Column: Kennedy takes daring risks with the NASCAR family business

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (AP) — Ben Kennedy might sooner or later be president of NASCAR.

If that occurred, it would not be a case of nepotism. Sure, he’s the great-grandson of the founding father of NASCAR, however the 31-year-old graduated from the College of Florida with a level in Sports activities Administration and has spent his total life studying in regards to the household enterprise.

As soon as a younger boy standing subsequent to his grandfather to Invoice France Jr.’s hidden scorching canine stand put in inside Daytona Worldwide Speedway, Kennedy grew up and ultimately needed to work on the snack shack. He bought software program, parked automobiles, drove the truck unloading trash from cellular houses, and labored in signal retailers.

Kennedy gave it a go as a driver and entered 90 races on the NASCAR Nationwide stage. He scored a victory within the Bristol Truck Collection race in 2016, the yr he ran a full season and completed seventh within the standings.

However he’s additionally seen as the longer term chief of NASCAR, which this yr celebrates its seventy fifth season. NASCAR is at present run by his 78-year-old uncle, Chairman Jim France, and his mom, Lisa France Kennedy, Government Vice President.

As soon as he donned the motorbike swimsuit, Kennedy moved over to the operations aspect of NASCAR and is at present Senior Vice President of Racing Improvement and Technique. He is younger, progressive, unafraid of journey and returns this weekend to what is going to ceaselessly be a defining second in his younger profession.

It was Kennedy who got here up with the thought to maneuver the unofficial season-opening NASCAR Expo race to Los Angeles, the place the long-lasting Coliseum is remodeled into a brief brief observe for auto racing. It may have been a catastrophe of horrible racing, poor observe situations, or a nap for the Los Angeles crowd with no scarcity of leisure choices.

However he was profitable and Kennedy, the architect of NASCAR’s newest season-long schedules, introduced the Conflict again to the Coliseum on Sunday. to repeat the efficiency. Actor Rob Lowe is the grand marshal, Cypress Hill will play a pre-race live performance and Wiz Khalifa will carry out at halftime.

“The Colosseum for us was an enormous threat. There have been a whole lot of questions, a whole lot of uncertainty, and albeit I wasn’t positive,” Kennedy mentioned in an interview with The Related Press at NASCAR headquarters overlooking Daytona Worldwide Speedway. We did not know what the race was going to be like till we put the automobiles in a makeshift circuit inside a soccer area.”

Kennedy has a dream listing of locations he want to take NASCAR. For now, he is content material to get again on the runway as a warm-up for the February 19 Daytona 500 season.

“I believe lots of the metrics final yr had been a giant hit. So, it was actually arduous for us to say, ‘Hey, that was a extremely huge hit, and now we will do one thing else,’” Kennedy mentioned. “I believe this yr goes to be form of telling. Often because final yr was so new and totally different, and there have been a whole lot of new ideas that lots of people talked about.

“I believe we, NASCAR, must make it in order that when the followers come out, or watch on TV, this yr is simply nearly as good, if not higher than it was final yr.”

Kennedy did not have to show himself to the NASCAR board of administrators, however after withdrawing the Conflict’s plans, he shortly moved ahead staging Cup Collection racing on the streets of downtown Chicago. The weird idea is now set to be launched on July 2 for a sequence that historically sticks to oval tracks with plump turns.

“I’d say a whole lot of the Chicago talks are actually beginning to choose up steam after the conflict,” Kennedy mentioned, dismissing hypothesis that the race would finish and noting the wonderful relationships with the mayor’s workplace and different metropolis companies.

“What we have continued to deal with is that that is so new for NASCAR. That is so new for town of Chicago, and we’re actually making an attempt to assist everybody perceive what that is going to appear like,” he mentioned. “We wish this to achieve success for NASCAR, however much more profitable for Chicago and one thing Chicagoans can sit up for.”

It appears inevitable that Kennedy will quickly run the complete present. Steve Phelps is the present president of NASCAR and the third non-France particular person to carry the place in 75 years; The competitors is at present run by Steve O’Donnell.

Kennedy doesn’t imagine that his future is predetermined.

“I do not assume it is inevitable for me and I say this to Steve and Steve and my household on a regular basis: ‘I need to earn my stripes all the way in which. “The very last thing I need to do is be able that does not serve the corporate, and the individuals round us are put in a state of affairs that I am not certified for,” Kennedy mentioned. “I need to be worthy of my place no matter that place or promotion seems like. It is actually vital to me. I believe it earns me some respect. It makes it a lot extra significant.”

“Did I find yourself there? I don’t know. However I’ve to do a great job to earn that proper.”

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