Skip to content

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

May 9, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

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. John Force like you’ve never seen him: ‘Papa John’ the grandfather (video)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EST

    John force with grandsons 2014

    See NHRA great John Force like you’ve never seen him in this video, shot mainly through the eyes of his grandsons Jacob and Noah.

  2. Dick Berggren to be inducted into Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:16 PM EST

    (Photo courtesy Fox Sports) (Photo courtesy Fox Sports)

    Dr. Dick Berggren will receive yet another prestigious honor in his career. He’ll be inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame in April 2015.

  3. New Hampshire Motor Speedway staff gives great holiday gift: NASCAR-themed carols

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    (Robert Laberge/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The staff at New Hampshire Motor Speedway got into the holiday spirit, caroling with a unique NASCAR twist in a newly-released video.

  4. NASCAR late model driver helps brighten holiday for needy Wisconsin family

    Dec 20, 2014, 6:29 PM EST

    nascar logo 2014 Getty Images

    Matt Henderson, Henderson Motorsports, and local businesses deliver presents and gifts to family in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

  5. IndyCar that will be ‘dropped’ to usher in New Year in Indianapolis to be unveiled Monday

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:29 PM EST

    verizon indycar series logo 2014

    Times Square’s ‘ball drop’ will have nothing on Indianapolis as it lowers an Indy Car as the final seconds of 2014 tick off.

  6. Dover International Speedway names new track president

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    Credit: Dover Motorsports Credit: Dover Motorsports

    Michael Tatoian has been able to help bring additional events to the Monster Mile beyond its two NASCAR weekends.

  7. Top NASCAR Stories of 2014: No. 11 – Carl Edwards leaves Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EST

    Carl Edwards (left) and Matt Kenseth, former teammates at Roush Fenway Racing, will be reunited in 2015 at Joe Gibbs Racing. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Carl Edwards was the most sought-after Sprint Cup free agent in 2014. After more than a decade with Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards announced he will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.

  8. WATCH: James Stewart, Travis Pastrana compete at Red Bull Straight Rhythm (NBC, 4 p.m. ET)

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:35 PM EST

    Photo credit: Shawn Smith Photo credit: Shawn Smith

    Red Bull Straight Rhythm is a one-of-a-kind event, featuring an “unwound” supercross track and head-to-head racing. Tune in to NBC to see how it all played out.

  9. Report: Bernie Ecclestone, German bank sue each other over sale of F1 stake

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the High Court in central London in this file photo Reuters

    BayernLB sues Ecclestone and his family holding for 345 million Euros.

  10. NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 20 Austin Dillon

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 At NH Motor Speedway Getty Images

    Dillon made a big first impression and then quietly learned the ropes in Sprint Cup.

  11. NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 19 Clint Bowyer

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    (Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Clint Bowyer endured the worst season of his Sprint Cup career in 2014. He hasn’t won a race since 2012, but 2015 could be a comeback year for him.

  12. NHRA: Brittany Force set for 2015 to be her year in Top Fuel

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:45 PM EST

    Brittany Force. (Photos courtesy of Ron Lewis Photography) Brittany Force. (Photos courtesy of Ron Lewis Photography)

    Daughter of legendary Funny Car champ John Force, Brittany Force is out to prove that 2015 will be her year in NHRA Top Fuel racing.

  13. Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Jr., has ‘secret’ F4 test

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:55 PM EST

    mick schumacher jr.

    Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Jr., spent a recent testing day in a Formula 4 car, a possible prelude to following in his famous father’s footsteps.

  14. Ganassi places faith in youngsters Kimball, Karam by putting them in No. 01 car

    Dec 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EST

    CGRdaytona Getty Images

    Rare, intriguing call for CGR to put two lesser-experienced drivers in No. 01 car.

  15. Williams recaps incredible 2014 campaign (VIDEO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PODIUM Getty Images

    Williams’ stellar 2014 season, recapped in pictures and words.

  16. Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 12 – Newman, Kenseth winless but still successful

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:15 PM EST

    Hollywood Casino 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth proved that consistency still pays.

  17. Report: The Sprint Experience will not return in 2015

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:49 PM EST

    sprint cup logo

    The fan-favorite Sprint Experience at NASCAR tracks across the country is apparently no longer, according to a media report.

  18. NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 18 Jamie McMurray

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Getty Images

    McMurray shined at the All-Star Race in May but missed out on a 2014 Chase berth.

Video from NASCAR America

NASCAR America's 2014 blooper reel
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. C. Coughlin (2011)
  2. K. Busch (1820)
  3. B. Vickers (1807)
  4. A. Self (1655)
  5. D. Armstrong (1454)
  1. D. Suarez (1440)
  2. M. Tifft (1385)
  3. J. Boston (1351)
  4. L. Cassill (1290)
  5. K. Busch (1286)