Skip to content

Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder, making his own path behind the wheel

May 9, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Stylized Portraits Getty Images

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Ben Kennedy hasn’t taken the usual path of a young driver. But perhaps that was to be expected.

The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy received a thorough education in the sport by working jobs at Daytona International Speedway – everything from cooking hot dogs and hamburgers for track employees to creating signs for events at “The World Center of Racing.”

Kennedy, 21, also just completed a more formal education as well, receiving his diploma in sports management from the University of Florida – which included a final semester internship at NBC Sports Group during the Sochi Olympics.

But instead of parlaying it all into a job somewhere within the sanctioning body or with a race team or even some ISC track, Kennedy is focusing on a dream that precious few are able to realize: Becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

Thus, the backup plan in case he doesn’t turn out to be the next Jimmie Johnson.

“Having [a degree] in your back pocket in case this racing thing doesn’t work out – I think some people say the odds of being a pro athlete nowadays are less than you winning the lottery, so if this racing thing doesn’t work, you have that degree in your back pocket and work somewhere in the motorsports industry or some other business,” he said recently to MotorSportsTalk.

“I’ll come to that road if I come to it, and if not, I’m gonna keep digging on this racing stuff.”

While time will tell if Kennedy makes it to the Cup Series, it’s clear by his ascension to the Trucks that he is indeed a talented wheelman.

He won multiple championships at Florida short tracks such as New Smyrna Speedway and the Orlando Speedworld, and made the jump to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2011. In 2012, he scored his first NASCAR-sanctioned win in a Whelen Euro Series event in France. Last year, he broke through for his first K&N East triumph at Five Flags Speedway in Florida.

He would go on to add one more win at Winston-Salem en route to a fourth-place finish overall in the standings. But his 2013 campaign was also notable for him getting his first taste of the Trucks by running in five races (Bristol, Iowa, Chicago, Martinsville, and Homestead-Miami).

Three of those races had Kennedy drive for Turner Scott Motorsports and post a strong fourth-place result at Martinsville. The TSM group obviously liked what they saw; Kennedy is now one of their full-time drivers.

“It’s been really cool working for TSM and racing for them for the past five races last year and now [full-time] this year as well,” Kennedy said. “I know we have a great crew together – it’s something that [team owners] Steve Turner and Harry Scott have worked on, and I think they have an awesome team going right now. It’s got a little bit of everything and we’ve got Mike Shelton as our crew chief, who [helped] James Buescher to his 2012 [Truck Series] championship.

“They’re definitely race-winning trucks, and there’s definitely a race-winning crew behind it.”

Heading into the third Truck race of the year tonight at Kansas Speedway, Kennedy’s already had some cool moments. He sat on the pole and led 52 laps at his beloved Daytona in the season-opening race (in which he finished 15th).

Most recently at Martinsville, he earned his best Truck result yet with a third-place finish. Kennedy now sits sixth in the championship, just 10 points behind current co-leaders Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters.

While Kennedy figures his best chances of winning will come on the short tracks with which he’s more familiar, he’s looking forward to mastering the art of racing on the bigger ovals.

“I’m starting to learn [aerodynamics] and how the Trucks go around the corner with other Trucks around them, and how they get aero-tight and aero-loose, all that stuff,” he explained.

“Another big jump for me was the difference of the tires that we run – going from a more flexible, bias-ply tire that’s more forgiving to a radial tire that’s much less forgiving and kind of on edge all the time.”

It’s a lot to take in for any young racer, even one with a pedigree. But put the family ties to the back burner and that’s what you have with Kennedy: An evolving young racer.

It will be a tough process. But while he admits there’s a little bit more pressure on him to succeed, his family’s behind him at every turn.

“They’re really supportive of whatever I want to do, which is really cool,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, when we all get in our race cars and strap in and put the helmets on, there’s always pressure to win on every one of us coming up through this.

“We all want to make it up to the Cup Series, and there’s pressure on us to win, to be a great spokesperson for the sponsors that we work with. And there’s definitely pressure to make it up to the Cup Series one day, which I know is, for most of us, our hopes and dreams.”

And so, with an open mind, humble attitude, and heavy right foot, Kennedy – representing a new generation of one of American sports’ most influential families – charges into the future that neither he nor anyone else can predict.

But somehow, you figure he’s going to leave his mark, whether it’s in the boardroom or behind the wheel.

source: Getty Images

Ben Kennedy and his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, earlier in the season at Daytona. Credit: Getty Images.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR: Mudsummer Classic at Eldora looks for a solid sequel

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:43 AM EDT

    The CarCash Mudsummer Classic Getty Images

    Eldora Truck race tonight seeks to be as good as the original.

  2. NASCAR: Rudd, Jarrett, Bobby Labonte look back on Brickyard 400 triumphs

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT

    Ricky Rudd Getty Images

    Time has not lessened the significance of winning at Indy for these three NASCAR standouts.

  3. NASCAR: This time at Indy, it’s just stock cars for Kurt Busch

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:13 PM EDT

    (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Outlaw returns to Indianapolis for the first time since his Indy 500-Coke 600 double back in May.

  4. IndyCar: Want Juan Pablo Montoya’s penthouse? It’ll cost you – a lot

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    montoya3 Getty Images

    The Team Penske pilot is putting up his six-bedroom Miami penthouse for a cool $14 million. Better start saving up…

  5. NASCAR: Roush camp looking for speed in Michigan test

    Jul 22, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 Getty Images

    Seeking to catch up with their Ford stablemates at Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing’s trio of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have been searching for speed in a two-day test session at Michigan International Speedway.

  6. Indy’s new scoring pylon is quite colorful (PHOTOS)

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

    The new, 92-foot pylon is made up of four LED panels capable of video animations that relay race info to fans.

  7. MRTI: Cape’s Toronto sweep; Burkett’s latest videos; other odds and ends

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    Recapping the future stars of IndyCar in action at Toronto this weekend.

  8. Report: Mexican Grand Prix set for 2015 return?

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Grand Premio Tecate Getty Images

    A report from Mexico says that Bernie Ecclestone has signed a five-year pact to bring F1 to Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez starting next season.

  9. IndyCar: Hinchcliffe continues to endure home race house of horrors

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    HinchTOR3 Getty Images

    A miserable home weekend in Toronto strikes James Hinchcliffe yet again.

  10. Claire Williams gives vote of confidence for Felipe Massa

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:41 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    Williams’ deputy team principal on Massa: “He is mature enough – and has enough experience in the sport – to realize that sometimes, things don’t go your way.”

  11. Realistically, could Toronto IndyCar shift date to CTMP?

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    CTMPWide Getty Images

    Given politics, dates and dreams, could an IndyCar race at CTMP be possible?

  12. Formula E: Jerome d’Ambrosio confirmed with Dragon Racing

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    JDAFE Getty Images

    Ex-F1 shoe Jerome d’Ambrosio gets signed up for new FE series.

  13. Kyle Larson, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan featured in Cottonelle ads (VIDEO)

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    LarsonCottonelle Getty Images

    Kyle Larson’s got a new house, a new kid on the way and now a new Cottonelle ad he might not be able to live down.

  14. Report: Toto Wolff speaks out against F1′s double points finale

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Mercedes’ Toto Wolff calls double points “unfair.”

  15. IndyCar: Toronto weekend analysis, musings and observations

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    TorontoAnalysis Getty Images

    MST’s Tony DiZinno recaps the weekend in Toronto, that featured a host of surprises.

  16. IndyCar: Gaps grow, but few major changes in points over last month

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT

    TorontoLeadPts Getty Images

    The stretch of six races in four weekends is over, as is the stretch of doubleheader weekends for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Here’s the points breakdown.

  17. Chase Elliott keeps winning, but he’s not finished capturing checkered flags this season by any stretch

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:38 AM EDT

    Chase Elliott after Saturday's win at Chicagoland Speedway. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

    With the third win of his rookie Nationwide Series career, Chase Elliott continued to make it look easy in this past Saturday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  18. NASCAR: Bubba Wallace prepares for Eldora’s “Mudsummer Classic” (VIDEO)

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

    For Wallace and his Truck Series rivals, racing on dirt presents a different set of challenges – and thus requires a different way to train.

  19. NASCAR’s Brian France on RTA’s formation: “We didn’t think it was necessary”

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    Brian France AP

    In a satellite radio interview, France shared his thoughts on the consortium of NASCAR’s most powerful teams.

  20. IMSA: IndyCar rookie Hawksworth to make sports car debut in Brickyard GP

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT

    Jack Hawksworth AP

    Jack Hawksworth will co-drive the No. 08 Prototype Challenge car for RSR Racing in Friday’s IMSA event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

More from NASCAR America

Keselowski in championship form

Featured video

Inside scoop with Adrian Sutil
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches