Indoor Series Mourns Passing of Rob Vivona aka Whitey Kidd

Indoor Series Mourns Passing of Rob Vivona aka Whitey Kidd


Trenton, NJ — Rob Vivona, whose courageous run to victory  as “Whitey Kidd III” in the first East Coast Indoor Dirt National for 600cc Micro Sprints at Trenton’s CURE Insurance Arena in 2017 inspired fans and fellow racers, has passed away at age 41.

Mr. Vivona, a native of Staten Island before moving to New Jersey, had battled cancer for over eight years before succumbing last week.

“The Sammons Family and the entire staff of the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series sends condolences to the family of Rob Vivona, also known as ‘Whitey Kidd III’ on his passing,” in a statement following Rob’s passing.

He began his career as a youngster, in Quarter-Midgets first at Oaklane Speedway in 1990 and then with the Garden State Club at the “Little Wall” 1/20-mile paved oval on the grounds of N.J.’s Wall Stadium.

From there, having moved to New Jersey, he advanced into the dirt track Micro Sprints with winning success; while also becoming a top racer on the Winter Indoor Series for TQ Midgets. While the Indoor Series statistics had shown the winner of the December 2017 Indoor Dirt Nationals as ‘Whitey Kidd III’, in reality it was Rob Vivona that took the dramatic win after passing then leader Alex Bright with two laps remaining.

Unknown to most all in attendance, including many of the competitors, Rob was extremely ill from colon cancer. It had been previously diagnosed, and he had been fighting through it while undergoing rough chemotherapy treatments. Those sessions sapped his physical strength, but not his amazingly strong will to beat the cancer. And, being behind the wheel of a Micro Sprint at full throttle, in and around the racers and fans, was certainly the “best medicine” for the popular competitor.

While receiving those treatments, with concerns about medical insurance as a race driver, he thought it was best not to be “in the news” as Rob Vivona. Instead, he competed as “Whitey Kidd III”, a reference to the original and actual racer “Whitey Kidd”, also a Staten Island native who fielded the dirt Modified No. 125 in the 1970s for drivers such as Roger Laureno.

The night he won at Trenton was particularly rough for Rob, as he literally sequestered himself away from crowds and stayed bundled up against the cold temperatures. But when it came time to race, he gamely strapped into the green & yellow “Kidd Racing” No. 46 prepared by his uncle Tony Fillburn and captured his B-main and then, from 13th on the grid, drove into history as the first Indoor Dirt Nationals A-main winner.

“I couldn’t possibly be any happier than I am right now,” said Rob in victory lane, physically completely exhausted… yet at the top of his racing game to the cheers of the fans and congratulations from runnerup Bright, his good friend Anthony Sesely and other drivers.

Earlier that season, on the outdoor circuit while racing under his own name, Rob had won the opening night 600cc Micro main at Spirit Auto Speedway at Bridgeport Motorsports Park in the Concept Chassis No. 46. That added to previous trips to victory lane on that oval in seasons past; and he won there again later in 2017. He also competed with the ATQMRA TQ Midgets on Wall Stadium’s inner oval, finishing fourth in the feature with his No. 46 that May. And, he raced with the ATQMRA at tracks such as the old Borger’s Speedway in Saylorsburg, Pa. Rob was also a 600cc Micro champion at Borger’s in 2012.

Even before the Trenton Dirt race, the versatile young driver had run strong on the Winter Indoor TQ Midget Series. And, it was at the start of his battle against cancer.

In January 2014, Rob Vivona competed in the Gambler’s Classic at Boardwalk Hall. He had been diagnosed with cancer the year prior and was started receiving the chemo treatments. They were at once physically exhausting, and he hadn’t raced in six months. But, showing the inner strength that defined him, Rob finished third in the opening Friday night A-main… in a very special car.

That run came in his signature No. 46, this one a TQ Midget that he, Anthony Sesely and Anthony’s crew chief Jerry Moran had literally created “from a frame” just nine days before.

To Rob Vivona, it was another example of what his “racing family” meant… people who were always there for him… in racing and in life as he fought cancer.

“As happy as I am to win, I’m happier for Rob,” reflected Sesely post-race that Friday at Boardwalk Hall.

But after his 2017 win at Trenton, Rob Vivona/Whitey Kidd III wasn’t done racing.

He came back to Trenton to race in the Dirt Nationals in 2018, winning an A-main Qualifier 20-lap race; and then, for what turned out to be the final time, in 2020 after the event was not held for two years due to the pandemic.

As recently as 2021 Rob (still as Whitey Kidd III) was determined to compete and in fact pulled into victory lane with the 600cc Micro Sprints at Spirit Auto Speedway at Bridgeport Motorsports Park.

A viewing will take place at Manchester Memorial Funeral Home on Wednesday, April 5th from 2-4 and 7-9, and Thursday, April 6th from 1030-11am immediately followed by an entombment at Whiting Memorial Park, 600 County Rd 530, Whiting, NJ 08759.

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