2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Stylized Portraits

Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder, making his own path behind the wheel

1 Comment

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Ben Kennedy hasn’t taken the usual path of a young driver. But perhaps that was to be expected.

The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy received a thorough education in the sport by working jobs at Daytona International Speedway – everything from cooking hot dogs and hamburgers for track employees to creating signs for events at “The World Center of Racing.”

Kennedy, 21, also just completed a more formal education as well, receiving his diploma in sports management from the University of Florida – which included a final semester internship at NBC Sports Group during the Sochi Olympics.

But instead of parlaying it all into a job somewhere within the sanctioning body or with a race team or even some ISC track, Kennedy is focusing on a dream that precious few are able to realize: Becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

Thus, the backup plan in case he doesn’t turn out to be the next Jimmie Johnson.

“Having [a degree] in your back pocket in case this racing thing doesn’t work out – I think some people say the odds of being a pro athlete nowadays are less than you winning the lottery, so if this racing thing doesn’t work, you have that degree in your back pocket and work somewhere in the motorsports industry or some other business,” he said recently to MotorSportsTalk.

“I’ll come to that road if I come to it, and if not, I’m gonna keep digging on this racing stuff.”

While time will tell if Kennedy makes it to the Cup Series, it’s clear by his ascension to the Trucks that he is indeed a talented wheelman.

He won multiple championships at Florida short tracks such as New Smyrna Speedway and the Orlando Speedworld, and made the jump to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2011. In 2012, he scored his first NASCAR-sanctioned win in a Whelen Euro Series event in France. Last year, he broke through for his first K&N East triumph at Five Flags Speedway in Florida.

He would go on to add one more win at Winston-Salem en route to a fourth-place finish overall in the standings. But his 2013 campaign was also notable for him getting his first taste of the Trucks by running in five races (Bristol, Iowa, Chicago, Martinsville, and Homestead-Miami).

Three of those races had Kennedy drive for Turner Scott Motorsports and post a strong fourth-place result at Martinsville. The TSM group obviously liked what they saw; Kennedy is now one of their full-time drivers.

“It’s been really cool working for TSM and racing for them for the past five races last year and now [full-time] this year as well,” Kennedy said. “I know we have a great crew together – it’s something that [team owners] Steve Turner and Harry Scott have worked on, and I think they have an awesome team going right now. It’s got a little bit of everything and we’ve got Mike Shelton as our crew chief, who [helped] James Buescher to his 2012 [Truck Series] championship.

“They’re definitely race-winning trucks, and there’s definitely a race-winning crew behind it.”

Heading into the third Truck race of the year tonight at Kansas Speedway, Kennedy’s already had some cool moments. He sat on the pole and led 52 laps at his beloved Daytona in the season-opening race (in which he finished 15th).

Most recently at Martinsville, he earned his best Truck result yet with a third-place finish. Kennedy now sits sixth in the championship, just 10 points behind current co-leaders Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters.

While Kennedy figures his best chances of winning will come on the short tracks with which he’s more familiar, he’s looking forward to mastering the art of racing on the bigger ovals.

“I’m starting to learn [aerodynamics] and how the Trucks go around the corner with other Trucks around them, and how they get aero-tight and aero-loose, all that stuff,” he explained.

“Another big jump for me was the difference of the tires that we run – going from a more flexible, bias-ply tire that’s more forgiving to a radial tire that’s much less forgiving and kind of on edge all the time.”

It’s a lot to take in for any young racer, even one with a pedigree. But put the family ties to the back burner and that’s what you have with Kennedy: An evolving young racer.

It will be a tough process. But while he admits there’s a little bit more pressure on him to succeed, his family’s behind him at every turn.

“They’re really supportive of whatever I want to do, which is really cool,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, when we all get in our race cars and strap in and put the helmets on, there’s always pressure to win on every one of us coming up through this.

“We all want to make it up to the Cup Series, and there’s pressure on us to win, to be a great spokesperson for the sponsors that we work with. And there’s definitely pressure to make it up to the Cup Series one day, which I know is, for most of us, our hopes and dreams.”

And so, with an open mind, humble attitude, and heavy right foot, Kennedy – representing a new generation of one of American sports’ most influential families – charges into the future that neither he nor anyone else can predict.

But somehow, you figure he’s going to leave his mark, whether it’s in the boardroom or behind the wheel.

source: Getty Images
Ben Kennedy and his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, earlier in the season at Daytona. Credit: Getty Images.

NHRA at Reading: Brown still unbeaten; Beckman, McGaha, Hines also win

NHRA winners at Reading (from left): Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
(Photo courtesy NHRA)
Leave a comment

One of Top Fuel driver Antron Brown’s nicknames is “A.B.”

Thus far in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, Brown has picked up another nickname: “U.B.”

As in unbeatable.

Brown roared to his third consecutive win in as many races in the Countdown in Sunday’s finals of the Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.

Brown remains undefeated in the Countdown, and has increased his playoff round record to a perfect 12-0, the best start of any driver in any class in Countdown history.

Brown (3.717 seconds at 328.46 mph) defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate and defending Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher to capture his 54th career win (38th in Top Fuel).

Brown now leads Schumacher by 94 points as the NHRA moves on to the second half of the six-race Countdown.

What’s more, the 2012 Top Fuel champ has now won a career-high seven races this season – he has previously won six races in a season four different times – as well as earning his first-ever win at Maple Grove Raceway.

“You don’t go into the Countdown believing you’re going to win the first three races,” Brown said in a news release. “That’s what you hope to do. Charlotte (two races ago) was tough, but this race was also tough because you go into eliminations without any runs down the racetrack (due to rain on both Friday and Saturday).

“When we came out today, it was pretty much the first session of qualifying for us. Getting a good, clean run down the track helped us a lot and the track got about eight times better by the second lap.”

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman returned to Victory Lane for his career-best seventh win of the season and the 22nd of his career.

Beckman (3.910 seconds at 326.79 mph) got the jump at the starting line and that was the difference over runner-up Chad Head (3.903 at 326.16).

In addition to the win, Beckman reset the national elapsed time record for the third time this season while winning Sunday’s semifinal round battle over Ron Capps in 3.897 seconds.

Beckman leaves Reading just 16 points behind Del Worsham, who won the first two races of the Countdown.

“For us, it couldn’t have ended up any better,” Beckman said. “We went from six rounds out to less than one round. We’re not leading, but we’ve got a car that’s clearly able to win races and I think that the (points) lead is within sight again.”

Of note, Worsham, defending Funny Car champ Matt Hagan and 16-time champ John Force all lost in the first round – a rarity.

In Pro Stock, Chris McGaha (6.492 seconds at 213.64 mph) earned his third win of the season and also of his career, defeating four-time world champ Greg Anderson.

McGaha won with a new crew chief: Tommy Utt replaced Brian Self, who left the team to join Elite Motorsports earlier in the week.

“This week has been really something,” McGaha said. “Having a crew chief shuffle and what-have-you, it’s a pretty big feat to overcome.

“You leave the house hoping you can win and knowing you can win, but actually doing it is another deal.”

Points leader Erica Enders remains atop the standings with a 72-point edge over Anderson, while McGaha moves into third place with his win.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending series champ and four-time world champ Andrew Hines earned his second win of the Countdown and third of the season.

Hines (6.794 seconds at 197.25 mph) defeated Chip Ellis in Sunday’s final round to earn his 41st career win, tying him with Angelle Sampey for second on the PSM all-time wins list.

“That win light came on for the final and I was over the moon,” Hines said. “I know how fast Chip had been all weekend and all year. Luckily, we were able to dip into the 6.7’s with him and put up a nice, tight final round for the fans.”

Hines remains atop the PSM points, leading teammate Eddie Krawiec by 89 points.

The Countdown resumes in two weeks with the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Oct. 15-18, at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.



TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Tony Schumacher; 3.  Larry Dixon; 4.  Brittany Force; 5.  Richie Crampton; 6. Dom Lagana; 7.  Shawn Langdon; 8.  J.R. Todd; 9.  Leah Pritchett; 10.  Dave Connolly; 11.  Smax Smith; 12.  Clay Millican; 13.  Doug Kalitta; 14.  Steve Torrence.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Jack Beckman; 2.  Chad Head; 3.  Ron Capps; 4.  John Bojec; 5.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6.  Cruz Pedregon; 7.  Tim Wilkerson; 8.  John Hale; 9.  Tony Pedregon; 10.  Del Worsham; 11.  Paul Lee; 12. Matt Hagan; 13.  Alexis DeJoria; 14.  John Force; 15.  Courtney Force; 16.  Robert Hight.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Chris McGaha; 2.  Greg Anderson; 3.  Bo Butner; 4.  Larry Morgan; 5.  Erica Enders; 6.  V. Gaines; 7.  Jason Line; 8.  Jonathan Gray; 9.  Allen Johnson; 10.  Alan Prusiensky; 11.  John Gaydosh Jr; 12.  Val Smeland; 13.  Shane Gray; 14.  Kenny Delco; 15.  Vincent Nobile; 16.  Drew Skillman.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Chip Ellis; 3.  Eddie Krawiec; 4.  Matt Smith; 5.  Jerry Savoie; 6.  Karen Stoffer; 7.  Hector Arana Jr; 8.  Steve Johnson; 9.  Hector Arana; 10.  Angie Smith; 11.  Brian Pretzel; 12.  Jim Underdahl; 13.  Chaz Kennedy; 14.  Scotty Pollacheck.


TOP FUEL: Antron Brown, 3.717 seconds, 328.46 mph  def. Tony Schumacher, no time.

FUNNY CAR: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.910, 326.79  def. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 3.903, 326.16.

PRO STOCK: Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.64  def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.484, 214.59.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.794, 197.25  def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.818, 196.39.



ROUND ONE — Larry Dixon, 3.882, 323.58 def. Steve Torrence, 9.538, 83.23; Antron Brown, 3.742, 321.50 def. Clay Millican, 8.482, 79.51; Dom Lagana, 5.150, 218.09 def. Doug Kalitta, 8.584, 112.37; Shawn Langdon, 4.248, 317.19 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.442, 277.94; Brittany Force, 3.707, 328.46 def. Dave Connolly, 4.443, 194.38; Tony Schumacher, 3.741, 320.51 def. J.R. Todd, 3.776, 324.20; Richie Crampton, 4.454, 268.12 def. Smax Smith, 6.426, 102.91;

QUARTERFINALS — Dixon, 3.712, 330.80 def. Langdon, 5.693, 118.41; Brown, 3.734, 323.27 def. Lagana, 3.785, 321.04; Force, 3.846, 253.47 was unopposed; Schumacher, 3.732, 325.85 def. Crampton, 3.771, 289.20;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.714, 325.45 def. Dixon, 3.719, 329.75; Schumacher, 3.730, 328.22 def. Force, 9.913, 71.10;

FINAL — Brown, 3.717, 328.46 def. Schumacher, no time.


ROUND ONE — Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 5.426, 135.50 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, DQ; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.941, 324.44 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.799, 208.39; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.985, 319.45 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.601, 213.50; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.125, 321.04 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 5.636, 143.20; John Hale, Charger, 7.417, 89.98 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, DQ; Jack Beckman, Charger, 6.625, 254.90 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 7.468, 122.56; John Bojec, Toyota Solara, 5.095, 230.61 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.891, 273.22; Chad Head, Camry, 5.328, 220.26 def. John Force, Camaro, 7.689, 85.11;

QUARTERFINALS — Bojec, 4.348, 262.95 def. Wilkerson, DQ; Beckman, 3.925, 326.16 def. Johnson Jr., 4.110, 323.50; Capps, 3.969, 324.90 def. C. Pedregon, 7.267, 100.08; Head, 3.964, 321.42 def. Hale, broke;

SEMIFINALS — Head, 3.968, 316.30 def. Bojec, broke; Beckman, 3.897, 326.87 def. Capps, 4.123, 299.66;

FINAL — Beckman, 3.910, 326.79 def. Head, 3.903, 326.16.


ROUND ONE — Larry Morgan, Chevy Camaro, 6.480, 213.84 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 7.102, 142.18; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.512, 212.73 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.524, 212.86; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.670, 199.46 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 9.493, 98.05; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.477, 213.91 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 10.320, 79.95; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.479, 214.31 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.800, 205.69; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.498, 213.84 def. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 6.868, 182.23; V. Gaines, Dart, 6.527, 212.23 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 11.143, 79.58; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.478, 213.77 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Avenger, 6.679, 207.40;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.951, 160.38 def. J. Gray, foul; Morgan, 6.500, 213.64 def. Gaines, 6.900, 157.10; Butner, 6.503, 212.53 def. Enders, 6.582, 202.42; Anderson, 6.488, 213.98 def. Line, 6.967, 156.48;

SEMIFINALS — McGaha, 6.503, 213.70 def. Butner, 6.484, 213.74; Anderson, 6.475, 214.38 def.

Morgan, 6.502, 214.21;

FINAL — McGaha, 6.492, 213.64 def. Anderson, 6.484, 214.59.


ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.875, 194.24 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.954, 179.21; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.924, 194.74 def. Angie Smith, 6.984, 187.81; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.787, 195.59 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.854, 194.77; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.821, 192.77 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 9.068, 94.57; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.822, 196.90 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 16.865, 38.00; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.827, 194.66 def. Brian Pretzel, Buell, 7.215, 184.32; Matt Smith, 6.836, 193.82 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.940, 120.42;

QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 6.858, 192.88 def. Savoie, 6.889, 195.11; Krawiec, 6.808, 195.34 was unopposed; Ellis, 7.932, 129.12 def. Arana Jr, foul; Hines, 6.809, 195.70 def. Stoffer, 7.047, 163.73;

SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.830, 194.91 def. M. Smith, foul; Ellis, 6.775, 196.47 def. Krawiec, foul;

FINAL — Hines, 6.794, 197.25 def. Ellis, 6.818, 196.39.


TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown, 2,432; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 2,338; 3.  Brittany Force, 2,238; 4.  Larry Dixon, 2,234; 5.  Richie Crampton, 2,187; 6.  J.R. Todd, 2,181; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 2,177; 8.  Doug Kalitta, 2,173; 9.  Steve Torrence, 2,160; 10.  Dave Connolly, 2,158.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Del Worsham, 2,361; 2.  Jack Beckman, 2,345; 3.  Matt Hagan, 2,271; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,263; 5.  Ron Capps, 2,256; 6.  John Force, 2,211; 7.  Cruz Pedregon, 2,169; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,162; 9.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,154; 10.  Robert Hight, 2,140.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders, 2,385; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,313; 3.  Chris McGaha, 2,281; 4.  Larry Morgan, 2,240; 5.  Allen Johnson, 2,227; 6.  Drew Skillman, 2,212; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 2,187; 8.  Jason Line, 2,179; 9.  Shane Gray, 2,149; 10.  Jonathan Gray, 2,119.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines, 2,378; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,289; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,277; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 2,259; 5.  Matt Smith, 2,244; 6.  Chip Ellis, 2,223; 7.  Karen Stoffer, 2,199; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,167; 9.  Jim Underdahl, 2,126; 10.  Scotty Pollacheck, 2,076.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Lorenzo looking to Honda, Ducati for help in MotoGP title race

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27:  Jorge Lorenzo of Spain and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP celebrates the victory on the podium at the end of the MotoGP race during the MotoGP of Spain - Race at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jorge Lorenzo hopes that he can get some help from the Honda and Ducati riders in his championship battle with Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in the final four races of the 2015 MotoGP season.

Lorenzo currently trails Rossi by 14 points at the top of the riders’ championship, and with just four races to go, barring an unlikely run of results, the title will go to a Yamaha rider for the first time since 2012.

The formbook offers little in the way of clues for the Lorenzo/Rossi battle, for although Lorenzo has won more races, Rossi has been more consistent, finishing off the podium just once this season.

Lorenzo had hoped to reel Rossi in last time out at Motorland Aragon, but the Italian rider managed to finish third, minimizing the damage of his teammate’s victory.

Nevertheless, Lorenzo was pleased to bounce back after two disappointing races at Silverstone and Misano, having lost ground on Rossi in the title race.

“I am very happy with this victory because it came after two races that were a bit disappointing and I expected to take more points, but due to a few factors and especially the weather, I failed to achieve the desired result,” Lorenzo said. “The victory in Motorland [Aragon] was crucial.”

Rossi was beaten to second place by Honda’s Dani Pedrosa after a titanic battle in the closing stages of the last race, and Lorenzo hopes that the Spaniard, among others, could aid his cause inadvertently again in the remaining four races.

“[Pedrosa] was very strong and it was useful to recover the points lost earlier and it has given me more chances to recover with four races left until the end,” Lorenzo said.

“But [Marc] Marquez or maybe the two Ducati riders could also stand in front of Valentino and take away some points. It is a real possibility, but very dangerous for us both.”

The next round of the MotoGP season takes place at Motegi, Japan next weekend.