“It’s about time,” Ken Kannard exclaimed after winning his first SCCA® National Championship on Friday morning, Sept. 29, at the 2023 National Championship Runoffs®. It took 24 Runoffs race starts to get there, but his F Production win was spectacular, coming after an intense battle with 2021 FP National Champ Cliff Ira. Little did Kannard know at the time, however, that nearly four months to the day later, he would be at the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) awards ceremony held prior to the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona accepting the Mark Donohue Award.
Selected each year since 1971 by members of the RRDC, the Mark Donohue Award recognizes the driver exhibiting the most outstanding performance at the SCCA Runoffs in terms of personal spirit and skill behind the wheel.
The RRDC summed up Kannard’s Runoffs race succinctly: “Kannard started third in a field of 21 and quickly found himself back to fifth after the start. Coming out of a lap-nine restart, he joined the battle for the lead with past two-time champions Kevin Ruck and Cliff Ira. On lap 10, Kannard moved his No. 51 Northwest Cable/Hoosier/G-Loc/OPM/JPM Acura Integra to the lead.”
“The key was focusing on not making a mistake,” Kannard explained during the Jan. 25, 2024, RRDC awards ceremony. “I didn’t have the ‘National Championship’ thing in my head. I was just trying to treat it like another race. The last three or four laps, Cliff [Ira] and I were really dicing it up. I was able to get ahead and if he was going to beat me, he was going to have to earn it.”
Ira set the fastest lap of that race, but Kannard earned the win, beating Ira to the stripe by 0.123sec.
“When I received the call from [RRDC president] Bobby Rahal to let me know that I had been selected as the recipient of this award from the RRDC, it was the icing on the cake,” Kannard said. “It’s pretty impressive for an amateur driver like me to be associated with the Mark Donohue Award. A lot of what he developed back then, we take for granted today. He was so smart in development and was so successful driving such a variety of cars.
“It’s really an honor to be recognized by an organization of drivers like the RRDC with this award.”
More information about the RRDC and Mark Donohue Award can be found here.
You can watch the race that led to Kannard winning the Mark Donohue Award by clicking here, or watching the video below.
Photo caption: Ken Kannard celebrates after winning the F Production National Championship title at the 2023 SCCA Runoffs.
Photo by Rick Corwine