His real name is Kenny Hunt, but NASCAR fans probably recognize him as the ‚ÄúSunburn Man‚ÄĚ at Watkins Glen International with his unique and instantly recognizable fandom proudly displayed on his body.
For the last 18 years, the 37-year-old diehard NASCAR fan has camped out at his home track for the sport‚Äôs annual visit to the road course in upstate New York ‚ÄĒ where Chase Elliott won his first career Cup Series race on Sunday. After setting up camp at the track, Hunt would bust out some duct tape and mailbox letters, and someone ‚ÄĒ his girlfriend in recent years ‚ÄĒ would help him strategically stick them onto his chest and back.
Hunt just wanted to show his support for his favorite drivers ‚ÄĒ Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and, eventually, Chase Elliott ‚ÄĒ but when he first did this, he never imagined it would evolve into a near-two decade tradition.
‚ÄúMe and my buddies went there and spent all our money on camping and tickets and food and beverages and didn‚Äôt save any money for souvenirs or anything,‚ÄĚ Hunt explained.
‚ÄúSo somehow, as the day progressed and we started drinking a little more, we‚Äôre like, ‚ÄėOh, we‚Äôll just come up with a redneck t-shirt.‚Äô So I took my shirt off and put on some duct tape ‚ÄĒ not really thinking of what the outcome would be ‚ÄĒ and sure enough that night, I peeled off the duct tape and then it started from there.‚ÄĚ
He began with Bill Elliott‚Äôs number ‚ÄĒ first 94 and then 9, the car Chase now drives ‚ÄĒ on the front and Dale Jr.‚Äôs on the back, but he incorporated sponsors and slogans when Bill stopped racing full-time after the 2003 season.
Since then, he‚Äôs had everything from Earnhardt‚Äôs name to Mountain Dew and Amp Energy drinks sunburned on his body. And most recently at the Go Bowling at The Glen, he celebrated the Elliott family and Earnhardt with ‚ÄúFamily 9 Tradition‚ÄĚ on his chest and ‚ÄúDale Jr.‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúSlide Job‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ the driver-turned-broadcaster‚Äôs new catchphrase ‚ÄĒ on the back.
But just because Hunt has etched his drivers‚Äô names and numbers on his body for almost two decades doesn‚Äôt mean he‚Äôs used to the pain that comes along with ripping the duct tape off his sunburned body after wandering around the race track all day.
‚ÄúWhat I like to say is after a 30 pack of beer, you don‚Äôt feel the pain,‚ÄĚ Hunt joked.
Throughout race weekend, he eventually puts sunscreen on to preserve the numbers and letters, and he said it sticks around for a few months after the summer race.
This year, after Chase Elliott took his first checkered flag, Hunt managed to run into him and his dad leaving for the airport. He said Chase asked Bill to stop the car so he could get a photo of Hunt, who was ‚Äúspeechless‚ÄĚ because, of course, he wanted a photo of them.
But while Hunt said he‚Äôll likely continue going to NASCAR races at Watkins Glen, he‚Äôs planning on retiring his sunburn tradition. The only exception he might make is if Chase advances to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, now that he‚Äôs qualified for the 16-driver, 10-race playoffs.
‚ÄúAfter 18 years of doing it ‚ÄĒ and some of them have been pretty painful ‚ÄĒ with Chase Elliott winning, it seems like the perfect opportunity to retire it,‚ÄĚ Hunt said.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all gone its full circle, starting with a Bill Elliott and Dale Jr. sunburn and ending with a Chase Elliott and Dale Jr. sunburn.‚ÄĚ