Jeff Cannon | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 12, 2014 6:29AM
Cannon, 35, of Kouts, Indiana, is in his 21st season of racing. He has raced go-karts, legends, sportsman, Mid-American and late-model cars. Driving for Wayne Govert, he won late-model season titles at Illiana Speedway in 2007, ’09 and ’10.
How did you get involved in this?
It was kind of an incentive to do better in school. My grades weren’t real great. Mom and Dad told me if I brought my grades up I could go to go-kart school in Michigan. They pretty much threw it on a plate, and I took on to it.
When did it really start to click?
There was one year (as a young teen) we ran, geez, oh Pete, 100-and-some features because we ran three divisions and I think we won 89 percent of them.
Why racing and not baseball or basketball?
(Laughing) I wasn’t very good at sports. I did try playing basketball and I even ran some track. I was just not very good at that.
How do you become a late-model champion today?
Lots of experience and lots of money. Wayne treats me real well, gives me anything the car needs to go faster.
Why did Govert choose you as his driver?
I ask him all the time (smiling). I never got a straight answer.
Do you still get nervous driving a late-model?
That stopped a long time ago. When we went to Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago that maybe was a little different just because the track was so big, but after a couple of laps (the nerves) were gone.
What’s the hardest part of turning a late-model around the track?
Just knowing and feeling to get every inch out of the car. You just have to know when you’re crossing the line of common sense or abusing the car.
What’s the coolest track you ever raced at?
Probably Winchester (Indiana). It just plants you in the seat so hard going into the corner. It just presses everything, has so much downforce, that you feel you can do everything.
What’s the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in a car?
I remember once at Rockford blowing up the motor coming out of three in the legend car. It just burst into flames, blew a hole right through the casing. I stopped and got the heck out.
Do you ever watch a NASCAR race and think, “Hmm … ”
Oh, it’s too late. I have a family to worry about. I’ve been married for five years. My wife (Amelia) and I have a 31/2-year-old son (Cale) and an 8-week-old daughter (Bristol). We missed having her on my birthday by about two hours.
Family, obviously then, is No. 1 in you.
I’m not going to say that racing isn’t my life, but it has to become somewhat less of my life with a couple of little ones at home. They definitely come first. But they’re here every week. Cale is a motorhead. I can’t even imagine what I’m getting into when he grows up. He lives, eats, sleeps everything about racing.
As told to Tony Baranek