Ben Kennedy may not be done racing but his NASCAR career has taken quite a different turn since he competed in the Xfinity Series season finale last November at Homestead- Miami Speedway.
Kennedy, the 26-year- old son of International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy, is now a member of NASCAR’s management team, serving as general manager of the Camping World Truck Series.
It’s a far different role than competing in NASCAR races in Trucks and Xfinity, where Kennedy has spent the past most of the past four years.
And it’s going to take some getting used to.
“My last race was in Homestead, and we’re just kicking off here,” Kennedy said Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. “I can definitely tell you that cars firing up and going on track has been a little bit difficult.
“Nonetheless, I’ve still got a Late Model team and may run a couple races there. I've enjoyed racing more than ever, and if another opportunity comes about at a short track or something, I might jump in a Late Model or something.
“You know, I'm getting a little bit of adrenaline rush being this side of it, as well. There's a lot of stuff going on in the Truck Series, a lot of neat things.”
Elton Sawyer, a former NASCAR competitor who now serves as vice president of officiating and technical inspection, believes Kennedy will make the transition well.
“It’s not the same as sitting behind the wheel,” Sawyer said. “I’ll be the first one to tell you, it’s not that. But it’s also quite gratifying to be on a team that you’re working to make something better, as well.”
Kennedy grew up excelling on the short tracks of Florida and won a pair of races in the K&N Pro Series East in 2013. Kennedy, a graduate of the University of Florida, won his first NASCAR national series race in 2016, with a Truck victory at Bristol, Tenn.
He ran 16 races in Xfinity last season in a combined schedule with GMS Racing and Richard Childress Racing, with one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
Kennedy’s move to NASCAR’s front office has been a topic of conversation for years in NASCAR but was made official late last month.
“I had been thinking about it for a long time, and it was certainly a long decision for me,” Kennedy said of the change. “I was happy with what I’ve done in my career in the Trucks as well as Xfinity and had some opportunities to continue forward.
“I think more than anything, I’m so passionate about this sport and so passionate about the health of the sport, and this opportunity kind of came along, and really weighing out all my options, it made the most sense for me now and for the long run, as well.”
Ben’s father, Dr. Bruce Kennedy, was killed in July 2007 in the crash of a Cessna 310 he and NASCAR pilot Michael Klemm were flying from Daytona Beach to Lakeland, Fla.