Column: Kennedy takes daring risks with the NASCAR family business

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (AP) — Ben Kennedy could at some point 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 sizzling 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 vehicles, drove the truck unloading trash from cell houses, and labored in signal outlets.

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 Sequence race in 2016, the 12 months 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 12 months 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 motorbike 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 short lived quick 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 danger. There have been plenty of questions, plenty 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 vehicles in a makeshift circuit inside a soccer area.”

Kennedy has a dream checklist of locations he wish 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 12 months have been a giant hit. So, it was actually onerous for us to say, ‘Hey, that was a very huge hit, and now we will do one thing else,’” Kennedy mentioned. “I feel this 12 months goes to be type of telling. Often because final 12 months 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 12 months is simply nearly as good, if not higher than it was final 12 months.”

Kennedy did not must show himself to the NASCAR board of administrators, however after withdrawing the Conflict’s plans, he rapidly moved ahead staging Cup Sequence 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 decide 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 concentrate on 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 would like 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 whole 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 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 best way. “The very last thing I need to do is be able that does not serve the corporate, and the folks round us are put in a scenario that I am not certified for,” Kennedy mentioned. “I need to be worthy of my place no matter that place or promotion seems to be like. It is actually vital to me. I feel 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 superb job to earn that proper.”

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