After becoming super pro truck champion in 2011 and then taking a year off from competing, Dave Koenig is back at Riverhead Raceway, though his truck number has been changed.
As a tribute to Andy Owen, one of his closest friends, Koenig changed his truck number from 97 -- which he has had since he started racing more than two decades ago -- to Owen's enduro truck number, 29.
Owen, 46, suffered a heart attack last month and a lack of blood supply caused a stroke, according to his father, Tony Owen. Tony said the "prognosis is not good" and everyone close to the family is pulling for a full recovery.
"Andy and I have known each other since we were 14 and Andy's the one who got me into racing in 1992," said Koenig, 45, who sat out last year because of a scheduling conflict. "He's always been one of my biggest fans and supporters, and now this happened. It just caught everyone by surprise. Right away, I asked the family if it was OK to change my number and they said it was, so it was an easy decision after that."
On Memorial Day weekend, Owen's son, Dale, drove his dad's truck and actually led early and was riding to a top five finish before a late race mishap dropped him back. Koenig actually towed the enduro truck out to the track for the Owen family.
"It's been just an emotional time for everyone," Koenig said.
Dale is not expected to race this weekend, but Koenig is. Koenig, who ranks ninth in the super pro truck standings with 100 points, said he's made some mechanical adjustments to his car the last two weeks when rain canceled racing action. Koenig said he can think of no better way to honor his friend than with a first-place finish Saturday or at a point later this season.
"I couldn't even put it into words how that would feel," Koenig said. "I'd probably break down that day at the track and wouldn't be able to talk. It would just be awesome to come away with a win for him."