One simple sentence speaks volumes about how Performance Open Wheel Racing, Inc., the sanctioning body known to short-track race fans as POWRi, has rejuvenated midget racing in the St. Louis area.
“We are just racers running races,” said Kenny Brown, a 50-year-old former midget driver from Millstadt, Ill., who owns and operates the POWRi organization along with his partner Jim Siner.
“Jim is the director of our series and I oversee the management portion of it,” said Brown, who recently signed Lucas Oil as the title sponsor for the POWRi National Midget Series. “I do all the sponsorship and administrative stuff. I get all the headaches, but Jim gets them for the nights we are racing. It really works well between the two of us.”
Like so many others, Brown became a midget owner and driver because of a family connection.
“I got involved in racing through my brother-in-law, Steve Knepper. One Thanksgiving we got a little bored after we finished eating and decided to go take a look at a midget Steve said he wanted to sell,” Brown said. “We went up to his shop to see the car and I said, ‘Let’s try this,’ and I bought it. I owe all of this to Steve Knepper for getting me started in racing. That was probably 12 years ago.”
But just like the majority of those who participate in the POWRi series, Brown is truly a weekend warrior.
“The series is really a weekend deal,” he said. “I work for Anheuser-Busch in the St. Louis corporate office, making beer. I’m the QA [quality assurance] manager for the St. Louis plant and oversee the St. Louis facility in producing Budweiser, Bud Light and all of the other great brands that we have. So my main goal in life is to make good product for Anheuser-Busch.
“I’ve learned a lot from Anheuser-Busch. They’ve got a fantastic marketing program and they’ve got a very good business plan,” Brown added. “Working for a company like this has taught me how to run a business, whether it’s a racing organization, a speed shop or anything else.”
When he got involved in midget racing, Brown never envisioned he would eventually operate a sanctioning body. It was something that just kind of evolved.
“I got on the MARA (Midwest Auto Racing Ass’n) board and was vice president for the MARA organization. We were just kind of getting to the later end of the day where as a club we were losing our edge,” Brown recalled. “That’s when I decided we needed to go in a different direction. We needed races in the St. Louis area and that’s what really got me started in the promotion business. I rented Belle-Clair Speedway and we did three or four races one year. The next year we did five and that’s when I decided we should start our own sanctioning body.”