#18 Darren MacKinnon
Continuing with interviews we started in 2011, we are talking with drivers from the 2011 season. We talked to up and coming driver Darren MacKinnon about his racing career, his team and what racing is like for them.
Look for other chats with drivers throughout the year. We hope you enjoy these talks as much as we did doing them.
MPST: Congratulations on your 2011 season. 5th place in the points is your highest finish to date. What was the reason for your successful 2011 season?
MacKinnon: Iíd have to say it was a lot to do with the new car we purchased in Ohio. Itís a left-hander car and we had Andy White put a new clip on it, a hemke clip. The Hicken boys set it up for me. Man, she worked well for me all year long.
MPST: Letís go back to the beginning. I know your team is made up of a lot of family members, but how did you become interested in racing?
MacKinnon: Just watching my Father race for many years out at Oyster Bed. Going from there, some buddies and I built our first Hobby Stock when I was 15. We had one guy drive it for us because I wasnít old enough to drive. I started to drive at 16 in Hobby Cars. From there I went to Street Stocks. Then from Street Stocks to Modified and then to Pro Stock. Thatís how I got into it, more or less watching Dad race.
MPST: Back then other than your dad, who did you cheer for at Oyster Bed?
MacKinnon: Probably no one else really. He and Dave Gorveatt used to race a lot together. Theyíd go fender to fender for a lot of laps. He was probably the biggest competitor there.
MPST: Were there any other tracks you went to when your Father was racing?
MacKinnon: He raced I think in Freetown and East River, but I donít remember those days. I just remember hearing them talking about it.
MPST: Talking about your Dad leads me into my next question. Racing takes family support. Your are personally not married, but you have many family members involved in your racing. Please explain who they are and how they support you.
MacKinnon: My Father Wade, heís been wrenching on the car since we started on the Tour. My Uncle Randy, he owns the Shawís Towing business and is huge into racing. He really supports me on and off the track. Another Uncle, Gary MacKinnon; he also wrenches and sets the car up for me week to week. My Mother is always there, making sure food is there and I have my driving suit every week, water bottles and things like that. She looks after me, making sure Iím in a good mood, well feed.
MPST: Whoís the crew with the 18 car every week?
MacKinnon: That would be my dad - Wade MacKinnon, Uncles Gary MacKinnon & Randy MacKinnon, Wade MacQuarrie, Garth Arsneault, Allie Wooldridge, Ducky Wooldridge, Matt Gorveatt, Ryan Shanahan, Mitchell Drummond, Cyrus MacDonald, of course my Mom Annette and second mother Debra-Gregory Rush.
MPST: Between races, whatís the week like in the MacKinnon Team shop? Taking a normal week with no bad wreck the race before or blown motors, or anything major. Where do you house the car and how many nights do you spend on it?
MacKinnon: We house the car at our shop directly behind my house. The first thing we do is clean it up, go over some stuff and check everything out to make sure it all looks good. Put it on the scales and make sure everything is good. Change all the fluids. Make sure the lettering on the sides look good for our sponsors. Itís probably two or three nights to complete everything.
MPST: You mentioned sponsors and you couldnít race without them. Who are the sponsors on the 18 car?
MacKinnon: This year our main sponsor is Shawís Towing and MacKinnon Brothers Service Center. Also MacKinnonís Trucking is helping out.
MPST: When the car is completed and put in the trailer, what is your race day like? When do you head for the track?
We usually get up from anywhere from 5:00 am to 6:30 am, depending on where we race. We get loaded up and thereís usually about six of us in the truck. Thereís a vanload that follows behind a few hours after we leave. We always leave the morning of the race. Weíre not a team that stays over. We get up early and head to the track and get at it. After the race we try to round up our stuff and hopefully weíre in the Tech Shed getting checked over. We head home after weíre done and get there 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning. Sometimes itís 4 or 4:30 depending where youíre racing. Itís almost a 24-hour day really.
MPST: What motivated you to become a racecar driver?
MacKinnon: I saw my Dad be very successful in racing. I think he has four championships there at home on the wall and itís motivating to see them. Iíd like to get one of them myself someday. Winning is fun, but Iíd like to be a champion some day if I can.
MPST: Whatís the best thing about racing on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour for you?
MacKinnon: Iíd have to say the other competitors. Itís pretty competitive. Itís a great series and we have great fans. The fan base is awesome. The cars counts are really good and have been for a number of years now. Itís really competitive and itís hard to win.
MPST: Whatís your best memory in racing to date?
MacKinnon: Itís a toss up between winning my first Pro Stock race at my home track Oyster Bed Speedway, where I got to race against my father for the first time and where I got to celebrate with family and friends and the IWK 250 win. It was like winning the Daytona 500. What a night, to know the race was broadcasted across Canada and the US. My sister and friends in Alberta got to hear it live and the fans sure made it a special night.
MPST: When you started in 2007 on the Tour, or even back when you were running at Oyster Bed, was there a team or driver that offered help or advice who sticks in your mind?
MacKinnon: The most advice I have gotten was when I joined the Tour was talking to Kent Livingston. He helped me out with little suggestions on driving and helped with our set-ups. He was great help to me and someone I always looked up to when I raced at home. I watched him race on the Tour and he went out and got himself a win early in his career.
MPST: Current day on the Tour, who do you admire?
MacKinnon: John Flemming and Shawn Tucker. Tucker is always there. Not too often heís out of the top five. Sometimes you donít even notice him there, but at the end heís right at your back quarter panel fighting for a win.
MPST: What track gave you the most difficulty when you started on the Tour?
MacKinnon: The toughest spot to get around was Speedway 660. One of my first times there I finished sixth. I donít like the track at times, but at the same time I love the place. There are a lot of people up that way that are into racing. Itís a good spot to be some nights, if youíre doing good (said with laugh).
MPST: What does Darren MacKinnon do in the off-season?
MacKinnon: In the winter we do a lot of snowmobiling. Iím a big snowmobile fan, love sledding all winter long if I can. Play a bit of hockey now and then. Go out and shoot some pucks. I did a little bit of smelt fishing last year, not a whole lot but I went out twice.
MPST: What do you do with the car in the winter? When do you start working on it for the next season?
MacKinnon: We usually leave it alone until after Christmas. This year we really didnít want to touch it at all. We just took one panel off at a time and then put it back on. Cleaned everything up and put a new rear-end under it. Weíre going with everything else the same.
MPST: Thank you taking the time to speak with us.
MacKinnon: Thank You.
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