Column: Kennedy takes daring risks with the NASCAR family business

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (AP) — Ben Kennedy could 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 whole life studying concerning 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 finally needed to work on the snack shack. He offered software program, parked automobiles, drove the truck unloading trash from cellular properties, and labored in signal outlets.

Kennedy gave it a go as a driver and entered 90 races on the NASCAR Nationwide degree. 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 long run chief of NASCAR, which this yr celebrates its seventy fifth season. NASCAR is presently 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 bike go well with, Kennedy moved over to the operations facet of NASCAR and is presently Senior Vice President of Racing Growth 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 reworked into a brief quick observe for auto racing. It may have been a catastrophe of horrible racing, poor observe circumstances, or a sleep 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 plenty of questions, plenty of uncertainty, and admittedly I wasn’t positive,” Kennedy stated 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 subject.”

Kennedy has a dream checklist 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 feel most of the metrics final yr had been a giant hit. So, it was actually arduous for us to say, ‘Hey, that was a extremely large hit, and now we will do one thing else,’” Kennedy stated. “I feel this yr goes to be sort of telling. Often because final yr was so new and completely different, and there have been plenty of new ideas that lots of people talked about.

“I feel we, NASCAR, should 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 must 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 might say plenty of the Chicago talks are actually beginning to choose up steam after the conflict,” Kennedy stated, dismissing hypothesis that the race would finish and noting the wonderful relationships with the mayor’s workplace and different metropolis businesses.

“What we have continued to give attention to 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 seem like,” he stated. “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 presently run by Steve O’Donnell.

Kennedy doesn’t consider 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 wish to earn my stripes all the way in which. “The very last thing I wish to do is be ready that does not serve the corporate, and the folks round us are put in a scenario that I am not certified for,” Kennedy stated. “I wish to be worthy of my place no matter that place or promotion seems to be like. It is actually necessary to me. I feel it earns me some respect. It makes it a lot extra significant.”

“Did I find yourself there? I do not know. However I’ve to do job to earn that proper.”

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