-five finish on his preliminary night before his Saturday hopes were scuttled in the B-main, finishing one spot shy of rookie-of-the-race honors.
That type of performance is something that gives McIntosh confidence going into his sophomore Chili Bowl attempt, a belief that he can replicate and improve on the speed he’s already shown in Tulsa.
There’s no extra weight on his shoulders, though. That’s not how McIntosh looks at this deal.
“I’m excited about the opportunity that’s ahead,” McIntosh noted. “But at the same time, I don’t want to go in there with any more pressure than I would have before. I mean, yeah, I’m running for Keith Kunz and I need to show everything that I would have to show anywhere else, but there’s no added pressure. It’s the same race. It’s just someone else’s car.
“I’m showing up with the same goal to make the feature and have a shot at winning the thing as I would if it was the No. 08 car we were bringing out there,” he continued. “All pressure does is get in your head and it’s not anything you want there. The last thing you want is to overthink a chance like this one.”
From his days running micros in the Tulsa Shootout, now to the biggest driving opportunity of his young career, McIntosh has experienced nearly every emotion imaginable at the River Spirit Expo Center.
He’ll have a new memory, and potentially all-new emotions, to go through in a month’s time.
“I’ve made a lot of laps in a micro in Tulsa, but not many in a midget, even though we learned a lot last year at that track,” McIntosh said. “I think there’s a little bit of confidence going in already. You just have to clear your mind and go and race it just like any other race.
“This will be fun. I can’t wait to get there and see what it feels like to be in the KKM pit area.”
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Saturday, Jan. 18th at 8:30pm EST
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