Jeff Champagne has raced sports cars, micro sprints, caged karts, midgets, and TQ’s in his young career. With success in each category bringing him solid recognition the young racer is now fielding new opportunities.
When race fans enter the Allen County War Memorial Expo Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana on December 17th, & 18th, for the 23rd Annual Rumble, they’ll be eyeing one of auto racing’s most senior stars – working alongside one of its newest.
Mel Kenyon has raced USAC, Indy and Midgets for over 50 years and is one of auto racing’s most recognized drivers. Known as ‘King of the Midgets,’ or ‘Miraculous Mel,’ the Lebanon, Indiana resident is also in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Jeff Champagne, of Westfield, Massachusetts, has told anyone within earshot he wants to be an open wheel guy. Though he’s a long way from entering any HoF as a driver, he has gained respect for his work ethos off-track and success on. The teaming of the two should tell you there is confidence and belief in success.
“I’d known Kyle Hamilton for a while,” said Champagne. “Clearly, Kyle and Mel had lots of success. So, when Kyle was preparing to retire last year, I asked him to put-in a good word about me. He must have done an excellent job because it didn’t take more than a few moments in my phone conversation with Mel for him to say, ‘sure, let’s do this. Any friend of Kyle’s is a friend of mine.”
During the past two years Champagne has gained a greater understanding of Midgets by preparing his own TQ which he built for the New England based AARN Indoor Series. He’s also been working alongside Gil and Tim Bertrand (Bertrand Motorsport) in their Championship winning NEMA (Northeastern Midget Association) program. As a family the Bertrand’s have gained enormous success while proving themselves as one of the top winged Midget teams in the US.
“Tim’s (Bertrand) method of preparing his Midgets’ takes-on a surgical intensity,” smiles Champagne. “I’m learning about different Midget chassis and engine combinations which is providing me better insights into suspension tuning for different tracks.”
“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great people and supported by Hotsy-Clean,” added Champagne. “To be driving the #61 Midget for one of auto racing’s most iconic drivers has me both proud and excited. As a kid from New England, I can only compare this with driving the Richie Evans #61.
The teaming of Kenyon and Champagne unites two racers who have gained plenty of respect from their fanbase. Though the sum of fans for each driver are lopsided, that will mean little come Friday the 17th when the 3-K Racing #61 Hotsey-Kleen Midget driven by Jeff Champagne enters the grounds to the Allen County War Memorial Expo Center.
(photo credit: unknown – please let us know the photographer’s name and we’ll give proper credit as due)