Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Truck Series Driver Doesn't Rely on Family Ties; Kennedy Is Making Own Mark on Competitive Side

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Truck Series Driver Doesn't Rely on Family Ties; Kennedy Is Making Own Mark on Competitive Side

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

The CEO of International Speedway Corp., the parent company of the largest group of racetracks in NASCAR, was the first to leave a voicemail on Ben Kennedy's cell phone immediately following his Camping World Truck Series victory last week.

Portions of the message were difficult to discern because it often teetered between uncontrolled emotion, happiness and a mother's tears.

For everyone else in the corporate side of NASCAR, the call would have been a formality. But for Kennedy, the message had a far greater meaning.

"Mom went crazy," Kennedy said. "She was ecstatic."

Mom is Lesa France Kennedy, the granddaughter of NASCAR founder Bill France and the sister to current chairman Brian France.

A family that's been immersed in racing since 1938 had never been to Victory Lane as a stock-car winner. (Kennedy's cousin, J.C. France, won four times in Grand-Am sports car.)

Even more incredible is that Kennedy forged most of his own success, learning to succeed and fail, the same way everyone else in the family has done in the past.

"I enjoy the challenges," Kennedy said. "I think it's good for me to be on the competitive side. I think a lot of it is just proving yourself. To compete and run for a championship, working really hard, that's what I like."

Crew chief Joey Cohen called for an early pit stop in the 200-lap race to his driver would gain track position later after everyone else stopped. Cohen helped get Kennedy's Toyota up front; the 24-year-old driver did the rest by leading the final 20 laps at the Bristol Motor Speedway.

Brett Moffitt, who also was looking for his first NASCAR victory, pressed Kennedy in a final six-lap run. Kennedy survived a couple slight bumps in the final three laps to win by a truck length.

"We were glued to the TV," his mother said. "It was the most nerve-racking thing. I was excited, to say the least."

In the process, Kennedy, who's eighth in the truck series standings, locked his spot in the upcoming Chase for the Championship while creating a unique level of excitement for the rest of the family.

France Kennedy used to attend most of her son's races. …

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