COLUMBUS, Ind. — Cannon McIntosh has converted his breakthrough podium finish during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway into the biggest opportunity of his young career.
After impressing fans and industry members during the premier midget event by winning his preliminary-night feature and then finishing third in the Saturday finale, McIntosh will tackle a full schedule of racing for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
The 17-year-old from Bixby, Okla., will run upward of 80 races for the operation co-owned by Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby, chasing both the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series championship and the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League title.
McIntosh will steer the No. 71k Bullet/Toyota as he pursues his heaviest midget schedule to date, jumping into the national spotlight with one of the top teams in the discipline.
While his new deal does come with pressure, McIntosh told SPEED SPORT there’s also weight lifted off his shoulders with having his plans secure.
“It’s definitely a relief, just to get it out of the way early and not have to worry about it week to week, so that I know what’s going on this year and can worry about now, the job that I have to do,” McIntosh explained. “Obviously, I’ll be running for a championship trying to go for gold at the end of the year, and I can’t thank Toyota, TRD, Keith, Pete, Al (Scroggins, crew chief) and everyone with KKM enough for giving me this opportunity to build on what we accomplished together at the Chili Bowl a couple weeks ago.
“I think as long as I play my cards right all year and do what I’m supposed to do, it’ll all work itself out and we’ll be right there (in contention) at the end of the year.”
McIntosh said he was prepared to drive for his family team — Dave Mac Motorsports — again as he looked to turn heads and impress the right people to get a bigger opportunity.
As it turned out, that process ultimately happened quicker than the Sooner State teenager could have ever expected.
“I figured I’d have run our stuff this year and we’d have, hopefully, won a lot of races to where Keith would have been calling us the next year (2021),” McIntosh noted. “But you know, I did my job at the Chili Bowl … saying that in a humble way, not being cocky or anything like that. I think that’s important, though, because I knew what I was supposed to do, and I feel like I dealt with it really well. I didn’t make a huge deal out of it. I just treated it like another race and that’s how you have to be if you want to be successful on this kind of a stage.”
Team owner Keith Kunz was exceptionally pleased with how McIntosh handled his Chili Bowl appearance for the KKM operation and looking forward to having the young standout aboard for an entire season.
“After what we did with Cannon at the Chili Bowl, we’re extremely happy to be able to have him with us for a full season now,” Kunz said. “All week at the Chili Bowl, Cannon was absolutely amazing. To step in here with us, right off the bat, his first time in the car and to do what he did was stellar. It was really impressive.
“He’s definitely one of those (drivers) who’s the future of the sport and we’re looking forward to chasing a lot of wins with him this season.”
Comparing the POWRi and USAC schedules, there are three dates that conflict — Aug. 7-8 during USAC’s Pennsylvania Midget Week, when POWRi is in Pevely, Mo., with the World of Outlaws; and Sept. 5, when USAC is at Sweet Springs (Mo.) Motorsports Complex the same night POWRi is at Belle-Clair (Ill.) Speedway.
Those date conflicts will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
But while this is the next step in a series of potential moves up the ladder for McIntosh, Kunz’s newest young hire realizes that he can’t sit on his laurels just because he’s made it as far as he has.
There’s still plenty on the horizon.
“There’s so much more still to earn in my career, so I know I can’t just sit here and sit on one race,” McIntosh said. “I’ve got 80 races to go this year, so there’s a lot to do and hopefully a lot to accomplish.”