Kenny Delco’s appearance in Gainesville is one that conjures memories of the past. The East Setauket, New York-based Pro Stock driver has been a fixture on the circuit for many years, and he won his first and, so far, only national event at Gainesville Raceway 26 years ago.
“We’ve always done well here and run fast, and we were hoping to win that day – but no, we didn’t expect it,” said Delco, whose first final round was in 1988 in Memphis where he was runner-up to Tony Christian. “Of course you go to any race and want to win, but the truth is that I just like racing.”
Delco beat Rickie Smith in the 1990 Gainesville Pro Stock final. In the first round of eliminations on Sunday at the 2016 rendition of the event, Delco will line up next to Pro Stock young gun Drew Skillman, who has scored one win of his own since making his debut in the class in 2015; last year he raced to victory in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro in St. Louis.
After Delco made the changes in the off-season to switch over to EFI and lose the carburetors – a transition he says was a little easier to manage than he initially thought – the Chevrolet Camaro pilot made his season-debut this weekend down in Florida.
Delco, whose crew chief is Jamie Yates – son of two-time Pro Stock champ Jim Yates – has a lot of years in the category on first-round challenger Skillman. He also has a not-so-secret weapon in his veteran engine builder: Frank Iaconio.
Notably, Iaconio also earned the first win of his Pro Stock career at Gainesville Raceway. In 1978, he beat iconic driver Bob Glidden for the Gatornationals title. 10 more wins would follow in the ultra-competitive class before Iaconio would hang up his driving suit.
“There is definitely meaning to it, coming to this race,” said Iaconio, who raced in his first final round at the 1976 running of the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Wally Booth got the win that day. “I remember our Gainesville win. It was only the second year Ray Allen and I raced. We built the car the year before and only went to a couple of races, and we were runner up at Indy, the second race on the car. We went to Pomona [Winternationals], and back then Gainesville was the second race. We ran good and won the race. It was memorable. Hopefully, this is still a good track for us.”