Greg Kennedy drives Japanese sports cars as fast as he can, upward of 100 miles per hour sometimes, on racetracks all over Texas.
But he doesn’t consider himself a thrill-seeker.
“It’s all so calculated in a way,” he says. “That’s not to say it’s not dangerous. But for the most part, I know everyone around me, and I can trust their abilities or at least, I know what their weaknesses are.”
Commuting everyday from, say, Addison to Oak Cliff, is dangerous too, but that’s no fun.
Kennedy, who owns a company that builds furniture for restaurants and offices, started racing cars in 1999.
He attended a grand prix race in Houston and thought, “I could do that.”
For most of his racing life, he’s sat behind the wheels of Mazda RX7s converted to racecars. More recently, he’s been working on a prototype car that’s similar to the cars seen in the Indianapolis 500, but with closed wheels.
It’s an expensive hobby. An independent driver needs a car and a trailer to haul it, for starters. The typical entry fee for a race costs $400. Fuel, spare tires and other supplies for car and driver can put the cost of a racing weekend well over $1,000.
“There are guys who spend thousands of dollars all for a pressboard plaque,” the typical podium prize, Kennedy says.
The sport is very physical, particularly in sports car racing, which involves shifting, breaking and left and right turns.
“You’re shifting gears as many as 22 times a lap, and your feet are moving most of the time,” Kennedy says. “In the summer, it’s brutally hot.”
Kennedy, who was born in Oak Cliff and now lives in Brettonwood Estates, also teaches performance driving and racing through the Drivers Edge.
His best students, he says, are airline pilots and long-haul truckers, because they know how to scan the road ahead and how to shift the weight of the car in a predictable way.
“We’re so lucky in Texas because we have so many new racetracks,” he says.
He once was T-boned during a race at the Texas World Speedway in College Station. The accident bent his car and caused him some soreness, but nothing serious. Injuries are rare in motor sports because of constantly improving safety regulations and advances, Kennedy says. Once he saw a driver die on the track — the man won his race and then suffered a massive heart attack during his victory lap and died almost immediately.
Sometimes Kennedy plays “Force of Five,” a car-racing video game, with his daughter. It’s a good game, he says, but there’s nothing that compares to the real thing.
“There’s a thrill when you’re sliding through a corner,” he says. “It’s the control, the mastery of the track.”